Tuesday, October 14, 2008

DIY Reflector

I have long liked the idea of the California Sunbounce, but it's very expensive, so I decided to have a go at making my own. the frame was to be constructed from PVC tube, and fitted with a two-sided cloth cover, black on one side, and silver on the other.
Here is a brief description of the project:

First, as I wasn't too concerned with the overall dimensions of the finished product, the lengths to which I cut my tubes were purely arbitrary. The only measurement that mattered at this stage is the length of the handle piece, as it had to fit the frame. The lengths I cut were:

(A) 4 side pieces @ 19 3/4"
(B) 2 end pieces @ 24 3/4"
(C) 2 handle standoffs @ 3"
(D) 1 handle @ 19 1/4"

The fittings required are:
4 90 degree elbows
2 45 degree elbows
2 tees
(All the tubes and fittings are 3/4" Schedule 40)

The only tools needed for the job are a hacksaw, a measuring tape, and a marker or a pencil.

The completed frame.

I wanted to be able either to put the reflector on a lightstand, or to be able to attach an arm with a strobe on it. To do this I got a 1/4" x 20 coupling nut. Used for joining lengths of threaded rod, this is just like an ordinary nut but much longer. The one I got is two inches long.

I then drilled a hole on one of the tees, at a 45 degree angle to the plane of the tee, and bonded the coupling nut in place with epoxy resin adhesive. The portion of the nut sticking out from the joint will allow me to hold it with a wrench or adjustable spanner to avoid strain when affixing fittings.

Lightstand/tripod fitting with 5/8" stud attached.

The next thing to do it make the fabric covering. I used a remnant piece of black cotton. This was cut to size, hemmed and fitted with Velcro tabs.

Then we* stitched a piece of silver lame to one side, giving a reversible reflector/flag. (*"We" being Maggie. Thank you for your patience and help with the sewing)

Et voila! The finished reflector! And the cost? A bit under $25 - not too bad, eh?


  1. great Idea i just saw the sun bounce the other day and loved the way the pix looked.

  2. I like this. Great thinking. Something else I've seen people do is run a length of elastic through the inside of the outside frame so that your pieces stay together but it can also be easily collapsed.

    Anyway, great work!

    gecko mark @ flickr

    seen via strobist.

  3. will you be posting pictures you took with it? I would love to see the results :D.


  4. That's a really great idea ... thanks for posting it with detailed instructions.

  5. Wonderful blog entry! Thanks for documenting and sharing this. I'd been thinking about building something similar to this myself. Glad to see you got it done :)
    BTW, found the link to the blog post on the "Strobist Studio" group on Flickr

    Inovation and being able to create from your knowledge base is a true talent.


  7. congrats on making Strobist blog! Get ready for loads of hits...

  8. I'm thinking "Space Blanket" or camping "Ground Cloth" for the fabric. I've got an old one which is a slightly textured silver on one side and an opaque, ugly brown on the other, but perhaps a bit of careful shopping might reveal other options.

  9. Awesome off tot he hardware store now,

    thanks so much for the time and effort.


  10. I've been thinking of something similar, but hadn't figured out how to provide an attachment point. I would prefer if it could swivel and adjust, but the coupling nut seems like an effective technique.

  11. Nicely done!

    Another addition might be another offset cross-piece with a 4-sided connector in the middle along with another mounting stud so you can easily mount it vertically if the situation calls for it.

  12. What is "silver lame" and where did you get it? I've been looking for a fabric to build a large octabox out of and can not find any fabric comparable to the black on one side reflective silver on the other like a comercially made soft box? Any suggestions or links appreciated. Thank you

  13. I like the concept. I'll bet once you get the frame built you can use it for other screens as well. Why not a gold reflector, or a translucent "shoot through" screen. Same frame, different cloth options, just change them out.

    great job John.

  14. Hi Jag,

    Great stuff. Maybe also a good option is to cut everything in half (upper, middel and bottom) and put an extra 6 handle stand offs, so that you do not have to take it apart each time, but need to reassamble only two parts...

  15. Hey! Another photographer from Iowa! Thanks for the detailed instructions. I might actually build one of these things...


  16. thanks for this I appreciate the effort and the pattern etc.
    Do you have a pattern for building a backing standing for holding material etc for backdrops?

  17. thanks fro this effort
    you don't have a pattern for a backdrop stand by any chance?

  18. How did you attach a small flash to this setup?

  19. If you like PVC projects, be sure and check out Tinker Toys. Lots of cool stuff there. http://www.software-cinema.com/page/tinkertubes

  20. This is such a great DIY.
    I wonder if there's any way to get around the hardcore stitching and hemming... with just straight use of velcro, sitched ghetto style to the fabrics.

    The 'bachelor' version, perhaps. ;-)

  21. This is great; well done!

    I wonder if there would be any real difference without the hardcore stitching that you did.
    Like, just ghetto stitching the velcro on and the silver to the black without the hemming.

    The 'bachelor' Iowa, if you will ;-)

  22. Now shoot some pictures so we can see the results.

  23. Great instructions! Do you have any shots with it?

  24. Congratulations. Looks good. Maybe you should do a video to show how sturdy it is outdoors in the wind? How strong is that bond on the nut for instance?

  25. This is excellent.

    Just as a matter of plumbing pedanticness... Those fittings you're refering to as 45 degrees are actually 135 degrees. (sorry!).

  26. Great work. Pro's should consider this idea. I made one of these years ago a) 'cos it's lighter than a CSB and b) costs less.

    i-pack (pro for 25 years plus)

  27. Great idea...thanks for sharing the wealth! Anxious to try this one.

  28. This is so cool.
    I was in the same shoes, i wanted to buy it but it's so expensive.

    will give it a try?
    where did you buy the silver material?

  29. how do you prevent the round tubing from slipping, thus causing the frame to twist? I have a large frame which I made in this same fashion that had the twisting issue. My solution was to cut a slit in the elbows and a screw in the pipe, when the pipe slips into the elbow the screw slides into the slot preventing the twisting issue.

  30. Great thing! I always love some DIY posts and trying out some of my own.

  31. I made one of these 4x6' and shoot outdoors in wild fields. I carry 5 gallon jugs of water for something to stabilize, or if luck is with me a helper to hold it. I glued it with pvc purple weld stuff for plumbing. Also drilled holes for tie downs. Larger the reflector the further it will fly! Be really careful shooting horses, as the owners do not take kindly to freaked equines!!!! LOL

  32. Nice one. I was watching the guys on Lime using the genuine article the other day, and was thinking I could probably make one of these. Then surfing on strobist.com today, I found the link to your page. I have some metal tubing at home that I was about to dump - I'm gonna put it to some use now!

    - Rory

    PS think I'll grab a nice fresh pack of Tayto this evening and a pint of Guinness :-)

  33. Great stuff, Thanks for taking the time to post the pics and instructions.

    Brenda Read
    My Nikon Reviews

  34. :-) Guess what tomorrow is? It's Mothers Day! Guess what I am requesting my huband and kids make for me? YES! A DIY refelctor! Thank you for the post, can't wait for the fun to begin.

  35. Great instructions. One thing not covered was, did you glue the PVC parts together (except for where they would detach for folding) or just leave it at force-connecting them? My experience with PVC - I created a six-foot-high studio reflector with it - is that it needs to be glued where you don't want it to pull or fall apart. What's your experience?

  36. that's so cheap compared to those california sun reflectors.... I can't believe people spend that much money on a reflector.

  37. @damead - Yes, all points that do not need to come apart are glued. This makes the structure more rigid and secure.

  38. I really like this. I'd like to do the same thing, however, I'm going to be velcro-ing the silver piece on so that I can remove it and use the black. I also want to have a gold reflector that can be velcro-ed