I have been thinking about getting a little macro photo studio to better document my modeling activities for a while now. My first attempt was pretty low tech involving two IKEA night-stand lights, two sheets of copier paper and an Apple MacBook. The set-up yielded some decent results, but the background isn’t as white as I would like, and there are too many shadows under the car. The light emitted by the two IKEA lights is probably not enough to make this a viable approach.
The MacBook photo studio.
PIKO Tds* shot using the MacBook studio.
Next, I was looking on the web for a tutorial on building a light tent. The Strobist blog provides a nice step-by-step approach to building a DIY $10 macro photo studio. I bought some white tissue paper at the local pharmacy and got a box in order to try it for myself. As I was cutting out the sides of the cardboard box, it became clear that the box’s skeleton was not very sturdy and probably wouldn’t last long. Besides, there was still the problem with proper lighting and storage since the box couldn’t be folded up.
Finally, I decided to invest a little bit of money in a photo studio tent with lights that I found on amazon.com. The package arrived yesterday, and a friend and I set it up and gave it a test drive. Setting up the tent was a breeze, and we were up and running within five minutes.
A few first shots revealed that the bulbs rated at 2,800 lumens are not quite strong enough to fully light the tent through the lining. This was somewhat discouraging. I may have to get brighter bulbs down the road or use a flash directed at the ceiling for additional indirect lighting. To get around this issue, my wife suggested we remove the front screen, aiming one lamp diagonally in from the front and the other one from the opposite side through the lining. This approach yielded very nice results – the background is bright with subtle shadows behind the car.
PIKO Tds in the new photo tent.
When we were done, we faced another challenge: correctly folding up the big tent to fit back into the tiny carrying case. There were no instructions and no manual, so we went looking for the solution online. We were pleasantly surprised to find a short instructional video on YouTube that explained how to open and fold a photo tent.
Overall, I am pretty happy with the purchase, and I am looking forward to working more with my new macro photo studio. Now I just need a better camera.
Do you have any tips you want to share about your model railroad macro photography set-up? I am looking forward to your comments.
*The progress on my PIKO Tds project will be covered in a forthcoming article.