Studio Photography: Lightbox setup "on the go"


Every now and then, I get to shoot a translucent (or somewhat translucent) object that looks a lot better with the light shining through it – be it a fragrance bottle, slice of food or just some autumn leaves. Here I would like to share a quick and easy setup for this kind of shoots – I have learned it from David Turner and did some minor tweaking to it to make it more “portable”. I like this setup because it is very simple and forgiving, does not require a lot of precise measuring and literally “foolproof”.

Our objective is to get the light shine through the shooting surface (and the object placed on it) into the lens and to make sure it does not cause lens glare and is as even across the field as possible. The trick is to use bounced light (portrait people often call this technique “skipping” or “skip”) – instead of turning the lights towards the camera, we turn them towards some reflective surface and use the bounce as the main light source.

These are the steps to set it up:

  • Find a large enough reflective surface – it could be a piece of white fabric, white cardboard or foamcore (this is what I like to use) or anything that is large enough and bright enough to reflect the light. Avoid shiny surfaces – we are looking for soft diffused light
  • Set up two light – one on each side of the surface at about the same distance from it and at about the same height on the stand. Point the lights “criss-cross” (as pictured) so that each light points roughly to the opposite edge of the shooting area. This will allow us to avoid the “hot spot” in the center and make the illumination more even across the field. Put the lights at the same power level setting
  • Take light reading in the center and closer to one of the corners – if the difference is more than 1/2 stop then it is likely that the lights are too close – pull the lights back a bit, readjust and take another reading.
  • And that’s really all to it – enjoy your shoot!

  

The image on the left is just one example of what could be done in about 10 minutes flat – I’m sure you will find many other ways to use this setup creatively 🙂

Happy shooting!

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