Thursday, March 1, 2012

Homemade vs. Professional Light Boxes - by Rene Huskalow

When I joined Etsy, I already had a product that I was passionate about that I wanted to share with others.  That product is creating greeting cards where I take photos of dogs in fun costumes. The first step to selling on Etsy was to create a listing for my cards. The next step was taking pictures of my finished cards and posting them in my listing.  For me that turned out to be the hardest part. I tried to take pictures outside when the sun was out, which provided great natural light. However, this created several problems. One was that I could only take pictures during certain hours of the day when the sun was out, and there weren't any clouds that would create 'shadows' on my pictures. I also had to find the perfect background setting. It's important that the background isn't busy and doesn't distract the viewer away from the object you're photographing.  This process limited the amount of time I had each day to take pictures. It would often take me days to get just the right photo. 









So I decided to try and build my own light box so I could take pictures indoors, whenever I wanted. I went to a local office supply store and bought several pieces of white foam board. I cut the pieces so I had a bottom, two sides, a back and a top. I then taped the pieces together to form a box. This helped in that it provided a clear white background for my pictures. But I was still faced with the problem of only being able to take pictures when the sun was out, and being it was an enclosed box, I had to play with the angle of the box to get the light to shine in my box just right. Otherwise I would have shadows, or the pictures would come out dark because there wasn't enough light reflecting on my cards. So once again I was limited by the times of day I could take my photos, and it was frustrating constantly rotating the box to get it in just the right light to take a good picture. That's when I decided to read about purchasing a professional light box to take my photographs. 

I researched several different makers of light boxes and decided to purchase one on the internet for about $45. The one I chose came in a black carrying case. The white sides of the light box are attached to the black case so I can take it with me wherever I want to take photographs. It also came with two lights on stands, a tripod for my camera (which is important so your camera doesn't shake when taking pictures), and four different colored backdrops for picture taking (white, red, black, and navy blue). For most of my photos I use the white background. It gives a clean, crisp backdrop that doesn't compete with my cards.





So now all I had to do was put the light box together, attach my camera to the tripod, turn on the lights and take pictures of my cards.  But it wasn't quite that easy.  Here are a few tips I learned about taking good pictures using a light box


Photo taken with professional light box

Photo taken with homemade light box


Build a platform.  When the camera is on a tripod, you have to aim the camera down at your subject to take the picture.  This made for awkward photo shots.  So I stacked a few books, covered them with white fabric, and placed them towards the back of the light box.  Now my cards were more at eye level to the camera.  I was able to take photos looking at the cards, not looking down at them. 


Lighting.  There is one light for each side of the light box.  The lights basically take the place of natural light. But I found sometimes I have to play around with the placement of the lights.  For some shots it looks better if one of the lights shines behind the object and the other light shines on the object.  Even though you're using a light box, the time of day does have some influence on how the pictures turn out.  I find taking photos during the day turn out much brighter than if I take photos at night.  However, if you're using the light box in a well lit room, the time of day shouldn't matter. 

Backdrop.  My light box came with four colors for the backdrop: white, red, navy blue and black.  Play around with the different colors, if you have them, to see which backdrop makes your object stand out the best.  And if your backdrop is made of fabric, make sure you don't have any creases or folds in the fabric.  Otherwise they may show in the photos. 

 And last, but not least, have fun.  I believe that if you have fun and enjoy what you do, it will show through in your work.  Even if it is just taking pictures.




This was written by Rene Huskalow and published on her behalf. All photos shown are owned by Rene Huskalow and are not to be copied or reproduced in any form without her consent.

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