Urgent Request of Advice for non-professional indoor reflector setup on a budget for large areas

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djfrohman New Member • Posts: 4
Urgent Request of Advice for non-professional indoor reflector setup on a budget for large areas

Dear Forum Members,

Hi. This is my first post here. I have been reading what posts I have found so far to get some ideas of possible solutions to a problem I have. Some of the posts are from quite a number of years ago, and so I thought it may be possible new products or solutions exist and worth asking about my situation. Additionally, I think my particular situation has some issues that I haven't at least found addressed in the many forum postings on similar topics. I would be very appreciative for any advice that may be given. I will try to give all the details I can think of that may be important to obtaining your advice, but if I forget to mention something please let me know.

My situation is as follows. I would like to photograph a younger family member during the holidays using bounce flash on my new Canon 600exII-rt. I have a Canon Rebel T5/1200D with the 35 mm f/2 IS USM Canon lens so I'm not expecting miraculous photos, but I think/hope I could get something pretty decent still. I strongly prefer to have a larger depth of field, and from playing around with inside photos it looks like that means an aperture of around f/8 to f/11 to get all of my family member in focus (rather than say just their face). Said family member spends most of the time running around and is short so low to the ground. I'd like them to be taking up a large part of the frame and intend to be between 3 and 6 feet away from them. As such, I feel I need to be able to position myself on the fly to take photos and can't as them to sit for traditional studio portraits. The walls in the room where we do our holiday traditions and that I intend to take photos within do not seem to be conducive to bounce flash as they are too far away in this room with a large open floor plan, or broken up by windows. I didn't like the results I got from bouncing off the ceiling, mostly due to the harsher shadows I felt I was still getting especially around the eyes, but also in part due to loss of illumination. My idea therefore was what if I could either purchase or build some sort of portable vertical surface/wall to put in two different locations I'd most likely expect to be near for taking photos and bouncing the flash off of them. From reading what I have seen so far in the forum, I believe I understand such a device is called a reflector and that people accomplish this by many different means. I am looking to purchase and/or build a reflector setup such that I may simultaneously with two such devices cover two different 6ft x 6ft areas (or if possible 8x8 would be even better). I feel like such an area would allow me to sit in front of it, and bounce the flash over my shoulder, while having enough surface area that if I have to quickly move to take the photo I likely still have something behind me to bounce off of. My family's budget is not particularly large, so to my understanding many of the professional setups that would cover such an area are way outside of affordability to us. I was looking to try and accomplish a setup for $400 USD. Due to my younger family member being ill we are not certain we will get another holiday occasion to photograph them, so it is crucial I spend wisely the limited resources we have and get this "right" the first time in case there is no second chance, and for that reason also I don't have the time to save up more to get more expensive equipment. I'd like to please ask some questions about particular setups/options I've seen mentioned, but of course welcome any suggestions and advice on any type of options. As I am not professional, I don't care if what I'd setup is ugly as sin as long as it works. Similarly, I would love to hear about all options but for me if one option is almost as good but vastly cheaper to the point the difference is barely discernible, that's good enough for me.

The first option I'd like to please ask about is foam core boards. I've seen many people mention this. Also like many, I am having some trouble finding a place that sells seriously large foam boards (48x96 or 48x72) that doesn't require a minimum purchase of many more than I need thus putting the total cost in the 300 to 500$ range which just seems silly to spend on foamboard when I could nearly get professional equipment at that cost. I live in central connecticut in case that helps anyone make particular suggestions of where I could find boards of such size. Another issue would be even if I did if I could get it in my car (quite possibly not) and if so could I get it cut only just enough to fit while maintaining as much size as possible. I haven't found anywhere online selling that delivers without either the stated minimum # of boards and/or extremely expensive freight shipping charges. That said if I find some, or anyone can suggest where I might may I please get some advice/comments on the following?

How well do the white foam core boards work for reflecting light compared to other materials I've seen mentioned such as styrofoam insulation boards? What about relative to options like white vinyl background material or on the higher end the Westcott white color bounce material for their scrim jim frames? I don't know how the proper metric to ask for in comparison but was thinking perhaps this could be discussed in terms of how much loss of light power would be expected if everything else were equal and one were bouncing a flash off these different materials?

Another technical question, I have seen various comments about the importance of how taut the material is that one is bouncing flash off of. I am wondering just how important this is and how much a difference it makes in certain cases outlined below so that I may assess what potential setups are worth considering. I can appreciate a desire for best possible situation to be achieved, but if a good enough situation is doable for much more affordable cost that feels worth knowing for me.

For example, I am assuming part of the point of the Westcott Scrim Jim Frames are to keep their material held taut and flat for optimal lighting behavior such as reducing the loss of power from bouncing a flash off their white sided bounce material. It was my understanding that the less folds/creases in the material the better for not losing power. If that is an incorrect understanding please correct me. So, what if I bought the Westcott white/silver bounce material , two 6x6 ft pieces and couldn't afford the frame? Could I drape that material over a DIY frame or even attach it to plywood or drape it over a crossbar like in an inexpensive background support and still get decent results or would the lack of perfectly taut setup really dramatically kill the flash power returning?

I assume in some of these cases I'd have to grab the bottom with clamps and some sort of weight to keep it taut, but it wouldn't be quite as flat/taut as the commercial frame it's meant to go on but that is outside of my budget. Would I still get a decent amount of flash power bounced off a somewhat taut fabric that isn't as taut as a drum as it would be on commercial frames? I dont know if the answer to this question also changes if we are talking about the Westcott bounce fabric vs I read a suggestion about using the Savage companies white vinyl background on an inexpensive background support like the Impact heavy duty support B&H lists.

I am not particularly tied to any brands, I only mention the Westcott item as I've seen it talked about a lot as well as Sunbounce. I did see Adorama has a product line called Glow, and they make some very inexpensive panels that I could buy 4 or even 6 of them and put them all around me potentially, but I haven't found much in the way of reviews addressing how good they work for bounce flash in particular. I'm also unclear from the photos on the product page if the fabric stretches to the floor or if it starts a good ways up. I'd be sitting on the floor so I wan't to make sure it's not starting too far up above my shoulder height. Can anyone comment on these and/or other brands that may be more economical if any exist than the Westcott/Sunbounce?

https://www.adorama.com/glrp3570.html

Can anyone advise on if it is a "good idea" or stupid to purchase used the bounce fabrics? I have seen some Westcott ones in 6x6 or 4x6 online that have the white side on one side, for much cheaper than new.

Lastly, what about just spray painting white some plywood? I wasn't clear on  if it's the color or material that matter most or both equally to get decent flash power back.

Ultimately, I need something I can make happen on my budget and fast in time for this Christmas that will work if not perfectly, well enough to not lose so much power as to make bounce flash useless for me. As I'll be shooting to get larger depth of field, and would like to take photos roughly every second or so in terms of flash recycle time as they are playing with their toys, I know I am asking a lot from the flash so I want to help get as much bounce power as I can within my budget.

Thank you very much everyone for your patience in reading at least some of this and your advice.

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