'No Frills' $75.00 home studio tent/lightbox

Discussion in 'The Gallery' started by SharpByCoop, Jan 10, 2005.

  1. Bob W

    Bob W

    Dec 31, 2000
    I came to the same solution, even posted about it in this very thread two years ago. :D

  2. UnknownVT


    Feb 15, 2003
    Very cool! Thanks Bob.

    I've seen pros use white cards
    but more for fill in light -
    I guess their set up is usually for soft light
    and to eliminate those dreaded reflections.

    Using a moveable white card to eliminate reflections is real inventive.

    I also kind of do that by using a white board in front of myself
    and shooting through the gap between that and the tilting back board.
    But now I mostly don't - since it is cumbersome
    and reflections can be eliminated using just the tilting back board.
    (I shoot mostly hand-held dSLR
    as I find it easier and more flexible to find the best angles through the viewfinder)

    But like Coop, I can't seem to be able to shoot straight-on
    since mirror finishes will reflect the photographer/camera.



  3. SharpByCoop

    SharpByCoop Enjoying the discussions Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Oct 8, 2001
    Today I was using a BLACK board to lose some light for a hamon.

    Bob's usage is different from Vincent's: Bob is using the board from to reflect from the camera's trajectory, and Vincent's is using his method as an alternative for the overhead diffuser or core lighting.

    BOTH serve an intentional purpose and do so cheaply.

    I have 5-7 mirrors in various sizes to also help me throw light. It's all good.
  4. Bob W

    Bob W

    Dec 31, 2000
    Interesting. :thumbup: I have the camera on a tripod and shoot with an IR remote, while holding a board.

    A more precise description of what I do, the knife blade is aimed away from the camera, while a white board or paper is held in the blade surface's trajectory.

    But yeah, guess I misunderstood exactly what UnknownVT was using the white board for.

    I can't even easily explain how I set up boards for the reflecting light because it's always different - it's usually quite a mess with boards (black or white) propped up all over the place. :D
  5. UnknownVT


    Feb 15, 2003
    Thanks Coop for that very succinct clarification.

    I forgot all about seeing the use of mirrors to add more (fill) light.
    Use of black cards to reduce light is also a great idea.

    Sometimes I have to do post processing to cope with high contrast -
    the reflective white board already helps with softer diffused light -
    but when one has mirror polished blades and darker handles like some woods -
    then to be able to show both well can be difficult -
    that's when I have to use curves/tone mapping to pin/peg the white and black points
    and raise the lower mid-tones.

    The lights I use are simple household daylight CFL (compact fluorescent spiral light)
    6500K (this is the CIE official white illuminant - D65) equivalent of 100watts each,
    but occasionally I still get incorrect color balance -
    then I have to use the white or gray eye dropper balance correction -
    I feel for my purposes (review) colors need to be pretty accurate.



  6. PEU

    PEU Gaucho Knifemaker Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Aug 6, 2006
    I'm still not happy with my photos, so I re made the tent for a 3rd time, this time instead of pvc tubes I used angle iron, made two tents, one with tracing paper and the other with milky acrilyc. Also using an old netbook I managed to tether my Pentax Kx so I can see an almost live image of the photos I take.

    Here are the tent photos:


    And some photos I took:

    and same photo with photoshop auto-tone

    These three were auto toned too


    The lights I used are 18w Daylights

    My first impression is that the photos are dark and flat, I wasn't able to capture that ironwood handle at all, I will appreciate some pointers.

    Thanks a lot in advance.

    Last edited: Aug 11, 2014
  7. DylanStem


    Feb 10, 2013
    Tons of useful information to be found in this thread! Thank you for all the advice Coop, I can already see where I need to apply it in my own work.
  8. NCSlice

    NCSlice Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 22, 2015
    WOW! Happy 10th Anniversary to this thread! Amazing, and so much great info, thanks Coop and thanks for sticking around 10 years following up!
  9. UnknownVT


    Feb 15, 2003
    A follow up -
    I am still using this cheapo $1 set up -
    but thought I'd discuss the camera I am now using.

    For years I used a dSLR -
    it seems the obvious choice and I didn't think much more than that.

    I mean, it has a view through the lens, metering and focusing are also through the taking lens -
    so it should give the most accurate view, exposure and focusing.

    That is until I tried out a mirrorless ILC (Interchangeable Len Camera) -
    then gradually things came into focus.... (operative word**, see later)

    Backup a little.
    Fuji X-Trans has a reputation of some of the best image quality (IQ) of APS-C sized sensors,
    so a while back I decided to try one -
    literally the entry level/cheapest model the Fuji X-M1 (circa ~$360 like new used):
    shown next to my current dSLR the Pentax K-5
    (note: the Fuji X-A1 and X-A2 are in the X-series but they are based on regular Bayer sensors and not the Fuji X-Trans)

    However I "detest" using the rear LCD screen for a "viewfinder" -
    it just does not seem (to me) precise enough.

    I had seen many people use a LCD hood/viewfinder for shooting video, and thought this might help me with the viewfinder aspect -

    The viewfinder/hood attaches to the rear LCD screen by strong magnets to a stick on metal frame -


    The viewfinder hood costs as low as $8 off eBay (mine is a V2 which fits 3:2 aspect ratio LCD screens)
    has a magnification of 2.8x - so makes the rear LCD screen view ginormous -
    yes, it does emphasis the LCD dots but it is acceptable for such a large "precise" view without having to squint through an eye-level viewfinder.

    For years I only used optical eye-level viewfinders and found electronic viewfinders inadequate - they were grainy/low resolution and had noticeable lag.
    Of course things have improved a great deal since then - 2.4 to 2.7 million dot viewfinders are high enough resolution that I find acceptable for everyday usage, and the lag has been minimized enough that I no longer notice it.
    A huge advantage to electronic viewfinders is one can "preview" any exposure adjustments - whereas an optical viewfinder view remains the same.

    Using the Fuji X-M1 LCD screen with LCD viewfinder/hood -
    although has the objection of being grainy (it's only 921k dots) and lag-gy -
    it is still somewhat better than the view through my dSLR - mainly because of the huge size/view and the ability to preview the effects of any adjustments.

    So for less than $375 I now have an inexpensive view camera for photographing my knives.

    **Focus - one thing I had not thought about is focusing with a dSLR.
    I mean it's through the lens (TTL) so it's intrinsically accurate -

    Not so fast -
    what does the lens image focus on?
    it's via a secondary mirror which diverts the image on to a focusing sensor -
    it is NOT the actual taking image sensor.

    So when it comes to critical focusing - either large/bright apertures, or close focus - and light color can cause inaccuracies.

    With high resolution/pixel count images this may not matter too much
    as we shrink the image for web usage - so this kind of mitigates any slight imprecision in focusing -
    and this has been the case for me for years (without question)

    However mirrorless cameras have their focusing sensors on the actual taking image sensor itself - so there is no error.

    Cheapo Fuji X-M1 with kit lens the XC 16-50mm zoom - closest focusing distance full-frame -

    Crop of actual 100% pixel level -

    Look how clear and sharp it is...... for a $365 camera with $10 viewfinder attachment....


    Last edited: Jul 6, 2015
  10. weo

    weo KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Sep 21, 2014
    Let me add my thanks to Coop! Here's my 20 minute version:
    and my first pic of a WIP using all automatic settings on my cheap camera:
  11. BrianCheyne


    Dec 3, 2015
    Thank you Coop. I am based in South Africa, and we have a small knife making community here. We just had a very successful knife show and I really want to start photographing blades. I have tried to photograph knives before, and when I saw your work I thought you would keep your cards very close to your chest. Yet here you are sharing your ideas and helping others take better pictures. That is indeed rare. I have just acquired an axe, and I am going to attempt my best SharpByCoop impersonation using a setup similar to what you describe here. Thank you for sharing.
  12. JGarrison Knives

    JGarrison Knives KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    May 28, 2005
    oppsss wrong thread.
  13. T. Erdelyi

    T. Erdelyi Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 3, 2001
    That's alright, I was just lookin' for this thread the other day to link to another site. It's a great thread with some great ideas and information, it needed to be brought back up.

    Thanks Coop, I have a lot of these materials around now, I'm going to see what I can come up with and take some WIP pics to add to this thread,

    Folks any amount of light control will improve your photos substantially, direct lighting especially by flash can be harsh and result in unwanted shadows, you can quickly build a small light box out of stuff everyone has around the house.

    Items you'll need,

    (1) sturdy cardboard box, approximately 30"X20"X20" microwave and computer monitor boxes work best for making cheap lightboxes. They're the perfect size and sturdy.

    (1) roll of packing tape

    (1) Sharpie/black marker

    (?) sheets of packing tissue, the kind you put clothes in when you put them in a box for a gift, you need enough to cover 5 side of a box. An old white bed sheet works too.

    (1-3) Work lights. I've used and moved table lamps, outdoor light and flash/LED lights around to get the right light.

    (1-32) sharp knife/knives to cut the box and tissue paper or white bed sheet. I know, why so many knives? C'mone folks, it's a knife site. Do you really need a reason. ;)

    Backdrops and props help with the picture as you'll have to create a composed photo entirely in the box

    Make sure your box is of sturdy consrtuction , empty it out removing any packing Styrofoam and cardboard inserts. Next use the tape to secure the flaps on the box so that when you're done you'll have a sturdy sealed box. If you have extra cardboard you can cut extra strips and tape them inside for increased stiffness.

    Next take a Sharpie/marker and approximately 1"-2" from the edge draw a line around that side of the box marking the panel for removal, (this is where a sturdy box comes in handy, the better the box the thinner the frame and the more light and thinner the frame's shadows). After you're satisfied use one or all of your knives to remove the panels, at this point you can add pieces of cardboard to stiffen the frame if it feels flimsy and as you add the paper it'll stiffen up too.

    When you're satisfied with the frame drape the tissue/bed sheet over the frame and again use 1 or all of your knives to cut the sheet/paper to size and secure it with the tape. The nice thing about this light boxes is you can easily repair, rebuild or modify (use different colored paper like a filter to change the color of light entering the box, you can add backdrops right to the rear of the box using everything from magazine pictures to album covers.


    When you're done arrange your lighting till you're happy wit the results and snap away. Now this isn't nowhere as sturdy as Coop's light box and beverage was meant to be. It was meant to be a makeshift lightbox although I had one last me all year.

    Here's a poor rendition of what I'm talkin' about. I hope it helps to illustrate what I'm describing. Hope this helps some of you amateur photographers, if you have any questions feel free to contact me by PM, Email or if Coop doesn't mind here on this thread. Hey if you build one please take a pic and post you're WIP and show the results your new homemade light boxes produce.
  14. SharpByCoop

    SharpByCoop Enjoying the discussions Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Oct 8, 2001
    Thanks Ted! (And thanks to BrianCheyne who registered from SO Africa just to say thank you. Please show us your trials and SUCCESSES!)

    This thread is 12 years old as I type. MOST of it is still relevant and worthy. I've pointed to this a thousand times as well.

    However....times change, technology improves, and techniques evolve.

    At this point I want to learn and experiment with a new setup which includes some current tech: CHEAP LED lamps, and a quality cell phone camera. Crazily, I don't think you need more, unless you are a pro charging $$.

    I'm going to sit on this idea for a bit and allow it to simmer. Something again, under $100.

    In the meantime there are 29 pages of ideas and examples which are better than most. ;)
    12345678910 and loonybin like this.
  15. T. Erdelyi

    T. Erdelyi Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 3, 2001
    Thanks Jim, I always wanted to do a smartphone camera tutorial, the phones cameras are unbelievable in the quality of picture they're capable of. I feel the main reason for poor cell phone pics is because most people don't understand how the cell phones and P&S cameras work or what they need to accurately focus and set the automatic settings like aperture, shutter speed, white balance and focus.

    Even my antique i4 iPhone takes crisp clear pics provided it has sufficient light for a fast enough shutter speed to prevent shake. The phones are more than capable and if you learns it's controls, understand it's limitations, (if there's not enough light to focus you get a fuzzy pic, I carry a white LED 1AA light just to help the phone or P&S focus) You need to learn to exploit your medium and media when usin' a smart phone.

    There's no reason to take a bad picture with a cell phone, most of today's cellphones have a higher resolution than my DLSR and I've seen what one of today's new smart phones is able to do in capable hands.

    I like to write, you know that Jim, if I make up a smart phone camera primer would you look at it and tell me what you think? Maybe I can get it to be a sticky on the Photography Sub Forum.
    loonybin and 12345678910 like this.
  16. Boxer .45

    Boxer .45 Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 11, 2015
    Wish someone would do a similar thread for outdoors which is how I usually take pictures.
  17. loonybin

    loonybin Gold Member Gold Member

    May 18, 1999
    I would love to see this! My Samsung S7 has a great camera. Only 12MP, but it takes very good pictures, and I just use the automatic settings. When I take time to fiddle with the manual settings, things just get better.

    Rule #1: overcast days. I have found that this helps tremendously.
    Brian77 and Boxer .45 like this.
  18. Gerald Boggs

    Gerald Boggs

    Feb 11, 2018
    Coop, thank you for the “'No Frills' $75.00 home studio tent/lightbox” It was the easiest box I've ever built and it works better then the commercial tent I bought. I built it so once I take the front parts off, the rest folds up and I can store it on the top of my book shelf. From the time I start setting up, to the time ready to photography is five minutes.
    Brian77 likes this.
  19. ronin.graves


    Jan 4, 2018
    I have a number of setups including the "bright box" which works great for small to medium tabletop projects and is pretty reasonable (@$25-$30)...
    BrightBox Portable Mini Photo Studio with LED Light - The Best Small Folding Product Lighting Kit Light Box Tent (+ Free ebook Guide to Product Photography) https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N75CIVP/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_G0E2Cb1DJE2FA
    Brian77 likes this.

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