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Ditching the Light Box

light box macro photography

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#1 MamaGeek

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Posted 31 January 2012 - 08:39 PM

When I first started photographing my minis, I built myself a light box out of a cardboard box and tissue paper:

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I thought this was the best way to take macro photos, but thanks to some advice from professional mini painter Aaron Lovejoy (olliekickflip), I recently ditched the light box, and have gotten much better photos ever since!

Here's my new setup:

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I've since updated the macro photography tutorial on my website, if you want the nitty gritty of how it's done.
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#2 Spike

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Posted 31 January 2012 - 10:24 PM

The box, while making initial setup quicker, especially for those just beginning this kind of photography, limits your options in light placement, which can really be a problem if you have a larger mini or a diorama. Softening the light sources can be done without the box though. Many times back when I used to do photos for the 28mm comic strips, I would place homemade vellum panels framed up in lightweight foamcore over my three clamp-lamps and then I could move them around out of frame for the shoot. The fun part was having to create a makeshift boom for the top light.

I suspect it would not be hard for a person skilled with needle and thread to make an elastic-fitted diffuser lamp cover out of ripstop or some other sheer material. Something like that would not be bsd for regular portrait shooting either.

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#3 ixminis

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Posted 01 February 2012 - 06:32 AM

Yah, my lightbox is really a fancy light stand shaped like a box with strategically placed holes/notches that allow the lamps to get anywhere in front, to the side and behind the figures!

Kudos!

Ah yes, the other reason it's a box (wooden box) is because I'm good at knocking things over, so putting all my lights on tripods would be dangerous, but both setups are the same concept!
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#4 Bumble_B

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Posted 01 February 2012 - 09:17 AM

Omg my setup almost looks identical to what you have in the first photo. Doh!
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#5 Stubbdog

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Posted 01 February 2012 - 09:28 AM

One suggestion tho..

With your current set up, you will still get major hot spots on your paintjobs if you dont diffuse the light in some way. What I have done is to place plastic grocery bags over my lights.

#6 Bumble_B

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Posted 01 February 2012 - 01:14 PM

One suggestion tho..

With your current set up, you will still get major hot spots on your paintjobs if you dont diffuse the light in some way. What I have done is to place plastic grocery bags over my lights.


I saw someone do something similar with parchment paper. Less risk of combustion i would assume. Was going to give that a go soon.
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#7 MonkeySloth

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Posted 01 February 2012 - 03:44 PM

My sister, who's degree is in photography, keeps on telling me that you can get the same effect as a light box with a semi-transparent piece of plastic that you can just flex as an arc over the top of what you want to photograph. Haven't tried it yet though.

I'm curious about the lights as those seam to be normal lamps, and not the natural light lamps, so wouldn't that cause everything to have a yellowish tint?

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#8 Spike

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Posted 01 February 2012 - 05:10 PM

That's one thing I was surprised to find out. "Soft white" CFL bulbs actually white-balance pretty well using the tungsten setting, but if you can manually set white balance then they do very well at preserving all the true colours in your subject. Best of all, they burn cool so no worries about your diffuser catching fire.

There's a special kind of plastic used for stage lighting that sounds much like what MonkeySloth is describing..but dang if I can remember what it's called. I've heard it is excellent for making a diffuser for your camera's onboard flash too, and i'd LOVE to get my hands on some.

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#9 MamaGeek

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Posted 01 February 2012 - 05:51 PM

Photoshop fixes any color cast issues from the lamps, so I actually use a mix of incandescent and fluorescent.
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#10 ixminis

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Posted 01 February 2012 - 11:45 PM

I find that while it's possible to get *close* to the actual color of the subject, mixing lighting will result in more of a challenge than using all the same lighting. However, it takes a bit of practice or training to spot this color shift in a photo, especially when photoshop-fu is strong.

I prefer to fix it with lighting to avoid the photoshop fixing stage. Fix lighting once, Fix photos per photo.

As always, YMMV
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#11 Spike

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Posted 02 February 2012 - 04:19 PM

What he said...+ if you don't have all the bulbs you need for a multiple light source setup, don't be afraid to use reflectors. You can use a mirror or even a sheet of white poster board to help bounce your limited light around.

The other good thing about digital is that you can preview your results immediately. Experiment around with light placement and diffusers as well as camera settings. Ideally, you shouldn't have to use editing software for anything except cropping and watermarking. Just as with painting, keep a notebook nearby when you shoot and jot down notes about settings and light. When you finally find the one that works perfectly, you'll be able to duplicate those conditions in future photos and save yourself a lot of work.

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#12 beno

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Posted 05 February 2012 - 02:15 AM

the theatre light covers are called gels - though if they have a 'real' name I've never heard it in 5years of building, fitting up and operating stage sets! They're a bit like overhead projector film, but generally much more colourful. They do of course make a massive bunch of frosted, semi opaque and diffusion type gels.

They're also designed to melt when they get hot, rather than burn which is good, so DON'T PUT YOUR FINGERS IN IT :lol: it hurts. It stays as a sheet, just on the verge of liquid - its really bizarre

I can easily get hold of some if anyone asks nicely I can get the lighting man at the theatre to put some extra diffusion gel onto the order next time they run out, or cut some off the big sheet if they've got enough in the gel rack if they're not ordering anytime soon... but I have no idea how much it costs?

#13 Qwyksilver

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Posted 06 February 2012 - 01:28 PM

the theatre light covers are called gels - though if they have a 'real' name I've never heard it in 5years of building, fitting up and operating stage sets! They're a bit like overhead projector film, but generally much more colourful. They do of course make a massive bunch of frosted, semi opaque and diffusion type gels.


We called em gels 20 odd years ago too. I loved the work, but don't miss trying to squeeze my arse into some of those wee corners of the catwalks to hang lights.

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#14 Spike

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Posted 06 February 2012 - 11:19 PM

Nah it's not gels I'm talking about. It's a sort of semi-opaque plastic that is used for backlit backdrops, cycloramas and such. It is apparently able to take a very narrow source of light and diffuse it evenly over an amazingly large surface...making it the perfect material for softboxes and flash diffusers.

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#15 MonkeySloth

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Posted 07 February 2012 - 12:28 AM

Had some spare gift card money at amazon so I picked this up. I'll let people know how it works as it's got to be better then the white grocery bag I'm currently using.

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