Small studio setup for small objects on a shoe string

Started Sep 10, 2009 | Discussions thread
Duncan C
Veteran MemberPosts: 7,563
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Light tents have real limitations
In reply to marceloanelli, Sep 29, 2009

marceloanelli wrote:

check this link:
http://digital-photography-school.com/how-to-make-a-inexpensive-light-tent

I build it and can check results:
http://marceloanelli.com/fotomac/?p=196

After that I build a bigger one with pvc tubes, elbows, etc and wrapped it with white fabric of cotton. Instead of only one tungsten lamp used my two d-klite, but can be used with any two flashes:

If you have the flash the cost is very very low for the first construction and very low for the second setup.

Light tents have their place, but they also have real limitations. They produce very flat, even light, and lots of bright reflections. If that's the effect you are after, great. However, you often want directional light, and control of highlight and shadows. in that case a light tent will be working against you.

I'd suggest getting a roll of white seamless paper and setting it up as a "sweep" (put it flat on your shooting surface, then tape it to the wall behind, and let it curve from floor to wall. That gives you a transition from "floor" to backdrop without a visible seam.

Then get yourself a fairly wide piece of low reflection glass and rig some sort of stand to hold it from the sides. You can put small pieces on the glass and shoot light it from lots of different directions, and light your background separately if you wish.

Get a couple of large pieces of white foamcore from a framing store, score them halfway through down the middle and put clear packing tape on the side you don't score. Then you can bend them and stand them up in a V shape, or lay them out flat. They make excellent reflectors.

You can also get a few yards of white ripstop nylon material (translucent plastic sheeting, like a white plastic shower curtain) and stretch it on a frame made out of scrap wood or PVC pipe. Instant diffuser/scrim. Shine lights onto your scrim so the light illuminates the whole surface, put it close to your subject, and you have a large soft light-source. Put the light closer and you can create soft-edged highlights.

Add a couple of articulated desk lamps (the kind that are counter-balanced with springs so you can move them to any position and they stay) and you are in business.

Be careful if you use desk lamps or other incandescent lights, however. Such lights get hot and can scorch or melt plastic, and can even cause plastic or paper to catch fire. Make sure your reflectors/diffusers don't get too hot.

You can also use battery operated flash, or even daylight balanced compact florescent lights with a high "Rendering Index" (A measure of how complete the spectrum of light they produce). The key thing is to use only ONE of these choices, and adjust your white balance for that light source. You do not want to mix different types of light in the same shot or you will get odd color casts no matter what white balance you use.

If you're clever you can assemble quite a setup for much less than $100 US.

As the other poster said, buying a copy of "Light: Science and Magic" would also be an excellent investment. It will teach you how to think about and work with light to get the effects you are after.

Good luck,

Duncan C

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