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How to avoid burning down your photo studio!

Did you know that each and every time you use a studio light there is one thing you must do each and every time without fail?

This action is so important that if you fail to do it you could cause a fire?

Today, we are going to talk about shipping covers.

 A shipping cover is a protective cap that goes over the front of your studio light. The cap protects the strobe tube and modeling lamp. The cap itself is usually plastic.

For those with lots of studio experience, you know exactly what I am about to say:

Never plug in a studio light without first removing the shipping cover. Ever.

A melting shipping cover on an Alien Bee B800 studio light at SOPHA

Let’s talk about why.

If you plug in the studio light with the cover still attached, the light might be turned on and start to heat up. And that heat will be trapped by the shipping cover, causing it to melt.

On an Alien Bee with its exposed lamp design, the melting cover will destroy the strobe...

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Your next shoot might need a few tennis balls.

Tennis balls. You might need a few tennis balls on your next location photo shoot.

Today I was shooting a set of interiors photos in a condo here in New Hampshire. It was a nice space and the floors were brand new.

As I was pulling out my light stand, I gave the floors a moment of thought. "Do I really want to be the first one to scratch this floor?" The answer is a giant "no."

I was using a fairly large continuous light - a KinoFlo Diva 401. Yes, I usually use strobe, but that is another post!

KinoFlo Diva 401 on a baby stand.  Notice the small black tennis balls on the feet to protect the floors.

And while the legs of the light stand has little plastic protectors - but I didn't think it would be enough. Enter the tennis balls.

By placing little tennis balls on the "foot" of each leg of the light stand, I know I wouldn't damage the floor.

If you have visited our studio (SOPHA) and been in our office, you probably used these little tennis balls and didn't even notice.

About a...

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Care and feeding of a Cyclorama (Part 2)

In the first part of our series on the Care and Feeding of a Cyclorama, we reviewed the basics of cycloramas - what they are, how they are built, and how they are maintained. Now on to the hard part: The etiquette of using a cyc wall.

The cyclorama in Studio A in all its glory!

Part of the joy of owning a studio is that you get to do things your way. You get to create the sets you like, use the lights you want, and in general have your way with every aspect of your studio. You also get to make a mess and not clean it up.

Our studio isn't like that.  At all.  Here you pick up after yourself. Or don't make a mess at all.

Our studio space is, for all essential purposes, a co-op studio. While we have about 50 members, about 30 use the studio on a regular basis. That is a lot of folks sharing our studio and all our gear.   

Using a cyclorama properly is important - to minimize the impact to your images and to images created by those that follow you.  

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Care and feeding of a Cyclorama (Part 1)

What is a cyclorama?

A cyclorama is a studio set which features a curve (or cove) between the floor and the back wall. In the real world, this is typically made by bending thin plywood to form the curve, but on movie and TV sets the cove is formed using fiberglass or plastic preformed panels. The plywood option is popular because of cost (a few hundred dollars) while the preformed panels are best described as "spendy" (read $10K plus).

How do you pronounce "cyc"?

Cyclorama is a cumbersome word, and being lazy, we abbreviate it. In New Hampshire, "cyc" is pronounced "sick", but in any other place it is pronounced "psych" (like "psychiatry"). 


SOPHA's cyclorama

We have had many cycloramas here at SOPHA in Manchester, New Hampshire, but our current one is in Studio A.  It measures 12' wide and is 10' tall. It extends about 14' out onto the floor.

How did we build our cyc wall?

We used luan plywood (a hardwood plywood about 1/4" thick) and simply bent it to shape....

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How to fix lens flare in the studio

A common question we get here at our studio is how to fix lens flare created by studio lights.

Our first response, a reflexive one, is to use a lens hood. Often the photographer is stepping a bit too far forward on their set and their lens is catching the side of their main light. The light streaks across the front of the lens, causing lens flare.

But today's example is far worse, and pretty common here at our rental studio. Let's take a peek.

The photographer came into the office and showed me this image of his son:


 Yup, that is lens flare. I would call this is a level seven lens flare emergency.

Step One: Clean your lens.

In this case, the photographer's front lens element was... dirty. "Filthy" is another word, as would be "well handled". It had more finger prints and smears than the arts and crafts table at the Children's Museum.

I took a moment to clean it thoroughly with a bit of Eclipse cleaning fluid and a PEC pad.

In this next image you can see that we have...

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