While I often fantasize about expensive equipment and a large studio layout, I operate on a very minimal budget, which often leads me to be creative and develop my own equipment, dubbed “FrankenFoto.” And, this is one of my lovable “monsters.”
What brought this particular model about was necessity. As I’ve said before, necessity if the mother of desperation, and desperation is the mother of invention. After shooting my first wedding I decided I needed a few lighting modifications for my next one the following week. Granted, you can get pretty cheap umbrellas on eBay, but I didn’t have the time for one to be shipped in. And, believe it or not, I didn’t have any mounting brackets or anything. So, what does a cheapskate do in a pinch? He makes his own.
- TOTAL COST: roughly $10-$13
- TIME REQUIRED: 10-20 minutes
- GENIUS INVOLVED: debatable
- Drill with 7/32″ drill bit
- Flat-head screw driver
- (1) umbrella, painted with handle removed
- (1) T-brace
- (1) 1/2″ plastic pipe thingy with holes drilled with 7/32″ bit to match the T-brace
- (4) 1/4″ screws
- (2) wing nuts with 1/4″ threads
- (8) washers
Obviously, you will need an umbrella. The size doesn’t really matter so much, but I chose a 39″ rain umbrella from Walmart for a steep $5. Regardless of the size of the umbrella or the price you pay, it will need to be one that has the release on the stem and not a button on the handle. I also grabbed a couple cans of spray paint, and after verifying that I am, indeed, over the age of 18, waltzed out of the store with a whistle on my lips and a spring in my step.
I could have left the outside of the umbrella navy blue, but I wanted to be taken at least semi-seriously as a photographer. So, I coated the outside with a $.98 can of black spray paint and used a metallic silver (not gray) for the inside.
I then used a hack saw to remove the plastic umbrella handle (this can be done before painting, if you choose), leaving enough metal extending below the release to be clamped down in my mounting bracket.
I then drilled 7/32″ holes in the one side of the 1/2″ plastic tube thingy to match the holes on the long side of the T-brace (for mounting purposes). Why 7/32″ holes instead of 1/4″ holes to match the screws? Because you need the screws to be tight, and the plastic allows for the screws to create their own threads in the slightly-smaller holes.
I ran a screw through the T-brace as far as I could into the plastic pipe. This would act to secure the pipe to the brace. I ran a second screw through the T-brace and into the pipe just far enough to secure the two together. The end of the umbrella will inserted on this end, and the screw will then be tightened to secure the umbrella to the assembly.
I ran two 1/4″ screws up through the two ends of the T-brace with two washers on top and two washers on the bottom of each screw. These are used to secure my wireless receivers to the mount, and the purpose of the washers are largely to take of “slack” in the threads allowing for the receivers to be mounted tightly.
After securing the umbrella to the bracket and added my wireless receivers, I mounted the assembly to the quick-release for a Manfrotto tripod.
Because of the universal 1/4″ wing nut, I was also able to mount it to a monopod, allowing for increased mobility and functionality…and it was a huge asset at my wedding that weekend.