Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Do It Yourself Light Box for Food Photography

Austin Grill Tacos with 2010 Lar Ardilla Moscato de Valencia

Earlier this week I posted a related article titled “Do It Yourself Lighting for Food Photography” that discussed inexpensive and easy to construct light diffusion panels and lighting along with some tips for using this equipment to best effect for food photography.  In this post we will look at a table top light box (or light tent).

Light Box

The previous photograph shows my tabletop light box setup that cost about $10 to construct (reusing the sheet and spring clamps from my diffusion panels, and using the same lights).  I made this a bit larger than the commercially available light boxes and constructed it from two square frames (25” per side using 3/4” PVC) with a single tube on the back connecting the two side panels.  Commercially available light boxes are generally smaller and range from roughly $30 to $100.  Commercial light boxes are essentially a cube of translucent material stretched on a wire frame with one side of the cube open (think of a box with an open top which is set on its side).

I prefer my setup over a commercial light box for several reasons:

  1. Low cost
  2. Larger (better dimension for food photography)
  3. Greater flexibility (I can choose to close the top by draping another sheet or leave it open, I can choose to drape the material across the bottom of the box (or not), or could choose to expose any side of the box (or cover it).

So the real question is “why use a light box?”  Also, why would you want to use a light box rather than the diffuser panel set up I discussed in “Do It Yourself Lighting for Food Photography?”  One reason is convenience.  The light box setup is quick and easy…a slight advantage over the diffuser panels.  Second, the flexibility I noted above.  Third, the light box gives me the opportunity to light from the rear (either blowing out the background or controlling the light to add further dimensionality to the subject).  These advantages apply equally well to product photography.

1998 Jacquart Blanc de Blanc Brut Champagne

For me, the most important advantage of the light box is the ability to control reflections.  Because nearly all my food photography includes wine, controlling reflections from wine bottles and wine glasses can be a serious challenge.  The light box is an elegant solution.

1998 Jacquart Blanc de Blanc Brut Champagne-2

Glass reflects – you can’t cheat physics.  However, you can control what is revealed in the reflection.  A light box goes a long way to giving you the tools to exercise some measure of control.

2010 Lar Ardilla Moscato de Valencia

If you want to see the full coverage of the wine and taco photos featured here, go to Craig’s Grape Adventure tomorrow for the article on wine pairing with DC food trucks, and next week for a report on Casino Royale night including the 1998 Jacquart Blanc de Blanc Brut.

Have fun, and go make some great photography.


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