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Posts tagged ‘DIY’

Comparing print on demand (POD) calendars

So, in a recent post I mentioned wall calendars. Well, I’m sure most of us know by know that with on demand printing, pretty much anyone with a digital camera and a creative side can easily make their own calendar. With that in mind, to date I have created several and used a number of different printers in the process. This post is essentially a review of those services. And maybe if you are thinking about creating your own wall calendar for the upcoming year, you might just find this helpful.

My scale is based on a 1-5 rating system with one being the worst and five being the best.

custom calendars

POD calendar printers I’ve used:

snapfish logo

Snapfish.com – Overall rating 4/5

Print quality – 4.5/5 This HP affiliates photo calendars are crisp and clear with very few if any drawbacks.

Pricing – 2.5/5 The pricing is a bit excessive as is the shipping. A decent product might cost around $26.00. If International shipping is required, you can tack on an extra $6.00 to that figure. Not real conducive for reselling.

Paper quality – 4/5 Snapfish provides paper similar in thickness to a medium level of card stock.

Shipping time – 4/5 Buyers will likely get their product in less than a week and probably more like 3-5 days

vistaprint logo

Vistaprint.com – Overall rating 2.5/5

Print quality – 2.5/5 The business card specialists should stick to smaller items. The photos come across a bit grainy with some color problems.

Pricing – 3.5/5 Vista Print’s calendars usually run around $18.00 plus shipping. They tend to be in the average range here.

Paper quality – 3/5 The paper is nice and glossy but tends to be rather thin.

Shipping time – 3/5 While copies can take several weeks to arrive, they usually come in a relatively reasonable time frame.

lulu logo

Lulu.com – Overall rating 3/5

Print quality – 2.5/5 Much like Vista print, the quality of images can be rather spotty.

Pricing – 4.5/5 Lulu seems to be the most affordable POD service by far. Full-sized calendars start at less than $14.00. These can easily be used for resale purposes.

Paper quality – 3.5/5 The company uses a heavy stock paper but as stated above it seems to hinder the printing.

Shipping time 3/5 The shipping speed is pretty average overall.

qoop logo

*Qoop.com – Overall rating 3.5/5

Print quality – 3.5/5 Qoop produced fairly nice images from photos with few real problems.

Pricing – 4/5 While not quite as reasonable as Lulu, this company was very much competitive in this area.

Paper quality – 3.5/5  Much like the others, they tended to use a decent medium grade card stock paper.

Shipping time 3/5  The time it took to receive the product was pretty typical.

 

* Qoop.com is now defunct but as I had a positive overall experience with them, I figured it was only right to include them in the list.

Followup To External Flash Diffuser Post

Recently, I posted a brief DIY article on creating a diffuser for a camera’s external flash. Well, I figured I’d take a second to show the project in action. Check out the pictures below and notice the difference. All images where shot by the same camera on the same aperture, shutter speed, ISO and general exposure settings.

I used a white glasses cleaning cloth as my material. Please excuse the blur in the last shot.

No flash used

no camera flash

Full flash, no diffuser

full camera flash

Flash with diffuser

camera flash with diffuser

Double diffused flash (two layers of cloth)

extra diffused flash

Quick and easy diffuser for your external camera flash

One of the biggest challenges with flash photography is the possibility that you might have to content with harsh shadowing and over exposure in your shots. One way to deal with this of course, if by using a diffuser.

As you probably know by now, I’m a big DIY fan. So, with that in mind, here’s an easy way to rig yourself up with a DIY diffuser for an external flash unit. And one of the best things about it – you probably won’t have to buy anything. Unlike many of these projects, I can all but guarantee that you have sufficent materials just laying around your house or apartment.

What you’ll need:

1. A rubber band – one that will fit tight and hasn’t lost it’s elasticity.

2. A piece of thin white material. I’d recommend something like a handkerchief or glasses cleaning cloth. But all in all, so long as it is fairly thin, most materials should do the job just fine.

What to do:

1. Wrap the material around the main part of the flash unit co it covers over the light emitting portion as tightly as possible.

2. Place the rubber band around the the white cloth in order to hold it in place.

That’s it, you’re done. In all of 30 seconds we can have a quality, effective diffuser!

This image is a similar concept to the method described in this post.

Photography equipment on a budget

So anyone who wants to get seriously involved in photography will come across some challenges along the way.  As one of the photographers in Pittsburgh PA with a minimal budget, I can assure you I’ve experienced this dilemma several times first hand.

The key is not to get discouraged and to make the best choices for equipment and other tools that fit your budget. How do we do this? Here are a few options.

Go DIY

If you’re not worried about the aesthetics of  things, you can create some props and tools yourself for a much more affordable rate than you might find when trying to purchase items through a commercial outlet. This blog contains a few examples and there are tons of sites online that you can find that will help you out. Youtube alos offers some good visual tutorials.

Buy second hand

While you have to be careful buying used items, don’t let that turn you away from benefiting form the savings you can gain by doing such. E-bay is a good option and so is Craigslist.

Look in unexpected retail locations

The tenancy might be to search out specialty shops when shopping for photography equipment. However, you can find some great quality buys at more general locations. For example, online retailers like Amazon and Buy.com have a surprisingly extensive selection of photography items. And in general, they cost less than the specialty shops.  Offline, you might benefit from buying materials for backdrops in the fabric section of your local Walmart or craft store. The savings can be hugh.

 

DIY musical instruments for kids

Music can be great for kids.

In addition to the enjoyment we as adults get from the musical arts, it can be an amazing tool for kids as well. There have been numerous studies connecting a child’s linguistic and mathematical skills and development with learning how to read music and play an instrument.

Oh course, with the youngest of children you can’t just drive right into the more technical elements. So, how can we get kids interested? One way is to help them to make their own “instruments” to play.

Here are three simple examples that can be made in literally a few minutes with basic household items.

Tambourine

Take a moderately thick paper plate and fold it in half. Get some beans from your pantry (or if you’re not a bean person grab a few small rocks from outside) and put them inside the folded plate. Close them in by stapling the place together and there you go.

Drum

Save that old coffee can rather than tossing it in the trash. Take an old piece of fabric, perhaps something like a worn out t-shirt or towel, and stretch it out over the opening of the coffee can. You can hold it in place it a rubber band. Kids can use either their hands or virtually any appropriate object around the house to strike the drum.

Guitar

Don’t throw away that old tissue box. Instead, take a rectangular tissue box and remove the plastic from around the opening. Get yourself the roll from some toilet paper or paper towels.  Cut a hole in one of the short ends of the tissue box big enough to insert the roll. Seal the outside where you inserted the roll with heavy duty tape like duct or masking tape. Put several rubber bands around the box so the go over the open hoe in the center. There you go, instant mini guitar.

DIY Photography Equipment List

OK, so anyone who has ever ventured in doing some photography work realizes that whether you’re in at as a hobby or looking to work at it in a professional capacity, photography can be quite expensive.

Naturally you need a camera, film/memory card, batteries to power your unit and the absolute basics. And even these alone will likely run your at least $500 minimum. And that doesn’t even include all the other things you’ll need to invest in for portrait photos and any other spot of shooting you may wish to undertake.

So, here’s a list of photography tools you can make on your own or make use of other objects to provide the same effect.

Reflectors

Head to the craft store and pick up solid white foam board. You can also spray paint it with metallic silver or gold for additional color options. You can also buy a car window visor and use that.

Lens Cleaner

Don’t pay extra for a “photo specific” cleaner. Get yourself a travel-size spray cleaner of eye glasses. It will probably cost you a ton less.

Backdrops

You can buy muslin from a fabric shop and dye it however you choose. Or, you can use heavy, lager blankets or think sheets.

Backdrop stands

Get some PVC pipe (very cheap) and put one together on your own.

Diffusers and Gels

As mentioned in earlier posts, white medicine bottles and color copies on transparencies can fulfill both these needs effectively and for much less than the typical retail price.

Happy shooting!

A fun, affordable DIY photography tip

So, if you’ve ever worked in one of your local artist studios for rent or even have your own studio space from photography, you know that lighting is the key.

But sometimes, we want to manipulate the lighting for artistic purposes. And one method of doing so is using tools called gels. For those of you who are not familiar with gels, they are basically plastic-like sheets in different colors that are placed over and around lighting units to change the shade of the light produced in the photo.

Sounds simple right? Well, despite the simplicity, buying commercial gels can be pricey not to mention you may or may not be able to get the shades you really want. Making your own gels will cost you far less than buying them and assure you that you get the colors you want.

 

DIY gels - less that 50 cents each.

 
Commercial gels by Gary Fong – $14.95 for 4 pieces

Here’s how to do it:

1. Get yourself some transparencies from your local office supply store.

2. Use Photoshop or a similar photo editing program (if you don’t have one use the suggestion below) to open a new 8x1o file and simply make the file a box the color you want your gel to be.

3, If you don’t have adequate photo editing software, use a word processing program in which you can create an 8×10 box filled with color.

4. Save the files and take them on a CD or flash drive to any full-service copy shop.

5. Have the copy shop staff print them as color copies onto your transparencies.

All done!

Average cost – about 25-50 cents per gel, far below what you’ll pay if you buy therm outright.

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