Saturday, March 29, 2014

I made a cheap lightbox for better mini photos.

Mini photography is not something I've paid a lot of attention to. Some mini modelers also have in-home photography studios with fancy tripods and lighting setups, to better show off their efforts. But it seems silly to spend a bunch of money on photography equipment for a blog about cheap fantasy mini collecting. Luckily, thanks to this tutorial for building homemade lightboxes, I found a way that ought to dramatically improve my photographs while staying true to my cheap hobby ethos.

So what is a lightbox? As you might imagine, it's a box—in this case a shipping box recovered from an online delivery—that you shine light into. The secret is a defusing material through which light shines that fills an area with light while killing a lot of shadow and glare.

The diffusing material is a $1 white shower curtain from the dollar store. I cut holes in the top and two sides of the box, stretched the curtain over the holes, taped into place, and cut to fit.

Inside is a sheet of white poster board, less than a dollar at the dollar store. Note the curve along the bottom corner for a seamless backdrop. I know many mini photographers prefer a mottled gray background as oppose to white, so maybe I'll experiment with that. Also, note the duct tape and scrap PVC pipe for support; you could just as well find something just as cheap to support the box.

Here's the lighbox in action. The lights are just a desk lamp and a cheap shoplight shining through either side of the box.
Here's the prepainted Schleich dragon, once with the lighbox lit up, the other time with just my camera flash. Apart from cropping, neither of these shots are touched.
The same shot above with some simple digital enhancements. It looks sharp and clean with very little shadow. I could probably get rid of the remaining shadow if I added a light source above as well. I suppose this means I can control where any shadows I may want are cast, in addition to eliminating shadows entirely.
The project cost me less than $2, and construction took a little over an hour while I watched TV. I still used the same midline digital camera that I've always used, and while I still need to mess around a bit and try shooting my smaller figures, I have a good feeling about these preliminary results. Well worth the investment!

1 comment:

  1. excellent ! and perfect with the spirit of your blog "Cheap .... " !
    thanks for sharing and I'm interested because I've reorganized my hobby-place and I was thinking at doing a place for the photos.