Having started this Photoman Camera Reviews blog I realized that I had a need for a small light box to get a decent neutral and soft light to photograph the cameras and other small gadgets to illustrate what I write about – “A picture is worth a thousand words!”. I started by googling the web and found a number of products ranging from 140 SEK/€16/$20 and upwards – not incl shipping! They do not cost that much to send for but wanting one very quickly I dashed out to the big IKEA store and had a look for something suitable and found the IKEA SKUBB box that is available in two sizes – one larger and one smaller. They come in sets – the smaller one is three for 139 SEK/€15/$20 and the bigger is two for 159 SEK/€17/$22 – share the cost with a friend or two! They can be folded away when not in use – you might even use them as boxes and put stuff in them! 😉
But as I explained to my girlfriend what I wanted the boxes for she remembered something similar in a wardrobe at home – so we bought some other stuff and went home. Yes, she was right! We had a number of different size simple white boxes made from waffle-like non-woven fabric and stabilized by thin wooden sticks. I picked the largest that we had – 30 cm/1 foot each side! Big enough for the small objects I intend to photograph. 🙂
This is how the non-woven fabric looks like close up. It is a little stiff but not very thick. It lets through light reasonably well. The bottom (or the back part as I have turned the box in the picture) is stiffened up with a sewn in cardboard so that lets through no light. It is also the bottom part that makes the box keep its shape reasonably well – it is not sturdy and it does not have to be either.
I use an ordinary printer paper to make an infinity backdrop. For small objects – I use an A4/Letter or Legal size paper in the desired colour – like in the picture above. For bigger objects – I use A3/Ledger or Tabloid papers that fills up the entire box sideways. Either just place the object on the paper and push it up along the back wall as far up as you want it (the weight of the object usually keeps the paper in place) – or tape it in position!
I wanted a very easy and quick way of taking the photos – with a repeatable result. I experimented with ordinary office desk lamps – with a long arm that you can adjust. It gave me good control over where I wanted the light – but I had to adjust the white balance to suit the (low energy) flourescent lamps I was using. Also it was a little too much to set up – connecting the three lamps – screwing them onto the table – every time I want to use it – as I could not have it just standing there – waiting for me to need it!
After some tests I have found a good alternative that works well for me – very easy and with a minimum of fuzz! I put my flash – Nissin Speedlight Di466 on my Canon EOS 550D – the flash head turned straight up! This works remarkably well in a small light/white room – giving a very soft light with very little shadow. The flash is strong enough to allow me to use ISO 100 and still get a nicely exposed image. The key is to use it in a small light/white room! That way you get the help of the whole room in softening the light but the room being small and light/white room also helps to keep the light level up! The details come out very clearly with a minimum of sharp reflexes! The automatic exposure TTL II works perfectly this way! No corrections necessary! See the Christmas tree decoration. Notice how little shadow and how softly lit it is. Wanting more shadow/harder light – I just turn the flash directly towards the motif – but I prefer this soft light.
If someone tries out the IKEA SKUBB box let me know! I might want to give it a go – if I need to get a bigger light box!