Don’t Have the Right Tool?—MacGyver It 

Creating tools that get the job done

Back in the 80s, there was a tv show called “MacGyver” that was very popular.

MacGyver was a polymath, a special agent who could fix a situation no matter what the circumstances with materials found at hand.

In hindsight, it seems a bit silly that this could be, or was it?

MacGyver it

As time moved forward, there was a saying that developed specifically on this show: “I was able to get the wall clock to work when I only had AAA batteries yet, requires AA size. Well, I ‘MacGyvered’ it with spacers for the time being.”

Simply put, it is the on-the-spot engineering using on-hand materials to solve an immediate problem.

Put into practice

My background as a photographer is in landscapes, nature, still life, and urban environments. I have little to no experience using flash.

I was recruited to help out with a video shoot of the required photography as well.

I was reluctant and immediately pointed out that we didn’t have a proper flash and using the pop-up flash on the Sony a77 would render horrible results.

He replied, “Let’s try and see what happens.”

Sony a77 with home made flash diffuser
Sony a77 with a homemade flash diffuser.


So, armed with the Sony a77, Sony battery grip, Sigma 28mm and a 50-150mm lens of I went into the unknown.

Upon arrival, I met my son outside the venue for the lowdown on the who’s who that I’m seeking to get the most photographs above all others.

The night before I fashioned a homemade diffuser for the pop-up flash. Using a half sheet of 8×11 paper and turned it into a funnel shape. I have tried this method in the past for still photography but not in a scenario like this, a paid job.


Just before entering the hall we paused to set up the camera for the low light environment, took a few test shots of my son, and off we went.

He was the videographer and I the photographer.

As the day moved forward, things were going well. I did begin to notice how the autofocus system was struggling at times in the low light.

I am sure that the autofocusing issues cost me some excellent shots throughout the afternoon.

I forged on and made the best out of a challenging scenario.

If I had to do it over again, I would

When I returned home and began my workflow process to identify the workable photographs, I was surprised and disappointed.

As I suspected, some captures did not come out well, and even trying to save them in post-production was a fail.

Fortunately, I had enough files to justify my efforts and the client’s expectations.

I had mixed feelings about this experience on this photoshoot. On the one hand, I knew going in that I was ill-prepared and therefore not likely to produce acceptable results, especially to a paying client.

On the other hand, thinking creatively and outside the box proved to be liberating and rewarding.

I would say I learned some new skills, putting the MacGyver practice to work.


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