Corrugated Plastic Sheets

Concept: 3 out of 5
Execution: 2 out of 5
Yeah, but: Not to be confused with chloroplast.

The Long Version: I have to admit that I love this stuff. True, like most plastics it's a massive environmental problem and the scourge of marine environments everywhere, and its ubiquity for cheap advertising signs makes it an urban - and suburban - blight as well, but it's also extremely handy. 'Coroplast' is the Xeroxed Kleenex of the corrugated polypropylene copolymer world, and since that's what the sign said where I bought mine, that's what I'll call it here. Other companies do make it, and call it different things, but who has that kind of time?

It's lightweight, rigid, and cheap. Right there we know that politicians and advertisers are going to flock to it, so it's a staple for lawn signs and anything else that needs a weatherproof printed surface. It comes in more colours than a CRT-iMac, and can be used for all kinds of interesting things. There's low-cost greenhouses and office dividers, but also for all kinds of DIY projects like model airplanes and small animal cages. Who knew? But by far the most interesting thing is how handy it is for photography.

I have a large sheet of translucent white Coroplast that I'll use as a background or a diffuser, and a smaller sheet of opaque black that I'll cut up for black cards. My most inspired move was to stack and bundle the black plastic to make a grid for my SB600; the initial proof-of-concept hack job has been so effective that I haven't bothered to make any others. (For anyone who's wondering, it's being held together with my favourite adhesive.) The photo above is being lit by three strobes, with one on the camera and another underneath the white plastic to brighten it up a bit. Thanks to the marvel of Nikon's AWS/CLS speedlight integration - similar abilities can be found in many Olympus cameras and a mighty one Canon product - this is an incredibly easy way to create a simple light box. That's how I took all of the product photos for my 20/1.7 review, like this next one that would have illustrated a part about using the lens with a three-stop ND filter.

The biggest problem with Coroplast can be finding it and getting it home. Most craft and art supply stores in Toronto seem to be selling it these days, and if they don't, there's always sign supply places. The real trick is to find it in pieces smaller than thirty square feet, but the good news is that a simple knife can solve some of the transportation problems. After that, it just takes a couple of light wipes to get rid of the ever-present dust and it's ready to go. It's light, rigid, durable, whiter than foamcore and more cleanable than bristol board. It's not the only thing I need for my home studio, but I use it for a huge amount of the photos that I take for these reviews, even if you can't see it.


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