Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Teeny Photo Studio Built By Hand

Two weekends ago, I went to a local photography store, and looked at their tools for photographing close-up (what they call "macro") for the jewelry. Okay, they didn't have what I'd seen online, and the tools they did have were both expensive and somewhat scary.

But I did commit to a really nice table-top tripod with a magnetic mount. Love it. You'll see it below.

Then my niece (she of the photo expertise) sent me a link to how to build your own light-tent, I looked at that and at some of the other small jewelry/beading close-up light tents and other tools available online.  She also left me some neat florescent light bulbs which are supposed to be color-balanced, and some background sheets of paper in white, black, silver and gold.

Some of the kits I found online, that came prepackaged with light-tent, lights, reflectors and tripods, were reasonably priced, at $50, some were much more expensive, at around $300. I suspected the lower end kits were a bit cheesy, reviews online weren't complimentary of the quality of the lights, etc. The high end seemed a bit extreme. 

Building my own light-tent...
out of a cardboard box made me feel like I'd end up with a carved up cardboard box. Ewww. Call me a snob.

So I compromised, and built my own, but out of much better materials. Instead of cardboard, I went to Michael's (the local chain craft store) and got foamcore board (5 sheets 20" x 30"), a big pad of tracing paper, and both white and purple duct tape. I could have done with just the white tape, but got the purple because, well, I really like purple.   White inside, purple outside. 

The only other thing I needed was an Exacto blade, a ruler and a cutting mat. I had all those.

I cut four foamcore boards to 20"x20", then cut a frame out of three of those squares, leaving two inches around the outside. I filled the frames with sheets of tracing paper, taped as tightly as I could.

Then I taped it all together methodically, taping the joints inside and outside, but leaving the front just lightly taped so the entire box can hinge back and I can get inside to tape up background paper, etc.  The 10"x20" pieces were added to the open front at the end.

I ended up with a cube 20" on a side, but with an apron that projects out at the bottom front and front flappy doors to act as light reflectors.

I had purchased two $22 lamps at Target, that are adjustable.  See the picture.

Then I played about seeing what kind of pictures I could get. Pictures of the tent. Pictures inside the tent, of the lamp, and the tripod. A close-up of the Exacto box to see how good details can get. 

Pretty darn good. Most of these pictures have no color, because I know nothing about getting the color balance right under the lighting conditions I was working with. I only had one lamp lit, the light in the room was fairly low. But I'm totally impressed with the way things look. Focus is good. Details are good. I even reduced the size of the photos to make uploading easier and they still look good.  

Once I get this puppy set up and dialed in, some fine photographs will be had!

And poor Anne, who has been waiting patiently for her necklace, will be able to take possession!

Total cost for this was about $79 for the materials and lamps, plus whatever it cost for the light bulbs. If you had a coupon for the craft store, it would have been quite a bit cheaper. The tripod was pricey, but one could make do with a far less expensive one. And I got to play with my Exactos for an hour or so. That's all it took. Definitely something anyone can do.

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