I’m Living in a Box, Living in a Cardboard Box

No, this post is not about bands from Sheffield but you can’t beat a bit of 80 reminiscing: Click for a reminder of the Living in a box video.

Yesterday was a cold and rainy day. Listening to the rain against the window and the wind howl, I was glad to be inside. There is a limit however to what you I can photograph in my one bed apartment without going outside. What if there was a way to experiment and learn about different lighting conditions without leaving the apartment? Simple, build a photography studio.

Space being a consideration here in Manhattan, I decided that a small photography studio was the way to go: not 20 feet across, not 10 feet across, not even 5 feet across. This studio measures 14 inches square! Now clearly you’re not going to be photographing normal size people (not even Tom Cruise will fit) but many of the same principles apply to photographing products, flowers etc as real people.

Help was at hand from an article on Strobist.com which details how to create your own mini studio. Essentially, you take a cardboard box and cut some holes in the side and cover them with tracing paper so you can fire flashes through the side and get a nice diffuse light. I won’t repeat the instructions in full here, get them from the link above.  This is a much cheaper alternative to the lighting tents available commercially and a good way to start to experiment with this kind of photography.

Here’s my version using a single SB-600 speedlight.  I used the built in remote triggering built into most Nikon cameras to get the flash off the camera (more on this another time):

The only difference for me was adding the white paper inside the box to ensure the base reflections are neutral.

My first attempt at a product shot:

Some good advice some someone who takes product shots professionally (my girlfriend): add some black to give the edges more definition.  My second attempt:

If you look at the left and particularly the right edge you can see its more defined after adding some black card on the right of the box.

I’d like to get a second light for the other side and will be spending some time trying different options to see if things can be improved.

More later on how to cut the image out from the background in Photoshop (or similar application) for the full floating background effect.

So there you have it.  Something to try on a rainy day with 10 dollars of supplied from Staples/WHSmiths, enjoy.

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