In my last post, I talked about my Ikea hack for a small tabletop studio. I thought I’d write about it today because I really like this setup. I bought an Ikea kitchen cart called the Bekväm for $59.00. A great little cart with a really nice butcher block type top, 2 shelves and wheels on 2 of the legs. Oh, and solid wood! Once I got it put together, which was pretty easy, I was impressed at how solid it is. I knew that I wanted to add some way of attaching a backdrop so I drilled a couple holes so that I could shove a couple PVC pipes, around 20″ long, into the top of the cart. I added a couple elbows then another PVC pipe across the top. Voila! Backdrop support. The PVC was 3/4″ pipe. I was a little nervous about drilling holes in a perfectly good top but I figured what the hell, the cart only cost $59.00.
I had some vinyl fabric I bought from Joann and trimmed it a bit to fit on the pipe. I love having the 2 shelves. As you can see, great storage for stuff. So now, you’re probably wondering about the light. Well, that was my big find! I was at my favorite camera store in Topeka, Kansas. Wolfe’s Camera. Wolfe’s has been in business forever and the staff there is so knowledgeable and friendly that I don’t mind the hour drive from Kansas City to get there. I was there to pick up the Fuji 56mm 1.2 lens and while I was fiddling with the lens, I saw this really small strobe light. I asked about it and was really blown away by it. It’s called a Duolight made by Promaster. Wolfe’s carries all the Promaster stuff. Anyway, this little strobe has a led modeling light with 2 settings and of course it’s a strobe. But where it gets really interesting is the fact that it runs on batteries and comes with the hot shoe trigger which is wireless. What? Batteries? You can use a rechargeable battery! Of course you can use the wall adapter and plug it in and it also comes with a car connector too. So what’s the price? $249.00! The rechargeable battery was an extra $80 but you could use AA batteries too.
The rechargeable battery sits on top of the unit. You can adjust the intensity of the strobe and led with the dial on the back. The display also shows how many flashes you have using the battery. The unit also came with the light stand adapter.
The shot above is the hot shoe trigger on my Fuji X-T1. It works perfectly. Of course you have to take the camera out of silent mode for it to work. So what about the little softbox on the strobe? I also bought the accessory pack which had the softbox, barn doors and a grid for an additional $69. The softbox collapses flat for storage. I also bought a Dinkum clamp to attach the strobe to my table but I didn’t really care for it. There just wasn’t enough movement to get the light where I wanted it. So, I splurged one more time and bought a Manfrotto Super Clamp and a Manfrotto Variable Friction Arm. The arm is so versatile and can be moved all around to get the light in exactly the right place.
To reposition the light all I have to do is unscrew the big knob and move the light to where I want it and tighten the knob. Done. I’ll admit that this setup to mount the light is a little pricey, around $200 but it’s worth every penny because it just works!
So there you have it. My small but very functional tabletop setup. I will definitely buy another Duolight and mount for the other side, then the setup will be complete. If you’re interested in the Duolight, here is the link for Wolfe’s Camera. They have excellent online ordering. The Manfrotto clamp and arm can be found on Amazon, of course or your local camera shop. By now you’re probably wondering about the shot of the Fuji X100s at the top of the post. That was shot with my X-T1 using this setup. If I add another light for the right side, the shadows will be taken care of. Sure it’s a little pricey but like I said, it just works and works really well.