My First Lightbox | Light Tent | Table-top Photo Studio – Baby Steps

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” – Neil Armstrong

This is a post which initially I didn’t want to write. I felt that it’s not the right time to write this post. I need to have used my Lightbox more, worked on my photography skills & then should write with loads of good looking pics. Then I realized that like my baking, I want my photography also to tell the story from the beginning. I wanted to share how slowly it is evolving with each post.

I can not remember a day since I started blogging when I didn’t look at other blogs and drool over the pictures posted and all the time wondering why my photographs are not like theirs. I have a Canon Powershot A710 which is considered a good point & shoot but even then it failed to give me results. Almost everyone talks that a decent point & shoot is a good place to start photography & one doesn’t need to invest in a DSLR, but where was my SHOT? :-( I even thought of enrolling myself in photography classes but somehow I never felt convinced enough to do so. Ronit Dalvi, a food photographer tried to guide me as best as he could – the results improved but still not wow!

My Journey of Food Photography

My Journey of Food Photography

I googled a lot on food photography but most posts spoke about photography using technical terms & not sharing practical & easier tips. Also, I felt that most food bloggers talk about props, composition etc in a photo but usually do not share the set-up which makes it possible for them create such lovely photos

Then 2 weeks ago, my friend, who is a hobby photographer, mentioned that I’m probably looking for something like a Table-Top Photo Studio. These wonder words worked like magic on google & for the first time in last 18 months I felt that ‘manzil door nahin hai‘. I came across many posts on DIY Lightbox for clicking photos at night & useful tips for clicking photos during day. I would not repeat the same tips in this post but rather what I achieved from them. (I’ll give links of few sites, at the end of post, I referred for my photography set-up)

I first started with improving my photos in daylight. Taylor Takes at Taste really helped me understand daylight photography. He does not overwhelm one with technical terms but rather a very simple & effective take on photography. So taking the cue from him, I first moved my dining table next to the kitchen window, then I used a thermacol board to reflect light & clicked snaps of Eggless Chocolate Truffle Cake, the result was encouraging but not to the mark. I felt that thermacol didn’t really reflect light well. Then I rushed to the nearby stationery shop & got a white foam board. The results after this were totally mind blowing as seen in Eggless Pineapple Cake.

Photos using different Reflector

Photos using different Reflector

Then came the next step of clicking at night – I begged & begged my hubby to help me make a DIY Lightbox. I used the tutorial at Food for 7 Stages of Life & adapted it to suit my need – space constraint & 2 extremely curious young ones who would not think twice before tearing it apart for fun. So I modified by not using a whole box but rather divided it into 3 joined flaps for sides & a separate flap for top. I did not make a base for the box as base would be covered by a fabric anyways. This enabled me to fold the flaps & store them away when not in use. The disadvantage of this is that I need to set it up everytime. I bought 2 small table lamps whose neck could be moved about to change direction & 2 Cool Daylight CFL by Wipro of 28 watts. I used Gateway Tracing Paper for diffusing light.

First attempt at Lightbox

First Attempt at Lightbox

Again the result from this was very motivating to me. Without changing much in the setting of my camera, a simple lightbox & foam board totally transformed my photos. I have not even tried angles for diffusion or reflection, a basic composition with basic settings & just perpendicular reflector achieved good results. I only changed the aperture, white color balance & shutter speed. Most other parameters I did not change – with minimal of changes I could achieve a miracle, atleast for me. :-)

Costing of this exercise – I thought I would share the cost so that one should not feel too overwhelmed with it. Most of the things are easily available at stationery shop in neighborhood. The approx cost would be between Rs. 1500 – Rs. 2000. I felt this cost was nothing compared to getting the satisfaction of having good photos.

  • 1 White Foam Board – Rs. 65 (used as a reflector & seamless background)
  • 3 Gateway Tracing Paper – Rs. 17 each (used as diffuser)
  • 1 meter White Seamless Sweep – Rs. 100/ mtr (used for background)
  • 1/2 meter Black Seamless Sweep – Rs. 60/ mtr (used for background)
  • 2 CFLs, 28 watt, Cool Daylight – Rs. 325 each (used for light in lightbox)
  • 2 Table Lamps – Rs. 325 each (used for light in lightbox)
  • 1 Folder for storing foldable Lightbox – Rs. 450 – Rs. 550 (optional)

After all this exercise I am feeling confident of photography & can now slowly look at other aspects of a photo.

Note – All the photos posted using reflector & Lightbox are not edited in Picasa or any other software.

Other References –

  • nice post and it is inspiring to see you taking your love for photography to the next level; thanks for sharing

  • Hi Deepali,

    Thanks for the post.

    “2 CFLs, 28 watt, Cool Daylight – Rs. 325 each (used for light in lightbox)”

    Are you sure, its a “daylight” CFL? Can you please tell which company and model?

    • Ashesh, yes I’m sure as the details – 28 Watts, cool daylight was mentioned on the box of the CFL. These CFLs are from Philips and as I threw away the packing, I do not know the model # for the CFL. I bought them from a nearby electrical store, so I assume it is an easily available range in the market. Hope this clarifies. If you do not get this in the market around you, then do let me know, I’ll try seeking out my shop & checking the original packing with him.

  • Hey Deepali! It’s a good idea to have DIY approach to lightbox. Recently, I came across many such prototypes but they were not suitable to Indian context. This is really helpful. Step by step manual could be a great representation for this article.

    • Thank you Cherie! A step by step tutorial is a good idea. Will get back to it soon.