You can buy table top light boxes in various sizes ranging from 16" to 32" for less than $50. These light tents collapse down into a flat package much like a reflector will, which is great for storage and portability. But what if you're on a tight budget and never need the studio to leave your own basement?
|DIY light tent|
My light source is generally a 32" white shoot-through umbrella positioned just to the right of my camera. However, because the box itself is transparent, I could bring the light in from any direction I choose.
|Final resulting shot, SOOC|
I wanted a black background, so I positioned a black 12x18" sheet of craft foam so that the front edge stuck out past the edge of the box and then gently rolled up the back side of the box to form the background. I positioned the subject lens as close to the front of the foam as I could while still being able to compose the shot without showing the edge of the foam. I generally try to keep the subject as far from the background as possible in order to keep the background surface as blurred as possible given my choice of aperture. At f/2.8, background blur is trivial. At f/16, any little marks on the background are likely to show up in the final shot.
In order to keep the lens -- or any round subject -- from rolling around on the surface, I positioned my car key behind it, out of sight of the camera. A little wad of masking tape would probably work just as well. Just make sure that your "anchor" isn't visible underneath the subject, and that it doesn't cast its own shadow on the background.
|Initial test shot: no flags or rim light|
In order to keep the light off the background, I flagged the light by hanging a few pieces of opaque material (more black foam, in my case) along the front edge of my box. This allowed light to peek through directly onto the subject, but kept it off the background.
One of the dominating features of this lens is its knurled focus/zoom ring. I wanted to highlight this texture and provide some background separation between the lens and the foam. To do this, I needed a narrow, reflective surface about 6" long which I could hand hold behind the lens barrel to provide a rim light across the knurling. I found such a surface in the form of a silver USB hard drive case. It took some experimentation to hold it at just the right angle to reflect light onto the back side of the lens without illuminating the background that I had so carefully masked.
|My glamorous home studio / office / craft room|
So that's about it. A handful of simple, household materials were scrounged to create a very capable small product light tent in which quite attractive product shots may be made. Be aware of your surroundings. Be resourceful. Keep your hard earned cash for more important things.
If you're looking for a more polished (but still DIY) solution that can change shape and still break down for easy storage, check out this DIY idea. Or, if you're travelling light, try using just a couple sheets of printer paper. For other dirt cheap DIY light mods, read about this soft box or this bounce card.
As always, if you have any questions or suggestions, please leave them in the comments section below.