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The Fix: Photography tips
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The Fix: Photography tips

9:48 /

In this week's episode of The Fix, we show you how to turn a kitchen timer into a smartphone camera accessory, how to make your own camera slider, and how to create a ring light for portraits.

[MUSIC] Hey guys, welcome to CNET's The Fix. A show about DIY tech, and how-to. I'm Eric Franklin. And I'm Donald Bell. And if you like taking pictures, whether with your smartphone or you DSLR cameras. We got some great tips for you guys. Yeah, and we're gonna start off with a DIY project. for taking time-lapse videos, 350 degrees with just a smartphone. There are lots of ways to go about shooting a time-lapse. But, if you want yours to stand out from the crowd on Instagram and everywhere else on the web, why not shoot a panoramic time-lapse? The set-up is really simple using a few household supplies. So you'll need a wind-up kitchen timer. This one's from Ikea and it only cost a few bucks. You'll need a L-shaped bracket like this. You can pick it up at the hardware store. You'll also need some adhesive. So I have tape and a Command strip. You'll see how I use that in a second. I'll start by adhering my phone to the L-shaped bracket. For that I'm using the command strips so that it comes off easily. So, I'll put the command strip on one of the sides ...and stick my phone to it. There we go. Now, all I have to do is put this on the kitchen timer and that's where the tape comes in. That's your setup. It's really that simple. When you're ready to shoot your time lapse, there are a lot of options. There is an app called Lapse It, which is available for iOS and android, and of course, a lot of phones have built in time lapse options, but today I'm going to use hyper lapse, which is a new app from Instagram that lets you shoot up to forty-five minutes of raw footage. So, I've got hyper lapse setup here. All secured on my kitchen timer. So let's go out and shoot this time lapse. [MUSIC] I really like that hyperlapse app. It is by far the easiest to use time lapse photo app that's out there. I also like that you can slow down your videos. Yes. Really slow. Yes I love that whole slow-mo thing. It's kind of taking over right now. A little bit overused but I still like it. Alright. It's time for a quick break. And when we come back we show you how to make an inexpensive camera slider to capture really cool cinematic video shots. [MUSIC] Welcome back. We're all about making DIY's that are fun, useful, and affordable and I gotta say I found the inspiration for this next how to in my own house. I sold a toy for my six year old son. Father be you! [LAUGH] [LAUGH] It works! No, I'm excited to see it. Especially because this one uses a remote controlled truck. You've got yourself a video camera, and you're thinking about making your own personal Citizen Kane. One thing you should add to your bag of tricks is a dolly shot, or a slider shot. Now, this is the kind of shot where you have a stationary camera and instead of panning it left and right, you're going to glide it smoothly. To get this shot, a lot of the pros use a crane, or an expensive set of tracks for a dolly rig. I'm going to show you how to make your own DIY solution for under $60. Now, I've seen some super budget versions of this that use broom sticks and PVC pipes. I'm going to step it up a little bit. I'm going to use PVC pipes for our tracks. And then I'm going to add a camera tripod, a flexible one like this. And a $30 remote control truck. This is the Maisto Rock Crawler. And what makes it so awesome is that it's got a little bit flexibility in the base and these nice big wheels that are set wide apart. And this whole thing can actually support a DSLR or you can even use a smartphone with this particular camera mount. Now these are bald tires here, but they're perfect for fitting over the PVC pipe. The grooves in the wheel well are gonna slide gently, just like so. Now we're going to use a screwdriver to take the truck body off so we have a nice level surface to mount our camera on. All right. The screws are out. And now we're gonna take off the top. And there's this bit of wire here. that's the antennae. We don't need this. There you go. All right. Now, we've got a nice level surface for our camera. And we've got the wheel wells exposed here to guide us on the tracks. You can use whatever length or diameter PVC pipe you have around. I have this three-quarter inch pipe handy. So I'm gonna use that. Now I've got one five foot section of pipe. I'm gonna connect these two shorter sections to it, using elbow joints. Next up, we're gonna take another five foot section of pipe and we're gonna put a slip key joint on it. Now this is a critical little joint here. What's so great about it is that you can slip it over a pipe. And you can adjust the gauge of the tracks for exactly what you need. Now we're going to make this a little fancier by attaching a pulley to one end and using some string to pull your truck across. We're going to drill a small hole, and then we'll add an eye ****. Attach the pulley. Turn the pipe inward so that it stays in your truck. And then attach a string to the truck so that we can run through the pulley. All right. The next step is to add our camera. A flexible tripod mount like a GorillaPod gives you a lot of options. This one even comes with a phone mount. [MUSIC] Really wanna make sure this thing's secure. Especially if you have a nice, expensive camera. You don't want it toppling down. All right, now that it's all set up, let's take this thing outside and play around with it, and see what we can get. [MUSIC] So, mounted up on a table like this, here's what the shot looks. Looks like. The wide base of the truck is strong enough to support a DSLR but I actually have the most fun using this set-up in the Hyperlapse app of my phone for making smooth time-lapse videos. [MUSIC] So that's all there is to it. That's how to make your own DIY camera slider. A lot of fun and as a bonus in your down time you can use a remote control truck. [MUSIC] Probably the most fun-looking DL I've ever seen on this show. Well, just because it has the truck. [CROSSTALK] Yeah, well, yeah. [INAUDIBLE] Pretty cool. And also, I used a pretty short length of pipe to get the slider going. Yeah. You can use it as long as you want. In fact, the longer the pipe you use, the better and cooler the shot's gonna be. Awesome. Now if you're into taking portrait shots, you might wanna use, like, a direct light source to add a unique look to your shot. Yeah. A ring light's probably what you want. But they can be really expensive. So Lexi [INAUDIBLE] is gonna show us a way to make a DIY ring light using tech you probably already have. Using a ring flash, or a ring light, is a really great way to get a nice even look for your portraits, and also your closeup photography. It helps to give a nice shadowless effect on your subject's face. And also gives a cool halo effect in their eyes. But traditional ring flashes or ring lights can be expensive. Especially if you only want to just experiment with the technique. I'm gonna show you how to make your own, DIY ring light, using tools that you hopefully already have at hand like a big screen monitor or a TV. What you'll need is a camera that gives you exposure control. A tripod and that big screen that I mentioned. You'll also need to make sure that your monitor or TV can display an image on it. Step one, download the ring light image from the how-to article on CNET. Or you can make your own. What you'll need is a black background. And then on that you'll need to draw a white circle. And inside of that a smaller black circle. Step two: Display that image on your monitor or TV full screen. Turn the brightness up all the way you can. If the blacks start turning into a bit more of a gray. Dial the brightness back a bit and boost your contrast. Step three. Put your camera and tripod in front of the screen, in the middle of the center black circle. You're gonna want to crank up the ISO sensitivity to around 1600 or 3200, because you'll be shooting mostly in the dark. Turn out all the lights and position your subject right in front of the camera. So the ring light is providing all of the light onto your subject. To position yourself or the subject, you might wanna use a camera with a flip out screen, turn on auto focus, and then take a few shots, trial and error, to see exactly where the light is falling. The circular ring light works best for the most even look, but feel free to do things like triangles, squares, any other shape you can imagine. This DIY ring light isn't exactly the most portable solution out there but it's a great way to get bang for your buck with gear that you already own. That's it for this week's show. We hoped you enjoyed it. And we hope we inspired you to go out there and take some great photos. If it did you can email us. Thefix@cnet.com. Yes, but you can also tweet us. I'm @nidopal on Twitter. I'm @donald. Yeah, thanks for watching, guys. Yeah, see you next time. Right here on The Fix. [MUSIC]
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Eric Franklin
Section Editor / How To

Eric Franklin is a section editor covering how to and tablets. He's also co-host of CNET's do-it-yourself and how-to show, The Fix and is a 20-year tech industry veteran.

Donald Bell has spent more than five years as a CNET senior editor, reviewing everything from MP3 players to the first three generations of the Apple iPad. He currently devotes his time to producing How To content for CNET, as well as weekly episodes of CNET's Top 5 video series.

Sharon Profis
Senior Editor / How To

Sharon Profis is a CNET How To expert who cooks up DIY projects, in-depth guides, and little-known tricks that help you get the most out of your tech. During her four years at CNET, she's covered social media, funky gadgets, and has shared her tech knowledge on CBS and other news outlets.

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