How to Make a Diffusion Tent for Close-up Photography
What is a Diffusion Tent?
It is a device that blocks wind and diffuses direct sunlight, cutting contrast and softening shadow edges. Basically it is a tarp that can be hung between trees, or draped over poles and the tripod-mounted camera. I use the tent in about 90% of my close-ups. I consider it an essential part of my equipment.
How to make it:
• 10 x 10 foot piece of either parachute cloth, or polyethylene (milky, translucent, plastic sold as tarp or vapor barrier). If using poly, try to find some that is translucent, rather than clear. If it is clear, scrub it with a nylon dish scrubber, or steel wool to make it scatter light. If you use parachute cloth, you may need to sew two pieces together to get to the 10 x 10 foot dimensions, and put a hem around edge.
• Grommets for edge. If using parachute cloth, you can use metal grommets, if poly, get special plastic grommets with rubber washers made especially for plastic tarps. Grommets are not essential, but help in being able to stake the tarp down in a wind, and make it easier to set up.
• Shock-corded tent poles. You can get either metal or fiberglass tent poles at camping stores. They need to be flexible enough to set up so the ends can be bent to within 5 feet of each other without breaking. The ends will be stuck into the ground.
• Dark cloth to create shade. I use ½ of a space blanket that has a dark brown side and a silver, reflective side.
When all set up, then set up the poles either crossing, to make an igloo shape, or parallel, to make a tunnel shape. Then drape the tarp over the poles and camera, making sure none of it shows in the photograph. Heat will build up inside if it is sunny out, so get everything else ready first! If needed, use the dark cloth to shade the background. It can be attached to the outside of the tarp with Velcro, or sometimes set up inside, simply with its own stiffness holding it in position.