NorthIdahoLeather

Light box? Please help!

Recommended Posts

I am on a mission to improve my photo quality for my website, social media and other advertising. I am currently using an iPhone and outdoor props, which is all bad in the winter in Northern Idaho. Lol.  I am new to photography, but will be purchasing a DSLR and a good 50mm prime lense. My main question is lighting. I’ve seen some really nice light box setups, but being new, I’m unsure of what to get for the large items that I’ll be photographing.  The majority of my items are gun belts and holsters. These items seem quite large for most light boxes that I’ve seen and I’m also concerned about getting proper angles of these products in a confined space. To make the situation more complicated, I still don’t have a shop and I’m working out of a small corner of my living room in our tiny house. So, something that can be stored compactly when not in use would be ideal. 
In short, I’m not sure what I need or the best way to go about it. I’ll attach a small sample of photos of the items that I feel will be most difficult for me to deal with.  
I greatly appreciate tour help, tips, and advice. 

49DFF223-BECF-40B3-800F-62798F5F0611.png

836C0335-97A2-42FB-ABD2-7FA2002670A3.png

C3C19516-C4B2-4CD4-955D-CE28450DB133.jpeg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Haven't done serious photography for a very long time but here's a few ideas.

A busy background like the Navajo blanket is a no no when you want the featured item to stand out. If you have no choice regarding the background choose a setting that gives very little depth of field so the item is in focus but the background isn't. You have to be pin sharp with your focus with a narrow depth of field. A light box can be as simple or as complicated as you like. Are you talking natural light, or indoor light of which there are many types. Small items could go in a large ice cream tub with light bouncing all around from within or without. If you're thinking about a bigger, permanent set up you could use a large box with maybe a couple of moveable sides to direct the light. We've all seen the photographers assistant with the hand held reflector to direct the light. The colour of the inside of the box will affect the kind of light you end up with. As well as sharpness, look at the shadows. Do you want more or less detail in the shadows? In my day we used to say practice practice and then practice some more cos film is cheap. Digital is much much cheaper. Good luck. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, toxo said:

Haven't done serious photography for a very long time but here's a few ideas.

A busy background like the Navajo blanket is a no no when you want the featured item to stand out. If you have no choice regarding the background choose a setting that gives very little depth of field so the item is in focus but the background isn't. You have to be pin sharp with your focus with a narrow depth of field. A light box can be as simple or as complicated as you like. Are you talking natural light, or indoor light of which there are many types. Small items could go in a large ice cream tub with light bouncing all around from within or without. If you're thinking about a bigger, permanent set up you could use a large box with maybe a couple of moveable sides to direct the light. We've all seen the photographers assistant with the hand held reflector to direct the light. The colour of the inside of the box will affect the kind of light you end up with. As well as sharpness, look at the shadows. Do you want more or less detail in the shadows? In my day we used to say practice practice and then practice some more cos film is cheap. Digital is much much cheaper. Good luck. 

Toxo, thank you!!!!   I agree, the blanket was a REALLY bad idea. But I had to try it. Lol 

To answer the lighting question, this is a problem that I’m looking to solve. We have terrible natural light indoors and outdoors I can only find it 3-4 months out of the year. 
(I’m on north slope with a hill behind the house that blocks out the sun except for the peak of summer).  Even then, the lighting outdoors is better for photos than my current indoor lighting.  I’ve seen so many different styles of light and light box setups, I’m just not sure what would be best.  There a lot of great options for smaller items, but the larger ones have me questioning my plans. At this point, I think anything with a proper lighting and plain bright background  is better than what I’m doing now.  Thank you for your response. You bring up up some really great points that I will need consider.   I wish I had the space right now for something permanent, hopefully in the next year, but for now it will need to be something that is taken down and put away between photos.  I’ll probably try to make due with a white screen or  box from amazon or something with a couple of decent table lamps... 

Again, thank you for your help! 
-Jeff 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Buy three or four 'angle poise' light units. Buy a 'day light' colour LED bulb for each of them. Each bulb about 20w LED (not 20w normal!) Buy a pop -up light tent, box shaped, about 50 cm cube, or if you do really big stuff, 1m cube. Buy one good tripod

Light units, about £10 each. Bulbs about £3 each, Light tent about £25, tripod about £25

Set up; One light shining down thru top, one on each side shining thru the sides, the fourth set up next to the camera which is on the tripod. The first three lights will give a soft diffused light, the fourth you can move around for hi-lights and shadows

For back ground; the light tent will come with some cloths. useful, maybe. I use a piece of art card, pale grey, big enuf to go across the bottom and curve at the back up to the top. of the light box. The curve makes an 'infinity' back ground of the card ie there is no join between the floor and the wall

also, devote a space for this set up and use it a lot until you get used to it all

 

At the mo, my set up is an occasional table with the grey card clamped to it and curved up and jammed under part of the mantel shelf. Main light is day light thru a big window, using the curtain to control it, and using the camera flash to fill in. Camera for this is an old Fujipix S5000. My DSLR is packed away. Taken with my current set up:

2123269824_CopyofCopyofKnittingbelt203.thumb.JPG.87d2137e765dc267165c2533788a0344.JPG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
18 minutes ago, fredk said:

Buy three or four 'angle poise' light units. Buy a 'day light' colour LED bulb for each of them. Each bulb about 20w LED (not 20w normal!) Buy a pop -up light tent, box shaped, about 50 cm cube, or if you do really big stuff, 1m cube. Buy one good tripod

Light units, about £10 each. Bulbs about £3 each, Light tent about £25, tripod about £25

Set up; One light shining down thru top, one on each side shining thru the sides, the fourth set up next to the camera which is on the tripod. The first three lights will give a soft diffused light, the fourth you can move around for hi-lights and shadows

For back ground; the light tent will come with some cloths. useful, maybe. I use a piece of art card, pale grey, big enuf to go across the bottom and curve at the back up to the top. of the light box. The curve makes an 'infinity' back ground of the card ie there is no join between the floor and the wall

also, devote a space for this set up and use it a lot until you get used to it all

 

At the mo, my set up is an occasional table with the grey card clamped to it and curved up and jammed under part of the mantel shelf. Main light is day light thru a big window, using the curtain to control it, and using the camera flash to fill in. Camera for this is an old Fujipix S5000. My DSLR is packed away. Taken with my current set up:

2123269824_CopyofCopyofKnittingbelt203.thumb.JPG.87d2137e765dc267165c2533788a0344.JPG

Thank you so much!!!  That looks  like a great setup! I like it. It makes your work really stand out. Thank you! I really appreciate your advice.  I’m a total newb when it comes to photography, but I’m looking forward to learning.  The results will be well worth the effort.
Thanks again!  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Remember; with your DSLR you can set very slow shutter speeds. Use that tripod, it'll be one of the bestest investments

Exposure is a balance of the aperture (the hole in the lens wot lets in the light) and shutter time (how long the light is allowed in). The exposure is determined by the amount of light and the ISO/ASA. With low light and a low ISO you just set a long exposure time. Use the tripod to keep the camera steady.

On my sample photo; The ISO was 100, the aperture f/8 and exposure time was 1/3 of a second - because the light was very low, ie not a lot of it coming in thru the window

f/8 gives 'depth of field' = how much front to back is in focus, and is the maximum on my S5000. Smaller number, eg f/4 = less in focus, bigger number, eg f/16 = more in focus

ISO, 200 is usual average, 100 or lower gives better quality, 400 and above gives digital break-up, a fuzziness. 

When doing a product photo use the lowest ISO you can, a medium f/number, like 8 or 11 or even 16, and then set a slooooooooow shutter speed, like 1 second, or 2 seconds. That tripod will hold the camera steady.

~~ one other tip, if your camera takes one, use a remote release, if it doesn't take one, use the self-timer on it. either of these will keep your hand off the camera and prevent any little shakiness due to your finger pressing the shutter release. I always use the self-timer on the S5000 as it doesn't take a remote release.

The grey card suits me. but you get a selection of three or four and rotate thru them. They'll only cost a dollar or so each. You can even mess around by using spray paints on the cards and doing wide fuzzy patterns, or a lightish centre and darker edges. . . . . more on that later maybe?

 

PS. My light boxes and lights are stashed away right now as I was . . . . um. . . 'reorganising' my flat -------  apartment to you

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A lot of good advice there from Fred. I see you're using an iphone at the moment. When/if you get a DSLR you'll have much more control and there'll be settings on it that will filter any light so the pic comes out the way you want it. Take the pic with a few different settings until you get what you want. As Fred said a tripod is a must for sharp pics and keeping everything the same whilst you change things around. You'll eventually develop your own style and things will get simpler.

One thing I did enjoy playing around with was slave units. No doubt they're much improved and smaller these days. They enable you to use two or three or many small flashguns instead of boxes and diffusers and such. Each one attaches to a small flashgun and when the main flash fires all the others do at the same time (well they appear to fire at the same time before some Einstein picks me up on that.). As an example of what they can do, imagine you're in a church by the altar,  the light isn't great, the bride and groom are coming down the aisle with a long entourage behind them. Small flashguns hidden behind a few pews will have everything in focus right back to the church doors. Flashgun light is the same as daylight by the way.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When I was making wedding cakes I had a few different color display boards like one would use for a science fair for a back drop. Worked wonders!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Regarding LED light - check out the VILTROX L132  or L116. its quite cheap, you can run it with accu (for outdoor) or AC and you can change the light temperature and brightness. Very cool thingy it is!

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Figure out what how big the largest item you'd like to shoot will be.  Add about 25% or 30% to that.  You don't want your items to be TOO close to the edge or top - and something always seems to come along that is bigger than you anticipated!  You can shoot smaller items in a bigger box, but it's really hard to go the other way 'round.   Search Amazon for Photo light box or Photo light tent.  Most all of them are collapsible and don't take up much space when not in use.  There are two basic types, hard sided ones which usually have the light built in.  I have a small one of these, the drawback is that the built in LED lighting is a little "hard" - and that's OK for some things.  I also havIe a much larger one 48", I think that is a fabric popup light tent, which I got with a lighting kit that has two daylight balanced continuous fluorescent lights on tripods, meant to shine onto the sides of the box for a very diffuse light.  I like that one more for most uses.  Mine is Neewar brand light tent, and it works just fine.  I do wish I had a couple more lights with it, and wish I had LED lights rather than fluorescent (LED was still pretty pricey at the time).  Folding that one is a little tricky at first, but you get the hang of it after a few tries.  

Hope that helps!

- Bill

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Do NOT bother with those light tents. Just DON'T. They're essentially useless. I've got one here that I've only used for tests and was never used again.

You can do plenty of things with one good light and foamcore sheets and mirrors.

For this pouch I used a single softbox to the left of the frame and a mirror on the opposite side, and a piece of black foamcore to the upper right corner of the frame to add contrast. 100 mm macro lens. Your new 50mm normal lens should be OK too, you just need to get the camera closer.

Flat_round_pouch--02.thumb.jpg.8a110ccb75e8e5c055acfc1ba16f99d6.jpg

 

You don't need tons of lights, all you need is knowing how to use them: i.e. WHERE to place them.

For instance, when photographing items with texture, such as your tooled leathercraft, you need to place the light to the side or the subject so that the light falls across it (rakes it): this will bring out the texture. You can see that effect a bit in my image: had I placed the flash on the same axis as the camera, the crease would have been flattened by the light and lost.

You can even use window light till you get a decent flash or lamp. Here: Quick and Clean by Window Light (a bit verbose, but you can just follow along with the pics).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you all for the thoughtful responses. I definitely have a solid understanding for what I’ll need now.   For what we are doing, is a macro lense better suited than the 50mm prime that I was planning on?  Specifically, it’s the Nikon 50mm AF-S f/1.8G Nikkor Lens and will be paired with a D5600.  This was recommended by my sister who is a professional photographer, so I’m just trusting her here as I really don’t know anything other than what I’ve read. Dangerous place to be because I don’t know what I don’t know. Haha. 
Again, thank you all for taking the time to help this newby out. I greatly appreciate it. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Macro is well suited to photos of small wallets and things, but you are doing holsters, the 50mm should work out ok.

I use  +1, +2, +4 close-up lenses on my S5000. My photo above was taken with the +1 on. These lenses are a cheap way to get close-up. They are not so good as a prime macro lens but they are handy, especially as I can't change the lens on the S5000

If you do go for a macro go for one around 105mm and not the 50mm Nikon makes

A real cheap way of making a 'light tent' is to get a real big card box. Paint it white inside. Cut holes in three sides and cover the holes with grease-proof/baking paper. Aim your lights through the covered holes, shoot thru the normal flaps side of the box. Prop a bit of light/pale coloured card in for base & curved up back ground

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Since your camera is a cropped sensor you'll have to place it farther away from the items already; thus, the 50mm will do fine. You can always get a macro lens later if it's really needed.

A roll of neutral grey seamless paper should come in handy. They're roughly the same price as the elcheapo Chinese light tents you find on Amazon and a 100 times more useful and versatile: Savage seamless grey background paper. Even better, the used portions from these papers are good material to make patterns for leather items.

You can use inexpensive diffusion sheets to soften your light so that you don't get sharp, defined shadows: White diffusion paper.

For the seamless you'll need some sort of background support. Those are not inexpensive (they're not terribly expensive either), so you might want to borrow one from your sister when she's not using it, or improvise one with a curtain rod.

Edited by Hardrada

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've seen some pretty simple light boxes made with PVC pipe and cloth.  They come apart very easily for storage.  Low cost and effective, something I'll probably be making myself soon.  Look forward to seeing what you end up with!

YinTx

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you all!!! I greatly appreciate the help and sharing of your knowledge.  I almost bought the camera today, but I found a great deal online that will save me $400. That translates into a pretty decent lighting setup. I’m getting excited. Haha. Thank you all!!!! 
-Jeff 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, NorthIdahoLeather said:

That translates into a pretty decent lighting setup.

You may have seen this light box referenced in a post on this very site. It has some great features and is reasonably priced.

It is available at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/AmazonBasics-Portable-Foldable-Photo-Studio/dp/B01GIL6EU4

81vwNpgfE0L._AC_SL1500_.jpg

81B0FHW6PwL._AC_SL1500_.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, YinTx said:

I've seen some pretty simple light boxes made with PVC pipe and cloth.  They come apart very easily for storage.  Low cost and effective, something I'll probably be making myself soon.  Look forward to seeing what you end up with!

YinTx

Unless you are gonna make a really special shape or size, its not worth it. A while back I priced up doing pvc pipes and cloth, it worked out well over 3x more expensive than a spring-frame pop-up 1m square. The cost of the cloth alone was 2 x the cost of the pop-up. Currently my 1m pop-up is in the back of my clothes wardrobe. Its 1m sq by about 5 cm thick (roughly 3 feet sq x 2 inches). No set of pipes will pack down that small. Also; the cloth on the pop-up is designed for photo use, other cloth is not and can cut the amount of light and can add a colour cast

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, LatigoAmigo said:

You may have seen this light box referenced in a post on this very site. It has some great features and is reasonably priced.

It is available at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/AmazonBasics-Portable-Foldable-Photo-Studio/dp/B01GIL6EU4

81vwNpgfE0L._AC_SL1500_.jpg

81B0FHW6PwL._AC_SL1500_.jpg

Yes!  I think this would be close to perfect. My concern is that I may not have the proper lens for taking photos through the holes provided. Is it possible to open the side and achieve the same quality of photos?   This seems like it would work well with an iPhone or maybe a wide angle macro lens!?  I’m sorry, I’m very new to photography. As I mentioned above, it was recommended to me to purchase a prime lense. I have just purchased a Nikon camera, so I went with the 50mm af-s f/1.8. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think it varies on the product you want to photograph

With relatively small items Fred's solution is first class

My alternative is based upon your holsters which i think would be better outside with a clear field background or a impact background far away, reasoning is that its designed to be worn and that's how to show it off best. even good close-ups can be done outside with care. the background needs to compliment the main item and put in into context

Always use a tripod or other stand for the camera and use depth of field to your advantage

You can always use the light box for close ups for in depth detail to assist as required it's not a one option choice

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, NorthIdahoLeather said:

Yes!  I think this would be close to perfect. My concern is that I may not have the proper lens for taking photos through the holes provided. Is it possible to open the side and achieve the same quality of photos?   This seems like it would work well with an iPhone or maybe a wide angle macro lens!?  I’m sorry, I’m very new to photography. As I mentioned above, it was recommended to me to purchase a prime lense. I have just purchased a Nikon camera, so I went with the 50mm af-s f/1.8. 

Again, and sorry to be so insistent, I strongly suggest staying away from lightboxes. They are presented to budding photographers as the perfect solution—that all that it's needed is to drop your subject in, surround it with lights and snap away. And therein is my main concern about them: they make it very inviting for the shooter to place lights behind every side but the camera's, which results in crossed shadows and ruined photos. I know: I've been there before:

20120512_5D2_035.jpg.1cccb640c0f101576597427f0cda136f.jpg

Setting up the 'seamless' background that comes with them is also frustrating, as it's made of fabric that creases very easily: those creases get augmented by the lights into real eyesores.

I mean, if you have the budget, feel free to buy a box and see for yourself what I mean. If your budget is limited, I'd try a different setup. Keep in mind: the only things that matter for the photo is whatever you can see inside the picture frame (and stuff outside of it only when it has an effect on what you can see within the frame). You have more freedom when you can set your lights, tripod, and products wherever you want without being boxed in (pun intended).

Here's one very simple setup I use (I've used it mainly to shoot food, but it's also effective for leather items, especially textured ones):

Food_setup.jpg.235382aca8ceee90148f941784c17d02.jpg

And, the results:

Hindoo_sweets-2.jpg.871fcbab5d470c40ce2b9faa0dfe2eb2.jpg

 

Look, ma! No lightbox!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As you are fairly new to this photography lark I recommend you buy John Hedgecoe's 'The Photographer's Handbook'

This one: https://www.amazon.com/photographers-handbook-Hedgecoe-photography-Leonard/dp/B00BO7WGNW/ref=sr_1_15?keywords=john+hedgecoe+the+photography+handbook&qid=1573102549&sr=8-15

It was written in the olden days when we used stuff called 'film' in our magic boxes but all the techniques are still very relevant. I had a copy, now no.3 son has it and uses it. I reckon it is one of the very best reference books on photography ever written. It can be picked up for just a few $$ but its worth its weight in platinum

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

fredk, thank you. I will get a copy of that book.  I’m at the point where it will be a few weeks before I get a decent photo. Still learning to understand iso, aperture, shutter speed and how they all relate. I’ve been reading as much as I can, but it means nothing until my camera shows up and I can go make some mistakes. Thank you for the tip! 
 

I did order a 48” light tent and some LED lighting and a good tri-pod. I’ll give it a go and see what I think. I like photographing the gun belts and holsters outdoors for the reasons mentioned above, but I’m having a hard time doing it in the winter months where I am. It just doesn’t look right with snow all over and poor natural light. But with a manual camera, that could all change. New camera and equipment will be here next week, so I’ll get some practice and experimenting in shortly. 
Thank you all for the helpful tips and advice.  I greatly appreciate it 

-Jeff 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, NorthIdahoLeather said:

Still learning to understand iso, aperture, shutter speed and how they all relate.

I'll try to put this together in simple terms hopefully to make it easier to understand more complicated concepts later.

ISO is how fast the film is, or rather a measure of how much light it needs to be properly exposed.  In place of film, you now have an electronic image sensor.  High ISO numbers mean fast film (or equivalent) and tend to produce grainy photos.  Lower ISO speeds produce finer detail, less grain.  Since a low ISO number needs more light, you have to supply more light by either opening up the lens aperture, or by keeping the shutter open longer.

Lens opening (aperture) is measured as f-stop numbers.  The lower the number, the wider the opening and the greater amount of light is let through the lens.  f5.6, f8, f11, f16, f22 are examples.  As you go from a higher number to the next lowest number on your lens, the amount of light delivered is doubled. 

Depth of field is an interesting item.  It describes how much of the object being photographed is in focus measured from front to back.  A pinhole camera has great depth of field.  So that tells you that a small aperture increases the depth of field.  If you want the background to be mushy, out of focus so it doesn't detract from your prime object, you work with a large aperture (low f-stop) to provide a shallow depth of field.

Exposure time ... if you double the exposure time, say 1/125 second to 1/60 second, you double the amount of light the sensor receives during the exposure. 

If you want great depth of field, you move to higher f-stop numbers. For each number you increase your f-stop, you will need to double the exposure time.  So if you had set your camera for for f8 and shutter speed of 1/125 second, and want to increase the depth of field, you could go to the next highest f-stop number, f11 and increase the exposure to 1/60 second for the same effective exposure.

So looking at f-stop, each increment halves or doubles the amount of light received by the sensor.  Looking at shutter speeds, the marked shutter speeds on most cameras also halve or double the amount of light received by the sensor.

Fast shutter speeds help eliminate the effects of camera shake.  Slow shutter speeds require a very steady camera so most often require a tripod.  Most people can get reasonably crisp photos at 1/60 second or faster.  Wide angle lens can extend the apparent steadiness; longer lenses, telephoto magnify camera shake so need a solid support for crisp photos.  Macro shots need a steady hand or tripod.

There's lesson 1 and 2.  Now get your camera and experiment.  At least with a digital camera, there is no film cost hindering taking lots of practice shots.  Just be discriminating and delete all but the very best, else you will use up lots of storage space!  When practicing years ago, I used to shot 2 or more 36 exposure rolls of film per week.  So a lot of those were B&W to reduce film and processing costs.

One last comment, under-exposing a shot by 1/2 to 1 stop can increase the colour saturation.  Sometimes useful to do.  And of course the opposite, too much exposure washes out colour and detail.

Tom

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 11/6/2019 at 11:19 PM, NorthIdahoLeather said:

fredk, thank you. I will get a copy of that book.  I’m at the point where it will be a few weeks before I get a decent photo. Still learning to understand iso, aperture, shutter speed and how they all relate. I’ve been reading as much as I can, but it means nothing until my camera shows up and I can go make some mistakes. Thank you for the tip! 
 

I did order a 48” light tent and some LED lighting and a good tri-pod. I’ll give it a go and see what I think. I like photographing the gun belts and holsters outdoors for the reasons mentioned above, but I’m having a hard time doing it in the winter months where I am. It just doesn’t look right with snow all over and poor natural light. But with a manual camera, that could all change. New camera and equipment will be here next week, so I’ll get some practice and experimenting in shortly. 
Thank you all for the helpful tips and advice.  I greatly appreciate it 

-Jeff 

Be careful photography is addicting, you will find yourself taking that new camera everywhere, oh and do they ever have a bunch of toys that go with. lol you can take beautiful wildlife photos like this closeup of a Doe Deer. 

deer1.jpg

Edited by chuck123wapati
added photo

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now