Photography for handmade items: DIY lightbox and photo editing

Comparison of Daisychain ABC Ws

Welcome to the exciting world of craft photography for total noobs.  : )  In an attempt to improve the quality of photos on this blog without investing in any new or expensive equipment, I started playing around with a DIY lightbox and basic photo editing.  You can see some of my initial results above — the color is much more true to life after my adjustments.  Awesome.  I know I’ll never get truly great photos without upgrading my camera, but until my budget allows for such things, I’ll take whatever progress I can get.  In this post I present my experimental results as any good scientist would do: with full disclosure.  : )  Feel free to weigh in with thoughts and advice!

Getting Started

Light box finished

I made this lightbox out of a 14 x 14 x 14 inch cardboard box, cutting out the panels and covering 5 sides with freezer paper.  Since I already had the paper and tape, all I had to buy was the box.  Total cost = $3.  Too bad I didn’t have an appropriately-sized free box lying around!  (Surprising, since one of my mutant powers is box-hoarding.)  I also taped 2 layers of freezer paper over a plastic quilting ruler as a backdrop to put under the box (the open side).  I chose to put the “hole” for taking pictures on the top of the box, since I wanted to photograph flat things from above, as opposed to 3D things from the front/side.  Maggie was truly perplexed during the construction phase, ha.

I took a bunch of photos of my Daisychain ABC sampler in progress under various lighting conditions: daylight vs. evening, lightbox vs. no box, flash vs. no flash, etc.  All photos were taken indoors in my apartment.  My results are below for your interpreting pleasure.  : )

Phase 1: Daylight

Note: No flash was used in any of the daylight photos.  I forgot to try it!

01 Daylight - WindowImage 1: Window light only.

02 Daylight - Light boxImage 2: Daylight, light box, and bright lights (all lights have daylight bulbs).

03 Daylight - No boxImage 3: Daylight and bright lights (no light box used here).

04 Daylight - No box - color adjustedImage 4: Color-adjusted version of Image 3.

Phase 2: Evening

No daylight available, so all photos have 100% artificial light.  Most likely scenario for blog photography, unfortunately!

10 Evening - No box, no flashImage 5: Bright lights only (no light box or flash).

11 Evening - No box, diffused flashImage 6: Bright lights and diffused flash (piece of white paper taped over the flash bulb).  No light box.

12 Evening - Light box, no flashImage 7: Light box and bright lights (no flash).

13 Evening - Light box, diffused flashImage 8: Light box, bright lights, and diffused flash.

14 Evening - Light box, diffused flash - color correctedImage 9: Color-adjusted version of Image 9.

Data analysis and discussion

How scientific.  : )

Based on my one single day of experimentation, I have observed the following:

  • Daylight is better than evening (duh).
  • The best photo-taking conditions during daylight hours were: bright lights, no light box, no flash (although I didn’t actually test the flash during the day).  See Images 3 and 4.  The colors are very true to life, and I was able to get a bright white background with minimal photo editing.
  • The best photo-taking conditions during the evening hours were: light box, bright lights, and diffused flash.  See Images 8 and 9.  The photos aren’t as bright as during the day, but the colors are still true to life, and the photos are sufficiently well-lit.
  • The light box is great for diffusing light, reducing shadows and glare, and containing any added light (flash).
  • When taking photos, the ideal situation is to have as much light as physically possible.

A few comments on that last bullet point.  HOLY CRAP that was a lot of light.  No joke, my eyes feel strained after that photo shoot.  This gives me new appreciation for the insane brightness of the sun, which so beautifully illuminates my handmade items when I photograph them outdoors.  And when I say that I used “bright lights,” I am talking bright.  Total of 4 daylight bulbs all within 1-2 feet of the object being photographed.  Next time I’m going to wear sunglasses, seriously people.  Protect your eyes!

Phew!  So what can we conclude from my little experiment today?  Taking great blog photos is a lot of work.  I really have a new-found appreciation for all the amazing bloggers out there who are taking gorgeous photos of their handmade creations each day.  WOW.  Hats off to you wonderful ladies and gents.  As Wayne and Garth would say: I’m not worthy.  : )

Time for bed now.  I am pooped.  Goodnight!

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