Sunday, September 26, 2021

Knowing when you are beaten


This is my photo booth for small models. It sits in the chaos of the corner of my office.

A portable booth with a couple of photo lights above it, it's been used many hundreds of times for some pictures of models I've generally been very happy with. Over the years, I've become expert at long exposures and bouncing light around, then processing the image to have just the right amount of shadow under the model. A flat base is assured thanks to a bit of melamine faced chipboard, and the background is a mix of plastic sheet with paper on top.

All that junk in front is a collection of things I support my Splat on while shooting. That or a beanbag. There's even a monopod that can be jammed in position if required. Basically, I'm creative enough to get the results I want. 

However, last week I started on a project to replace the booth with something bigger and better. 

The key would be a pair of LED panels. The subject would sit on one, another would be over the top. The photo lights would still be available too. 

A white wall would surround the photo area. Simple huh? 

Well, the booth is still there. Admittedly, I've tidied up a bit, but it's not been replaced. 

The new booth turned out to be one of those project that was a disaster from start to throwing the materials in the bin. Every single step went wrong: 

  • Ordered two panels. One arrived broken. 
  • The replacement was also broken.It took three days to get a pair of working ones. 
  • My measurements for the MDF to make the box were wrong and had to be altered at the wood shop. 
  • Painting the white walls turned into a nightmare. MDF is smooth, but not once you inflict trade silk emulsion on it. 
  • I had planned to use the emulsion as a primer and spray the MDF white The (admitedly old) can was faulty, paint dribbled out. 
  • More sanding and rollering gave me a surface that could in no way be described as smooth, but eventually I decided I could live with it. At worst, the booth could have another lining of foamboard. 
  • Screwing the panels together, I managed to get the first corner wrong twice. Then realised I was screwing the sides together and not the back. 
  • When I eventually fixed all three sides together, not easy as this thing is 60cm wide and floppy until complete, the corners weren't as perfect as I'd hoped machine cut MDF would be. 
  • Sliding the panel in the bottom, it left a gap in one corner, the thing wasn't flat. Not a problem in a ceiling, but hopeless here. I did try screwing it to the nice, flat MDF, but the gap, while better was still rubbish. 

At this point I gave up, put the panels and their transformers in the box, put the boxes into store and threw the MDF bits away. 

Lesson learned. When a project fights you at every stage, give up. I didn't have the skills to make this thing work. What I do have, is the skills to make the existing setup produce results. OK, it takes a little longer on the processing, but it works. 

Still, a day and best part of £100 wasted. I need to know when I'm beaten.


Duncan Young said...

Been there, got the T-Shirt!

matt scrutton said...

Rustins MDF sealer is what you need should you use MDF in future

Phil Parker said...

Thanks Matt - The problem wasn't sealing the surface. Annoyingly, the floor varnish did an excellent job of that on the outside. It was the paint on the inside that wouldn't go flat.

However, I do have some more MDF work imminent, so I'll look out for the Rustons.