There are many instructions for DIY light tents online which are based around cardboard boxes. Naturally these don’t fold flat for storage in a drawer. This model not only folds for storage, being folded flat also makes it very portable. This means that you can set it up anywhere. It is an instant pop up studio where ever and when ever you want it. No need for flash guns (strobes) (although you could still use flash with this tent), all you need is suitable lighting such as desk lamps or spotlights.
- Mount board or any other stiff card
- Drafting film or tracing paper
- Tape 2” wide gaffer tape or duct tape
Cut 5 – 30cm x 30cm squares out of mount board. Naturally you can make these any size that you want but this size will probably suit most uses. Take 3 of them and cut windows leaving a border of about 4cm, glue drafting film to the inside. Alternately you could use tracing paper, which is cheaper and easier to find. This will act as a diffuser to soften any light entering from outside the box.
Use the tape to join the two boards without windows. They will form the floor and back of the tent. Tape on both sides but make sure that the boards can fold flat as shown above. Join the window boards in a similar way ensuring that they can still fold flat. Making a Z or W fold (see below) works better; i.e. one board goes behind and one goes on top.
Add small pieces of Velcro to the edges to hold the sides in place. Glue and staple them in place. Don’t add Velcro to the side that joins the back solid panel to the top window.
Finally add a sheet of paper down the gap between the back panel and the top panel, clip it in place and allow it to curve across the bottom sheet (see below). This prevents shadows. Alternately you could use a piece of fabric choosing a colour to suit your subject. The two most common colours used are black and white.
Once you have set the object to photograph in place, shine spotlights through the most appropriate window, or windows to light it (see lighting tips below). Here two clip on spots are fastened to a frame made from an old shelf unit. Be careful when using lights like these close to the light tent as they can get quite hot.
By unfastening the Velcro and folding the boards the light tent packs flat for storage until you need it again.
You don’t need a fancy or expensive camera to use a light tent. Many compact cameras have setting that will let you alter the white balance for artificial light; they will also allow you to disable the cameras flash. Lighting an object from above or the side or even both is usually more pleasing than using the built in flash. If you are using spotlights its a good idea to keep your camera as still a possible to prevent blurring. You could stand it on the same surface as the light tent or you can use a tripod. If you don’t have a tripod but find that you want the camera a bit higher you can stand it on top of a couple of books. Naturally if you have flash guns (strobes) you can use these to light through the panels.
To get professional looking results you may need to edit your photographs to strengthen the background. Usually this will be adjusting the brightness and contrast to make it a brighter white or blacker black.