Tokyobling's Blog

DIY Shoot Through Umbrella – Sort off…

Posted in People, Stuff by tokyobling on April 18, 2009

The DIY Shoot Through Umbrella Hack: I know this post will be ridiculed. It is just too obvious, too simple,
not enough of a hack. But I mentioned it on the Tokyo Strobist Flickr group and someone there thought I should bring it to the bigger strobist community, so here goes.

I live in Japan where studio equipment is often many times as expensive as in Europe or the US. Last year I was planning a shoot with a small group of friends in my central Tokyo apartment, it’s small and with a typical Japanese low ceiling. I needed a smaller shoot through umbrella than the one I usually use in studios. I went to the big camera stores (Yodobashi, Sakura, Bic Camera, Yamada Denki etc.) and found that the cheapest small size shoot through umbrellas were about 70 USD! An outrageous price for what is basically a plastic umbrella without a handle.

As I walked home I kept thinking that there must be some cheaper way to do it, and I noticed a discarded 100 Yen shop (the Japanese equivalent – if not precursor – of the “dollar store”) umbrella laying abandoned by an old stone wall next to a temple. These umbrellas are sold in many different colors (mostly white though) for 105 yen including tax (about 1 USD) everywhere in Japan. There are even many different sizes but this was a standard sized cheap – almost disposable – umbrella.

I picked it up, took it home, snapped of the handle and stuck it to my umbrella stand. It worked just as well as a real shoot through 70 USD umbrella. I used it for the shoot the following day, and again on most shoots since then.

Sure it looks a bit cheap and the plastic will rip eventually, but at that price who can complain? Next time I pass the local 100 Yen shop I will pick up a few colored umbrellas as well. Pink, blue and green are usually available. The best part is that I can use it out in the wild: a muddy field or a greasy factory holds no fear for me any longer! These cheapo umbrellas are washable and water proof. For windy situations? Put another umbrella on the back of the first, if the wind knocks the light stand to the ground your strobe should be fine even if your umbrellas get knocked into a muddy puddle.

Want to change it to a bounce umbrella? Just add the cloth from a black dollar store umbrella on top and spray paint (obviously using dollar store spray paint) a faint layer of silver on the inside. That should do the trick. Or you could drill a hole in an old living room type light stand and get instant soft modeling light.

Obviously, if you can’t find this sort of umbrella where you live, just get another dollar store umbrella and scrounge up some some milk colored plastic sheet (an old shower curtain for example) and change.

DIY shoot through umbrella point

DIY shoot through umbrella point

DIY shoot through umbrella close up on the broken off handle part

DIY shoot through umbrella close up on the broken off handle part

DIY shoot through umbrella while firing a Nikon SB-600

DIY shoot through umbrella while firing a Nikon SB-600

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7 Responses

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  1. Paul Benjamin said, on April 19, 2009 at 2:10 am

    Darn it, my secret is out…


  2. Cuki said, on April 20, 2009 at 12:57 am

    I’ve thinked about it before, but cheap umbrellas’ shafts are usually too thick to fit the brackets… You Japanese strobists are quite lucky.


  3. kirk tuck said, on April 21, 2009 at 12:26 am

    Can I come to Tokyo and learn at your feet? Masterful solution.


    • tokyobling said, on April 21, 2009 at 4:48 am

      Kirk, I’m sorry, it seems that you made a typo here, I am sure you meant to write “Can I come to Tokyo and LET YOU learn at MY feet?”. You have more skill in your lenscap than I have in my whole body.

      Anyone who doesn’t believe me should go visit Kirk’s blog right now.


  4. Leandro said, on August 3, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    Thanks for sharing it. I live in Brazil and studio equipment here is very, very expensive.
    I loved the tip.


    • tokyobling said, on August 4, 2009 at 1:04 am

      Leandro, thanks for your comment and kind words! I share your pain!


  5. My Toy Soldier « Tokyobling’s Blog said, on September 17, 2009 at 10:10 am

    […] to whip up a “soldier set”. After that it was just a matter of fumbling around with my DIY umbrella light set up, make sure the clothes fitted (a wonderful seamstress friend of mine whipped them up on less than a […]


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