DIY Light Box for Product Photography

I’ve purchased a boat-load of gadgets, written many reviews, and sold several items on eBay over the years, and an important part of it all has been photographs of the items of interest. Up until now, I’ve simply taken pictures in any open space at home, but always had to accept compromises in lighting, background, etc.

When I received the Nokia E71, I decided it was time to improve the quality of the product photos I take. I had read about a DIY light box a short while ago and decided it would be worth the effort to construct one myself. Some advantages of a light box include more even lighting and the ability to control the backdrop.

I went out to the dollar store and got 5 pieces of 20″ x 30″ foam-core board for $5 and 1 piece of white bristle board for another dollar. Back home, I set out to assemble the contraption.

Assembling a light box

The idea is to create a white box with an opening at one end that you shine a few lights into, to create an even, shadow-free (or as much as possible) area to place the object. Normally, even with a bounce flash, shadows can appear where the light, bouncing down from above, can’t reach. The white bristle board is used to hide the interior connection points of the box, eliminating any edges that may appear in the photos.

With the help of some masking tape, it wasn’t long until I had something resembling the final product and with a box cutter, I removed the two protruding pieces from the short sides of the box. Finally, the bristle board was placed horizontally in the box and I was ready to add the lights.

Completed DIY light box

I wanted to be able to use the SB600 flash as a bounce flash so I needed another light source that produced light of a similar temperature. Normal incandescent light is a bit too yellow, so I went with a small compact fluorescent lamp. In retrospect, it’s probably a bit blue compared to the flash, but does an okay job anyways. In the very least, I have a pretty consistent lighting environment that allows me to set a custom white balance to compensate.

Camera, light setup with light box

So my setup is as shown, camera on a tripod with the onboard flash acting as the commander as well as a fill, the SB600 to the left, bounced off the top of the box, and the lamp on the right, again angled towards the top. The tripod is a bit tall for the box to sit on the ground, so I’ll have to look for something to put the box on. But regardless, the effect on the photos is astounding. What nice, even lighting (for the most part), and all for less than $10 and 15 minutes of effort. I’m pleased. Here’s a sample shot of the Nokia E71.

Nokia E71 light box sample photo

The light box is too big to bring with me, and disassembly + assembly on the go is simply out of the question. Still, it has served its purpose with the E71 and will for all the gadgets that are to come. 🙂

Next steps include cutting a flap on the top of the box to allow top-down as opposed to angled shots. I’ll also have to find another lamp to even out the lighting a bit more.

Slow, Unfocused Progress (Or Lack Thereof)

I finally got a good block of time to just sit down and do some work  on the new design today, but it was far from productive. I’ve been extremely busy the past few weeks on the job so hadn’t had time to focus on furthering the progress of the design.

I came home today after a company Christmas event and got down to work on the site. For some reason, I couldn’t focus properly on the task at hand. I’m pretty sure it has something to do with the fact that I’m tired. I haven’t been sleeping enough recently, so I think I’ll take the hint and get to bed earlier tonight.

On the plus side, I’ve planned out the design a little better. I’ve written down a checklist of features and functions I want to implement and I’m starting to check them off as I go. This makes it much easier to see just what stage the design’s at and what areas need some attention.

A release around New Years definitely seems more likely than Christmas at this point…

Work Continuing on New Theme

Here’s a little status update on the upcoming theme. I’ve been extremely busy at work during the day (gearing up for a bunch of year end presentations to the department) and my nights have been taken up by the professional engineering course mandated by the University of Waterloo.

As an update on the progress of the work, I’ve pretty much finished the work on the actual design, aside from the search and archive templates. Then it’ll be a matter of integrating a bunch of the functions I’ve had in mind. I’m targeting a Christmas or New Year release, so that’ll be my gift to you.

With the obvious increase in interest of content monetization by bloggers, I’ve decided to make the new theme ad-friendly. That means designing the theme with advertising in mind; in this case, I’ve been focusing on text ads, such as Google Adsense or Yahoo’s Publisher Network program. The current Hemmed theme happened to work particularly well with an ad banner at the end of a piece of content, but I’ll be planning some strategic real estate for ads in the new theme.

Of course the choice will still be up to the owner to actually take advantage of that ad space; the theme will look perfectly normal without them.

A Long Overdue Update

Well, *glances at last post* it’s been just about 4 months now since I last updated this blog and I think it’s time to give a little refresher to this place. First off, I’d like to say thanks to all the people who have said nice things about my work. It really means a lot. It’s also a little incentive for me to get off my butt and work on something new. Everyone likes compliments right? 😉

Well, I don’t think I’ve ever said anything about it here, but I sort of promised myself that I’d do at least one project every work semester I have on WordPress. Almost all the themes you see here were the result of my work semester from January to May of this past year. After four months of school, I’m back on the job and I’ve got some free time to crack away at some more development. Plus, it’ll help me get to work on some of the programming which I’ll have to do next semester at school anyways.

To be honest, I’ve been holding out on working on anything new with WordPress since I heard about version 2.1. There seems to be quite a few changes and I wasn’t sure how that would affect the whole template design process. I guess what I’d like to know is the roadmap for version 2.1. When is it supposed to be released? I see that there is a nightly build that I could try out and start development with, but if the final release is a looooong ways away (mostly thinking in the context of this work term, so end of December) I’ll just get started on something for the current 2.0.x versions of WordPress. If anyone has a definite or even a general time frame, give me a shout. I’d greatly appreciate it.

So sorry about the whole deadness of this place. I plan on making up for it in the near future.

Weekend Update

Well, I had planned on spending some time over the weekend fixing up some annoying issues I’ve seen with the themes I’ve released. Especially the commenting system. They’re all the same and ugly at that. But despite all that, I definitely didn’t expect this one to pop up.

Widgets Plugin

Uh oh. This is going to mean I’m going to have to do some work on fixing up my sidebar to work with the plugin. I still haven’t taken too deep of a look of what’s involved, but judging by this tutorial, it doesn’t seem too bad. The only thing that could be potentially difficult is modifying the Hemmed theme to take the plugin properly. Since sidebars can usually expand as long as they need to, it doesn’t matter how they’re styled really. However the bottom bar is space sensitive so I’ll have to take a look at the CSS to see how I can make that work without looking ugly as hell. I’m lucky in that I’ve only got a few themes out there. I can’t imagine the people with many, many themes. That’s just going to be brutal to modify.

As well, I’ve been progressing with my work on Hemmed. I’ve added live commenting and changed up the comment styling. I actually also have LiveSearch working, but it really doesn’t seem to like Internet Explorer too much. As much as I hate IE for all its quirks (see, I’m allowed to say this from a developer’s point of view now. :)) a lot of people still use IE. Being the more technically inclined people that bloggers probably are, I only get around 25% of my visitors on IE (as opposed to the like 85% market share is actually commands) but nonetheless a quarter is a quarter is a quarter.

So this weekend shall be a pretty intense couple days of work, but hopefully something nice will come of it. 🙂

[tags]wordpress widgets, themes[/tags]