Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Having fun with muslin part 3: Making a light tent

With Lili & Flor up and running on Etsy it became essential to focus on the photography issue. Let's be honest, selling products can be overwhelming and scary for the seller as well as the customer. Product photos have to be accurate and maintain an honest representation of the product at the same time they have to convey some sort of aesthetic message.
Most of us have some pretty basic point and shot cameras which can lead to some disastrous photos. So we have to get creative. Light box tutorial can be found all over the net, I particularly like the tutorial from Oh she glows. What can I say? I'm a sucker for cute models ;-P
The problem with light boxes is that they are clumsy and huge. I needed something that was either small or collapsible. A light tent was the perfect solution.
The materials needed to make a light tent:
  1. 4 aluminum rods 50 cm in length (a)
  2. 2 aluminum rods 30 cm in length (b)
  3. 2 aluminum rods 70 cm in length (c)
  4. 4 triangular connectors
  5. 4 leg caps
  6. 3 lights with screw on attachments
  7. 2m of muslin fabric or chiffon gauze
  8. extra fabric or paper in the colour of your choosing for the background

Mr. C (aka the mastermind behind this DIY) bought two long aluminum rods that were cut to size and the edges filled to a smooth finish.
Which means the measurement we decided on are completely arbitrary and you can choose your own dimensions providing you follow the basic logic of assembling a rectangle or a cube.

Leg caps aren't really essential components but it's wise to buy them and attach them to the legs of the frame to prevent any scratching of the work surface.

leg caps

These lights were cheap, meet all the requirements ie. can be attached to the frame and the bonus part: they come in this nice neutral steel colour and match the frame.
Always a nice addition to have things match.

And muslin. This is the exact same muslin I bought at Ikea and have used for my previous muslin adventures: Part 1 and Part 2.

And now for the actual work part: assemble the frame using the rods and the connectors. Attach caps to the bottom and well that's pretty much it.

Cover the frame with muslin:

Add the background fabric, attach the lights and start snapping away!

We've used the light tent to take quite a few picture now and I'm still not completely satisfied with the light exposure. The light tent photos do however turn out much better than regular ones, the colour of the jewellery is very accurate. There is no glaring and the light is very soft.
After taking the photo of the finished light tent I realized I forgot to edge stitch the muslin to prevent fraying which I'll probably get around to late in the evening.

harvest season necklace
 The top photo is a typical light tent result: soft light but just a bit too dark I think. Maybe time to adjust the camera light exposure settings?
Will report back.


  1. Great little light tent. I have read that your bulbs in your lamps need to be daytime bulbs.....would this make a difference for you?

  2. Impressive, I must say.
    I understand that it is extremely important, how you are able to present the goods, you wish to sell. So the photography i s of importance. Just think how much time, money and people are engaged in the pictures of the ads we daily see in the magazines!!
    The best pictures sell. Therefore I think that you are on the right track with your tents, etc.

  3. Jenni: I think the lights are halogens in a soft natural light specter. I think a bit of experimenting is in order.

    Mette: I agree the industry knows the importance of a good flashy photo. So many H&M and other similar catalogue items look so glamorous and drool worthy but upon arriving in the store you get to see and fell how cheap the item really is.
    With artisan business, I like the fact that the artist know that concealing their work or misrepresenting them is a very bad move. But at the same time there is a need for an honest yet "sexy" method of showcasing items.

  4. Jenni: I discussed your suggestion with Mr. C and he says it's definitely worth looking into it, so thank you very much! I thought the ligts we have are fine, turns out we can get better ones. Live and learn :-)

  5. You're so talented!

    I haven't tried photographing with a light box but if there's ever a need, I'll remember this post.

    Your work looks fantastic on Etzy.

  6. Susan: Thanks! This is a joint venture, Mr. C set up the light tent and took the pics. I'm in charge of editing them, which is just basically discarding the bad ones and maybe cropping some and then posting the jewellery on Etsy.

  7. You really compliment each other. I always pick up some interesting 'newsy' item from your blog. Ida

  8. ida: People continually compliment me on my versatility and creativity. I always tell them that I have a great need to create things with my hands. DIY is like yoga for me, keeps me relaxed and focused ;-)
    I am forever looking into new techniques, materials and ideas to upgrade and improve my skills.

  9. I love the effort you put into taking the perfect photo. Yes, I agree, the last photo could be brighter. Maybe a longer exposure time. I noticed the automatic cameras are not as smart as we are!

    I love to take photos of my goods I sell on top of my creme-white chest of drawers with a pale pinkish white wall as background. I don't mind the "line" where the drawer touches the wall in the background, it somehow puts the object into proportion.

  10. Paula: Thanks! Always great to get a professional opinion :-)
    Mr. C has been fiddling with light adjustment on the camera and also the proper positioning of the lights attached to the tent. So far we've figured out it's absolutely vital for the lights to positioned at a right angle to the fabric for maximum dispersion.

  11. Great light box... pretty seasonal necklace!

  12. hellopalz: Thanks :-) yes the necklace does reflect the colours of the woods from my kitchen window.