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Best light box setup


Marineal
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Ok, here I am.

 

My camera does this automatically, in full-auto mode, but basically did you see that some of the many settings the camera shows in the display when auto-focusing and adapting to light conditions say "ISO"? This is a parameter that, in a nutshell, adjust how sensitive to light your camera lens will be for that exposure. 

 

Higher ISO number (like 1000, 2000 or 3200) means your sensor will shoot the picture faster, with a lot of light sensitivity, and usually with added "noise". A low ISO number (100, 200, 300) means the sensor will be less sensitive to light, slower to take the pic, and smoother. More here, for example (random link from a Google search)

 

With my three 60W-80W lamps, no diffusing, I usually go full auto and my camera auto-adjusts to a very low ISO setting (usually 100). With so much light but low sensitivity, the image does not bleach out, and comes out very very smooth... but the slow trigger usually means I need to be careful with camera shake; and ideally using a tripod and remote trigger (but I am steady enough to snap the pic with the camera in my hands).

 

There are more parameters that would allow you to adjust depth of field, etc (I think Doug covered this before somewhere?) but with the above, you can check if the ISO setting is too high for your light situation (check the manual to see where it is indicated, and how to change it), try setting it to a lower number and experiment. Beauty of digital photography is that you can play and test settings for hundreds of pics at no cost!

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So, I made a lightbox. I used a tutorial I found online, and PVC pipe. 12' of PVC and 8 t-pieces later, I had a lightbox! I added some translucent fabric and some lamps on either side and voila!!!

Now my concern is that my lightbulbs might be too bright... I have a 60 watt daylight CFL on each side.

I got a cool new camera (Canon Rebel T5) and my first shots with it were washed out. 

I was going to try and mess with my white balance, but I am not REALLY sure if I know what that means, even though I can find out how to adjust it.

My plan is to play around and see what works, be prepared for pictures to compare.

 

I'll assume you're using an automatic exposure mode (Av, Tv, P, or Auto). If you're in full manual, you should probably choose an automatic mode until you're sure of what you're doing. With that as a basis:

  • Lights on the top and sides aren't very useful when photographing miniatures. You need light on the side toward the camera. Put the lights where they will shine on the front.
  • "Washed out" (over exposed) photos are not the result of lights that are too bright. Sunlight is far brighter than anything you're likely to see in a lightbox unless they're setting the light box on fire.  ^_^
  • Over exposure is likely to be a result of either a very dark backdrop (the camera's exposure computer reads a dark frame as needing to be brightened, so it does just that) or exposure compensation set incorrectly (see your manual).
  • If you're using a neutral colored background (black, white, or gray), you can almost certainly set your white balancue to "Auto" and forget it. If you're using a colored background, you'll need to match the color of your lights. I can say more if you tell me what kind of lights you're using and whether your light box fabric has a color cast.
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I like my simple box with holes cut out and covered with xmas wrapping tissue paper :)

 

I'd recommend getting Adobe Lightroom to process your pics after. It's quick and easy to use.

 

My light box has an orange tint from the carboard (been meaning to glue white paper to the sides for...three years now...), so I just correct for that in Lightroom.

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<p>

So, I made a lightbox. I used a tutorial I found online, and PVC pipe. 12' of PVC and 8 t-pieces later, I had a lightbox! I added some translucent fabric and some lamps on either side and voila!!!Now my concern is that my lightbulbs might be too bright... I have a 60 watt daylight CFL on each side.I got a cool new camera (Canon Rebel T5) and my first shots with it were washed out. I was going to try and mess with my white balance, but I am not REALLY sure if I know what that means, even though I can find out how to adjust it.My plan is to play around and see what works, be prepared for pictures to compare.

I'll assume you're using an automatic exposure mode (Av, Tv, P, or Auto). If you're in full manual, you should probably choose an automatic mode until you're sure of what you're doing. With that as a basis:
  • Lights on the top and sides aren't very useful when photographing miniatures. You need light on the side toward the camera. Put the lights where they will shine on the front.
  • "Washed out" (over exposed) photos are not the result of lights that are too bright. Sunlight is far brighter than anything you're likely to see in a lightbox unless they're setting the light box on fire. ^_^
  • Over exposure is likely to be a result of either a very dark backdrop (the camera's exposure computer reads a dark frame as needing to be brightened, so it does just that) or exposure compensation set incorrectly (see your manual).
  • If you're using a neutral colored background (black, white, or gray), you can almost certainly set your white balancue to "Auto" and forget it. If you're using a colored background, you'll need to match the color of your lights. I can say more if you tell me what kind of lights you're using and whether your light box fabric has a color cast.
First off, thanks so much for being so helpful everyone!

Alright, I've been using the automatic setting for close ups (symbol is a flower) and my 2 60w daylight cfls are pointing inward. The fabric is a synthetic white fabric I cut off my old light box because it was gigantic..

When you talk about positioning the lights, do you mean they should point toward the camera? Right now I'm positioning the mini to stand in between the two, just a little back so the front and sides get hit by light..

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I think I have a pic of how I set up my lights, even for cell phone pics...

 

Do not use the Macro (flower symbol) mode. Use the full auto setting; a hollow square in my Cannon, first setting usually in the dial. Most of the time, however, I use the second setting (Auto No Flash mode) because my lights are enough; but the camera is smart enough to graduate little flash to fill in shadows sometimes, so I take pics both with and without the flash.

 

You do not need the macro mode because that camera is so good, and will get so nice pics, that you will be able to take pics without closing in sharp details; you just need to crop the image in some sofware afterwards (even MS Paint can do that).

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First off, thanks so much for being so helpful everyone!

Alright, I've been using the automatic setting for close ups (symbol is a flower) and my 2 60w daylight cfls are pointing inward. The fabric is a synthetic white fabric I cut off my old light box because it was gigantic..

When you talk about positioning the lights, do you mean they should point toward the camera? Right now I'm positioning the mini to stand in between the two, just a little back so the front and sides get hit by light..

 

 

With a DSLR, the macro mode doesn't really help much. It might be programmed to set the aperture (hole in the front of the lens) very small to increase depth of field, but other than that, your lens does the work. I'd recommend using aperture priority (Av on a Canon), setting your aperture to f/11 to f/16, and setting the camera on a tripod as close as it will focus.

 

White fabric shouldn't introduce a color cast and daylight CFLs are likely to be close to the daylight (sun symbol) white balance on the camera. If you set to daylight white balance on the camera, you shouldn't need to worry too much.

 

The lights should point toward the subject (miniature), but they should primarily point toward the front of the subject, not the sides. If you move the lights nearer the camera and point them toward the miniature (rather than "positioning the mini to stand in between the two, just a little back so the front and sides get hit by light"), you should get better illumination on the parts of the figure that the camera sees. The position you are using currently is fairly typical of how many miniatures painters use a light box and it can cause brightly lit sides and a dark front.

 

What color backdrop are you using? (Backdrop colors can cause problems when using automatic modes.)

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The black background is likely the reason your camera is overexposing. The camera sees a very dark frame and assumes it's because there's not much light. So it increases its exposure until the frame is an overall medium gray.

 

If you want a black background, you'll need to use exposure compensation (somewhere between -1.0 and -2.0, probably) to tell the camera to expose less. Alternatively, you can go to a gray background and use the base exposure. (If you were to go to a white background, you would probably get an underexposed (dark) subject for the same reason.)

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In case this is helpful.

 

I use 3 lamps arranged like this:

 

20150509_173311_HDR.jpg

20150509_173307_HDR.jpg

 

So it is one on top, partially taking it from the back, to minimize back shadows and illuminate the grey felt I use as background. Two lamps on the front, coming from the sides, to illuminate the mini clearly. 

 

I then dip between the two frontal lamps and take this picture with my phone:

 

20150509_173320.jpg

 

All lamps are of the same wattage (intensity), but the left hand lamp has a "medium warmth" bulb (4100K), while the upper and right lamps have white-blue bulbs (6000K). Mainly because I cannot get full spectrum bulbs here so I have two different ones for painting, so I can take the mini under a bluer light or a redish light and check how the paint goes.

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You should check out Felix Wedgwood's Miniature Mentor Tutorial.  It is an amazing amount of information in a single video.  I have been taking pictures a long time and he explained things that I was never aware of before.  Its worth the $25 if you are interested.

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