|More Photography on a Shoestring
The Backgroundulator 2000 is tabletop photography aid based on a piece of ABS plastic, two yardsticks and a couple of shoestrings.
I was motivated to build this device when I had a need to photograph small objects with a background which wasn’t distracting, or could easily be “knocked out” in Photoshop.
There are many tabletop shooting setups available commercially, of course. Places like B&H Photo in New York sell some really marvelous ones. At the time I did my research, a Bogen/Manfrotto table especially designed for shooting still lifes ran between $400-700. For $2300 I could get a really swell table made by Elinchrom and a Digro shooting table was a mere $3700.
These products looked and sounded great, but they were also a little rich for my blood. Sighing a little, I made myself come down to earth and look for other alternatives. A company called Cloud Dome sold what they called an Infinity Board, a bendable 19 x 28″ sheet of plastic which would sit on one’s desk, for $33. That was a little small, but it sounded more in line with what I needed. Another company, Novoflex, sold a system called the MagicStudio that looked identical. The wanted $87.50 for a 39 x 20″ board, which was closer to the size I wanted but a bit pricey. (It was nice, but did I really want to pay $90 + shipping for a piece of flexible plastic?)
As is often the case in such situations, I started thinking about building something myself. Surely it wouldn’t be too difficult – I’d just need some firm but flexible plastic, some cord to tension it into shape, some cord stops, and maybe a couple of things to hold the top and bottom edges rigid. Shopping list in hand, I headed to Tap Plastics and a few other stores. My supply list:
Building the contraption, which I dubbed the Backgroundulator 2000, took approximately ten minutes not including drying time. Should you wish to build your own, here are the steps:
After completing the Backgroundulator 2000, I took the test photo shown below. This shot has been cropped but is otherwise unretouched save a color cast adjustment:
I lit this particular scene with a 25 watt fluorescent bulb held in a standard bendable desk lamp. With some tinkering with the lighting – diffusers, reflector, daylight-adjusted bulb, perhaps a fill or rim light – one can get better results.
Here’s another test shot, taken under similar conditions:
When taking photos, one does have to be careful not to get the tensioning cord between the light and the scene or bizarre shadows will be cast. However, for less than twenty bucks, it’s hard to complain.
If this article was helpful, you may also be interested in the Trashcanulator 2000.