I first heard of Translum while being on Photigy. In fact, Photigy’s founder Alex Koloskov uses it on a lot of shoots. Basically, Translum is a big roll of a kind of translucent plastic (Mylar) that gives the effect of frosted glass. The most popular size is 54” by 18’ which is more than enough to get you started. It can be easily cut to any shape or size with regular scissors and is often used to make DIY light modifier. It’s similar to Rosco’s 3008 diffusion sheet but it is much cheaper. I recently ordered a roll from B&H and wanted to share with you how I use it.
First off, I like to plan as much as possible of everything just so I know where I’m going. This is no exception. I made a plan of every cut I want to make. Here it is:
As you can see, there are multiple pieces. The “BG” and “NO FRAME” as well as both small 14” by 12” rectangles are just the plastic. I haven’t placed them in any type of wooden or metallic frame.
The BG is the piece I use when I want a pure white background in an image. I set it between a strobe with a 7” reflector and the smallest piece of Translum tapped to it and the subject. The strobe blasts light into the plastic and gives me a good amount of control. I make sure to have the diffusion paper (Translum) as far to the subject as possible so that I don’t have blown out edges. To hang it, I use a beloved C-Stand and clamp it with two A-Clamps to an extension arm.
All the other pieces are used for diffusion. If I need to put Translum vertically I’m going to be using the “NO FRAME” one as it is easier to handle. Otherwise (when I need to put the diffusion at angle), I usually opt for the 27” by 40” and/or the 54” by 40”, which both aer stretched into a DIY frame.
On of the advantages of using Savage’s Translum is, of course, for its diffusion. Yes, softboxes produce soft light, but soft light in a harsh corridor. The edges are crisp. Being that 54” is larger than most softboxes, a piece of Translum placed in front of the light source softens the corridor’s edges. This is particularly useful for lighting reflective objects as it eliminates those big white reflection that come from the softboxes/stripboxes. Also, by placing the light source and modifier anything but parallely to Translum, you create a light gradient. It is a widely used technique in the commercial product/still life world as it shows very well the curvature of an object.
Being that Translum is quite inexpensive, people often create DIY light modifiers. For example, Alex Koloskov once made a semi-circular light diffuser by bending two PVC pipes and tapping Translum to them. He made a hole into the middle for his camera’s lens. That light modifier allows Alex to perfectly light circular and reflective subject such as a perfume bottle neck.
What makes Translum cool is that the possibilities are virtually endless. As the quote goes: “You are only limited by your own imagination”. Just experiment and come up with new ways to modify light!