Proper lighting separates snapshots from professional photographs. In studios and on location shoots, photographers use scrims to diffuse and control the rays of a light source. A scrim consists simply of a square or rectangular frame with scrim material stretched over it. The scrim material itself comes by the yard or bolt from most fabric stores.
Making a frame of PVC offers many advantages. Easily obtainable from any hardware store, this light material can be cut at any length up to 10 feet. Elbow pieces easily fit on pipe ends and allow for travel when disassembled. If travel is not a part of your plan, PVC joints can be glued with plumber's epoxy. Lightweight woods also work well. Wood is easily obtainable and can be made into frames with household nails or screws. It is important to keep weight in mind for your project. Commonly, scrim sizes reach 7 feet by 7 feet. If you plan on something of this scale, go to the hardware store or lumber yard and physically pick up the type of wood you are considering. Metal tubing also is a good solution. Sold in variable lengths, lightweight tubing offers great strength. Use saw blades and drill bits that are designed to cut metal if you decide to go this route. Metal can easily dull or ruin saw blades meant, in particular, for wood or other soft materials.
Scrim Material Options
Designed to diffuse intense light, scrim material is not the only option you have when making a scrim. Black or dark nylon fabric can be used to absorb large amounts of light, or if you only wish to diffuse small amounts of light, use light or white fabrics. Some people even stretch fitted bed sheets over a simple frame in this way. Stay away from colored fabrics. These will diffuse light, but will additionally affect the colors of your photos. Netted materials also can be used to soften the lighting of a photo.
On Site Considerations
Most homemade scrims require an assistant to position and hold them. Especially when working outdoors, this speeds a shoot along. The assistant makes adjustments to the scrim's position as lighting conditions change throughout the day. If you work solo, scrim frames can be designed with free-standing feet. In a controlled studio environment, these free-standing scrims are ideal for producing consistent lighting.
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