Introduction: A Photographer's Portable Sun Shade

When shooting outside it is sometimes useful to have a way of blocking harsh sunlight. A portable sun shade can be used by an assistant to cover the person being photographed with a shadow. This allows the photographer greater control. A flash can now be used to re-light the subject in a more flattering manner.


25 feet of 3/4" PVC pipe ($25)
7 PVC T connectors
4 small bungee cords (Dollar Store)
3"block of wood.
4'x6' Tarp (Dollar Store)
Nylon cord
Mr. Longarm brush and tool holder ($5 Home Depot)
(2) 3 inch angle brackets
(2) Hose clamps
Bolts & Nuts
Painting/window washing extension pole (8 feet )
Zip Ties
Carabiner Clips (Dollar Store)
PVC adhesive

The video below shows a commercially available Sun-Swatter product in use.

Step 1: Cutting Pipe

All measurement given are approximate. The supporting PVC frame should be just slightly larger than the tarp. Before cutting any PVC, lay out the tarp and check the size.

Cut four 3 foot pieces with a chop saw. A clean 90 degree cut is important. These pieces will make up the 6 foot sides. Cut two 4 foot pieces and dry fit T connectors on each end. Cut two 2 foot pieces and join them with a T connector in the middle and one on each end. It must be the same overall length as the other 4 foot sections, so the ends will have to be trimmed.

Step 2: Adjustable Clamp

Ideally the frame would be held by an adjustable metal clamp or grip head. To make the plastic Mr. Longarm usable, cut two angle brackets in half. Bolt and hose clamp the pieces to each side to reinforce it. Attach a couple of inches of pipe, so it can be cemented to the middle T connector.

Step 3: Assembly

Dry fit all the pieces together. If everything looks good, use PVC adhesive to only cement the T connectors to the 4 foot sections. Leave them to cure over night.

Step 4: Bungee

Tie two bungee together with a nylon cord, so they can stretch the length of the frame. The tension should be enough so that they hold the non-cemented pipes in place. Tie a nut to the end of one bungee and drop it through the pipes until it can be hooked on the far T connector. Do this for each side.

Step 5: Zip Ties

Zip tie the tarp to the frame using the eyelets The corner ties should be able to slip over the T connectors and be held in place by the hooks on the bungee cords.

Step 6: Tension Block

To reduce the effect of wind, make a bridle from nylon cord that can be looped around the back T connectors. Drill 3 holes in a scrap piece of wood to make a tension block. Thread it with cord and use carabiner clips to attach it to the pole and the bridle.

Step 7: Finish

When using the sun shade, angle it so it catches the least amount of wind. If possible, rest the butt of the pole on the ground.

Future modifications might include using white ripstop nylon instead of a tarp, attaching silver lame fabric so it can be used as a reflector, and finding a strong metal grip head.

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