A few days ago, I started to dabble in making a makeshift light box to take pictures in of small objects. To do this I used the tutorial I found or was forwarded to a while ago (I’ll post link later when I’m back on my iMac). The result was relatively good if a bit small. All of the paper I had, no matter which sketchbook I tore pages out of to get paper to make it, none of which was sturdy enough to make it stand on its own, reinforcing it with cardboard strips did help but I was then left with the problem of it being really wonky and hardly big enough to fit anything decent inside to take photographs of. Another additional problem was that I couldn’t get my camera in at a decent angle for some things I was wanting to take a photo of.
That was Saturday. Last night I gave the whole lightbox/mini studio thing another shot and I took a different approach. I was thinking bigger this time. Remembering I had a sketchbook of A2 layout paper I started taking a few pages out of it and got to work. I took some blu-tac and put some on the sides of the paper and put it 20cm above the surface of my desk, letting the rest of the paper drape down and onto the desk. This left a short portion of white on the desk which would have been obvious on the photos, so I overlapped another piece of layout paper onto the one I had already positioned. Excellent. This sorted out the background for the photos, but the next bridge to cross was lighting.
With the first iteration of the light box I made, the built in roof helped with the diffusing of the light, avoiding the obvious reflections and the horrible direct light the desk lamp would have given. This version did not have a ‘roof’ so I had to improvise some what. I remembered something I had read somewhere on the internet, of someone at a motorshow and they had their DSLR with them. They wanted to avoid harsh highlights and shadows gotten from the use of the flash so they taped a piece of tracing paper or something close to tracing paper onto the flash of the camera which apparently helped them out massively with producing better shots. So what I did was I cut down a piece of layout paper (since I didn’t have my smaller layout pad to hand) and some more blu-tac and loosely wrapped the paper around the shade of the desk lamp (doable because it was an anglepoise style lamp) and attached using the blu-tac. Wrapping it round loosely meant air could get in and circulate so the paper would not get so hot which could cause a fire. That was something that was mentioned by the photographer talked about above at the motorshow who said that after constant use of the paper on the flash, a burning smell occurred which meant he had to stop and change paper every so often.
The final change I made was to change the light bulb in my lamp. The one that I use in it has a warm white light. Very yellow. The one I changed it to in order to take the pictures, and the one I got with the lamp when I bought it was a very white light, quite cold and clinical. It was, going by the white balance preset in Aperture 3 afterwards, quite close to daylight in a way.
And that was that. I could angle the light where I wanted it, and switching between my 50mm prime and my 18-55mm lenses I was able to produce some quite good photographs of model cars, my new Mr Jones Watch and a few other things. I spent roughly 3 hours taking photos last night which I was quite happy to do as I hadn’t taken so many for quite a while.
The changes for next time? I think next time I am going to make a few more changes to this. The first one is that I am probably going to buy a large A0(ish) piece of paper to use. The larger space would be useful for taking larger objects, or being more adventurous with smaller ones. I was limited a few times when taking some pictures that I ended up seeing the edge of the paper. Use a tripod. I spent most of the time resting the camera on the desk and taking pictures that way. It became a bit of a problem when trying to take shots from above, especially when the shutter speed was quite low for some of the pictures. Make a better or bigger light diffuser to cover the light and possibly position it a little further away from the bulb itself. There was a number of times when I saw the light reflection and I know it could have been done a bit better. The final one is probably the use of some helping hands, either the small crocodile clip style or just getting someone in to give me a hand, but trying to hold up a piece of kappa board as a reflector, adjust the light and hold on to the camera at the same time did get a bit tricky at times, which did end up with some blurry images.
Apart from that, it ended up quite well. Over 300 photos were taken, that being an average of about 100 an hour for those of you who didn’t want to work that one out. And the quality was astonishingly good for something made in under five minutes. Some of the photos of model cars looked just as realistic as full size car images.