Wednesday, May 30, 2012

My high tech photography studio - or not... Create your own DIY photography lightbox

Here's a secret - I'm a little bit... (how should I put this...)... thrifty. That's a nice way to word it. Unless it's electronics or pretty shiny things to make jewelry out of, I try to save my pennies as much as possible. So when it comes to photographing my jewelry for my shop, I had to get creative.

Photographing jewelry is a little tricky. It can't be too sunny or all you get from your photo is flashes and shine. But taking pictures indoors with either incandescent or fluorescent light bulbs gives you funny colored light and lots of shadows. Professional photographers use high powered spot lights and light reflectors to get even light and artistic shadows.

I'm not a professional photographer... and I'm cheap thrifty. Even portable tabletop lightboxes cost upwards of $50 and then you have to buy the right lighting. I would rather spend that money on beads, so I cobbled together my own DIY lightbox.

My high tech photography studio.
Supplies for my homemade DIY lightbox: cardboard box (we just moved, so we had a bunch of these still floating around. If I made another one, I would use a slightly less beat up box.), white tissue paper, white scrapbook paper (12x12 fit the bottom and back of my small box almost perfectly).

Cost: practically free! After people move, most of them are eager to get the boxes out of their garages so if you know the right people, the box is free (or less than $2 at Home Depot or Lowe's). You can get white tissue paper for a dollar, or if you are me, you have it lying around from Christmas wrapping.

The instructions for the box are simple. Turn the box on its side, cut a rectangular hole out of the left side, right side, and top with a box cutter, leaving around a 1 inch border around each side. I left the flaps alone so I could use them direct light at the front of the box. Then just tape the white tissue paper over each hole. It doesn't have to be overly neat. Then use the white (or any colored paper) as a backdrop. And done!

Now that the monsoon season here in Seattle seems to be lessening, I take my box outside on my south facing deck on sunny days. I just angle the box so that the item inside gets indirect light with fewer shadows and no additional light sources are needed.

On rainy days, I set up on my dining room table and just drag a whole bunch of lamps over to shine on the sides and top of the box. It is a little harder to get good color with the indoor method but with a little tweaking in photo software, the results aren't too bad.

You don't even need a high tech camera to get decent photos with this lightbox. I have a DSLR because I like to take photos of other things, but point-and-shoot cameras have great macro/close-up features and most have white balance settings as well. I have even gotten decent pictures from steadying my iPhone on the table in front of the box.

So there it is - my high tech DIY cardboard box photography lightbox. There are probably other ways to take good pictures of small objects, but this seems to be the easiest, cheapest way for me to get good photographs of my jewelry.

This is before I cropped and tweaked the white balance in my photo editing software. Not too bad!
(The bracelet in the photo above is available for sale in my Etsy shop: Braided Copper Bangle Bracelet
Or my storefront: Miscellanea Etcetera on Etsy)

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