Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Making a "Light Box"

One of the things that I've wanted to do for a while is set aside a spot in my apartment for taking pictures. This isn't so easy to do: my apartment is very small (my living area is less than 300 sq. ft., and even with my kitchen and bathroom I think it's 500 sq. ft. or less), and it's not very well lit (my only windows face w-sw, so I either get very muted light, or direct sunset kinda light), and I've got a lot of stuff (so most of the available space is occupied). However, events conspired to provide me with an extra table, and from that point (over the summer) I've wanted to set up a "photo box" on this table - use a spare lamp and some cloth to make a place where I could take better photographs because I really feel that the quality of the photographs of my dolls is one of my biggest weaknesses.

When I realized I felt too sick to engage in behavior require vast quantities of concentration today, I decided that the time had come! So I cleared off the table, grabbed the first almost-white fabric I could find (it's actually a very muted yellow), grabbed the desk lamp I never used, and put it all together:

You can see a little of my art collection in the background. :) (and this is right next to my front door, hence the hooks with the dog's leash and my keys...)

Second angle:

And with the lamp on...

So...it certainly LOOKS like a light box, but the question was, would it take better pictures? Well, let's see! Here are some comparisons of shots I took just "around," and shots I just took in the box. (all the shots happen to be of Santa and Santana, because they were closest to hand). Old shots are on the left, new shots are on the right.

All in all, even though some of them look roughly comparable side by side, I think that the new shots turned out much better - and I think a bit of time using this set up, particularly figuring out the optimal camera settings, will help even more. For the old shots, I routinely had to use ISO 800 and still use very slow shutter speeds, making it hard to get clear shots and resulting in shots that are almost always at least slightly blurry when you look at them close enough. The new shots, on the other hand, were at ISO 200, and at shutter speeds at 1/50th of a sec or faster, greatly increasing the chance that I can take good, crisp photographs. Furthermore, I won't have to wait for the right lighting conditions, as this part of my apartment is lit pretty much the same no matter what, only really varies by day vs. night. And even though the background was faintly yellow, I was able to compensate with my settings, with the result that I think that the colors on the dolls were showing much truer - while that may not show in these shots, getting the colors to look "right" in the new shots required MUCH less fiddling and changing camera settings than it used to.

Areas that need improvement? Well, to optimize the more professional look, I should probably iron the damn cloth (I HATE ironing, but I think I can't avoid it this time). In the future, I might want to consider other color clothes (black is an obvious alternative), and I also might want to consider ways of decorating the areas - but that's for the future. I also need to move things around to ensure that I never end up with a bit of the lamp in my photo, and that the cloth is not draped, but instead lies more or less flat. However, all in all, I'm very pleased with the results of this experiment. Which means I can move on to the next step - once I get back from a meeting this afternoon, I'll iron the cloth, and then I'll retake pictures of all of the dolls that I still have in the house, which will enable me to actually list the dolls for sale on Etsy. I'll post a follow up tonight, if all goes as planned. :)


  1. Great idea!
    Photography is so important!
    I use my bathtub for photos :)

  2. lol, I love that idea! If I hadn't done this light box thingy, I'd definitely have tried that (though it might have been tough - my bathtub is perfectly nice and generally clean, but my bathroom is soooo small and only has one power outlet, there would hardly be room for me to put a lamp and then find somewhere to stand to take the pictures. :) )

    I'm just glad that I finally got around to trying this, and that it appears to be working. ;)