March 13, 2010

A few photography tips, with and without a light box…

I put together this basic photography tips photo presentation about a year ago to share with Craftstylish bloggers, and put it up on flickr so anyone could check it out, but now that there is a lightbox-along happening in the craft community, I thought it would be a good idea to share these few tips here for anyone interested!  For more info about this light box making fun, check out Heather’s post on Croq Zine (with links to multiple tutorials), and also check out Heather’s photo tips for craft bloggers!

My light box

So, first of all, I built my light box using this tutorial on Strobist, using a cardboard box, a piece of white poster board, recycled white tissue paper, and packing tape.  The main thing I did that the tutorial didn’t do was to cover the outside of all the tissue paper with a layer of packing tape to make it more durable – it doesn’t affect the function of the light box, and it prevents the tissue from tearing:

My light box My light box

I normally use the light box just with natural sunlight through the window – I am lucky to have a nice camera and an awesome lens with a huge aperture (f/1.4) which means my camera lets in a ton more light than most point-and-shoots, or DSLRs with standard kit lenses. I may do a post in the future that gets more into shooting stuff, like aperture (any interest?)… I’m just telling you this now so you know that I have an advantage with my camera that you may not have, so you may need to rely more heavily on artificial light with your light box. Here are a few examples of photos I’ve taken in my box using sunlight through the window:

Perfect Afternoon


Long Vermont Roads

Now for artificial light… When the sun isn’t an option, set up a light or multiple lights around the box – just be sure to set your camera’s white balance accordingly, and do whatever editing is necessary. By placing a light at the side of the box like this, you’ll get harsh results (not good!):

Artificial light on side of box Yarn in box with side light

So if you are using a light box with just one artificial light (mine is a super bright desk lamp from Ikea), placing it on top will give you better results:

Artificial light on top of box Light box with artificial light

Another option – you can add some foil to reflect the light on the side to give the affect of having another, more subtle light to the right:

Light on top with foil on side

I don’t have any examples for you, but using multiple lights coming at different angles is a good idea with a light box – or, using the sunlight that you do have, and filling in with some extra artificial light to make it bright enough (just be careful with white balance if using 2 different light sources – you’ll probably need some major editing).

Sunlight with foil reflector

I have some tips for shooting without a light box, too… that photo above was taken next to a window with bright sunlight, plus a secret prop:

Window + foil

(I learned this foil reflector idea from Jared Flood – check out his work for some really great photography using natural light and cheap tricks like this one.) If the same yarn is shot next to the same window, with the same bright sunlight and no foil reflector, this is what you get:

Sunlight coming from side

See how the right side is totally dark? If you have a good spot below a window, so the light is coming from above and isn’t too harsh, it can be excellent… this photo was taken on my desk, with no box or extra lights, just the window, and the camera pointing directly down at the subject:

Yarn on table with sunlight

So these were just a few tips… let me know if you want me to turn this kind of thing into a regular subject – I love to talk photography, but don’t want to bore you!  Also, comment with specific photo questions if you have any, and I’ll either answer in the comments, or turn it into a whole post if it’s a major topic.

It seems fitting to end this photography post with a peek at my new stitch set, which I plan to release on Monday!  (some camera nerdery – that’s the same Argus camera that I carved into a lino block, which you can see printed on a couple shirts here, and it’s the camera that took these photos.)

stitched argus!

(update: I ended up getting everything finished earlier than expected and the cameras stitch set is ready to order now!)

Filed under: photos,random stuff — leethal @ 8:46 pm
  • I've been a silent reader for a while, but I wanted to write and say great post! I really appreciate the various set-ups accompanied by example photos. See what others say, but I vote to make this type of subject a more regular feature :)
    – katie

  • Thanks for the tips! I'll link to this in my next post! Another vote for more about photography!

  • Mel

    I love the photo tips, and would be thrilled if they could continue.
    I just purchased my first nice camera, and am going so slowly about learning how to use it, because I'm mainly interested in photographing craft stuff and other digital photography books just seem boring.

  • I would totally love this to become a regular feature, you explain photography in such simple language! Thanks for sharing the tips!

  • Thank you for the great suggestions. I'd love to read more.

  • I just built a light box the other day so this post is really timely. The foil trick looks really handy and I can't wait to put it to good use. Thanks for sharing all of this stuff. It'd be great if this were a more regular feature.

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  • yes, i'm interested in any and all information you'd like to share about photography. I put a link to you over on my blog. Thanks for the great heads up on this project!

  • Hi from Spain… my first comment here (blush) just to say I love your blog. I'm very interested in photography tips, thanks!

  • This is such a great tutorial. Thank you for sharing.

  • Thanks so much for these great tips! Especially the one about covering your tissue paper with packing tape. I made a light box almost exactly like yours, but the tissue paper on top is destroyed from my cats jumping on top of it. Once I replace it I'm going to protect it with tape, so thanks!

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  • You are very creative and I really admire your works above. Keep it up.

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