I am fanatical when it comes to DIY gear, if I can make gear myself that does the job and saves me money then I am all over it. Today I have one such DIY project for you, a simple -yet important – photographic tool for anyone who photographs outdoors: A Scrim.
In case you do not know what a scrim is, I’ll explain it real quick. A scrim is a piece of translucent fabric, usually held together on some sort of frame, that defuses the light hitting your subject. These can range in size from the small circular ones included inside of your 5-in-1 Reflector all the way up to huge 12 foot by 12 foot squares.
Today we are sharing a great DIY build (original design posted by Kira Derryberry Photography) for your own 6×6 scrim, and the best part is it will only run you about $50. The same size scrim ordered from B&H run as high as $609, so the savings make this well worth the time it takes to build.
What you Need
- 4 10ft 1in PVC pipes (alternatively if you don’t want to cut the PVC yourself and the store you go to cuts PVC you can have 4 6ft pipes cut) with 4 90° elbow pieces (Available at pretty much any Home Depot, Lowes, or Local Hardware Store)
- Roughly 2 yards of white rip stop nylon -or- any white translucent fabric really (Available at almost any Fabric Store)
What To Do
The full and detailed instructions for this build can be found here. But for the sake of making things easy you should be able to follow these simple directions below to get the same result.
- Step 1: Take your 6ft PVC pipes (if you bought 10ft then cut them down to 6) and create a square using the 4 90° elbow pieces that you purchased with the pipes.
- Step 2: Sew a “Curtain Loop” into the fabric and place it over one of the PVC pipes.
- Step 3: Repeat “Step 2” placing the second loop over the opposite PVC pipe from the one you used in step 2.
- Step 4: Double check that the fabric is tight, but not so tight that it bends the PVC.
- Step 5: Give it a Try!
As you can see this scrim is Huge, but you could easily take these plans and downsize (or upsize if you need larger). You could also switch out two of the 90° elbow pieces out for three-way connectors, which would allow you to add PVC poles as feet so the scrim could stand on its own. This is the glory of DIY, you can make it however you need it to work for you and your needs.
What Would You Use It For?
Well, as I mentioned earlier, a scrim is used to defuse light. In the case of a scrim this size you would almost always be defusing sunlight. I recently used my own scrim, not this specific DIY build, during a portrait session in the middle of the day. It was the only time that this client could make it and it was a bright sunny day at midday, hardly ideal natural light conditions.
In the example below the subject was literally standing on the side of a building with direct sun, had I not been using the scrim the lighting would have made this shot unusable. Now I specifically chose this shot because in the top left corner you can see the line from the shadow created by the scrim, this is not a shot I would give to the client but it illustrates here the difference between the beautiful light coming through the scrim vs the light that would be hitting the subject if it had been direct sunlight.
This also gives me a great opportunity to share a little tip, Always check to see where the shadow from your scrim is falling in your frame. Had this been a great shot that I wanted to give to the client I would have either had to scrap it or spend a lot of time in post trying to fix that shadow line on the wall.
In the end a scrim like this can be an invaluable tool when you need to shoot in conditions where the light is too harsh to work with as is. Plus, since its cheap and DIY you can use it as much or as little as you like without fretting over having a $600+ scrim sitting in the closet 75% of the year.
Learn Natural Light Photography
Like what you see and want to learn how to take better portraits in natural light? You should check out our Natural Light Couples Photography Workshop where we teach you everything you need to know about shooting in natural light. We also cover using things like reflectors and scrims.
What are your thoughts on this build? Any tips or improvements to offer? Share them in a comment below!