small-product-photography2 (1)

How to Use a Light Tent for Small Product Photography

A lot of artists, chefs, and crafters might wish to click pictures of high quality to showcase their own creations, either to post them in some blog or even put them up for sale online, or just post them on social media. In order to click such pictures easily and reliably, we recommend using a light tent. This specific article will look at the basics of shooting using a light tent in order to click bright, high quality photographs of products.

What is a Light Tent?

Essentially, a light tent or light box is a contraption that has translucent sides and diffuses light emerging from several sources. The result is lighting that is even and devoid of shadows  when a simple, solid background is used.

A light tent can be bought as part of a kit or it is even possible to make one yourself. In case you decide to buy a light tent kit, you will receive one or several light tents, a couple light bulbs, two light stands, a tripod, and different-colored fabric backdrops. On the other hand, if you choose to make your own light tent, there is a need to buy two sources of light, light bulbs, as well as a poster board or fabric to create backdrops. .

Shooting with a Light Tent

For photography using light tend, the general set-up involves positioning the tent over some solid surface, and all the light sources to stand opposite to each other on either side, while the tripod is placed in front. When the tent is placed on a table, it becomes easier to see and maneuver, and it is also easy to use your tripod.

Inside the tent, the backdrop is affixed at the top and it must fall freely to form a gentle curve at the back and then the tent’s bottom. Ensure that you use a clean backdrop without any wrinkles. In case you are using a fabric backdrop, iron it to create a seamless look. (In case you are someone who rolls the backdrops around a tube cardboard for storage, ensure that they are devoid of wrinkles the next time.) You can even purchase a lint roller or small blower to clear out any dust and debris.

You are all set to start clicking pictures now. Inside the tent, position your subject cautiously, and place it exactly in the center. As you shift your subject in a forward or backward direction, it will alter both the lighting and shadows. You can try out different positions to determine the optimal look. Moreover, you can also consider changing the lights’ angles slightly, instead of letting them point straight at the tent. Ensure that you leave adequate space between the subject and the walls, and this way, you can zoom in or place your camera in a way that only showcases the backdrop without focusing on any edges.

Look at the ambient lighting and tune it as required. There is essentially minimal difference between clicking pictures midday in diffused indoor light and clicking at night using just the lights. However, it is important to avoid direct sunlight into your tent, since balancing such a powerful light source can be difficult.

Camera Set-up

Place your camera securely over the tripod and either use the 2-second timer or a remote shutter release to maintain the steadiness of your tripod. In case you are making use of a lens with image stabilization, vibration reduction, or vibration control, switch it off. With the tripod, you will be able to make use of longer shutter speeds and enjoy great results.

Start your shoot in aperture priority mode using an ISO of 100 (or whatever is the minimum value offered by your camera). Determine your aperture on the basis of the look that is required (a wide aperture like f/1.8 if a narrow depth of field is required and a blurriness or a narrow aperture, such as f/22 in the case of a wide depth of field and proper focus over the subject). Often, food photographs make use of wide apertures, as well as selective blur to ensure that food appears more appealing, and on the other hand, product pictures of crafts and  other handmade goods appear ideal when a narrow aperture is used so the overall item remains focused. In order to avoid foreground blurring, your focus must be set making use of the portion of the subject that is most in proximity to your camera.

You can also think about leveraging exposure compensation for shooting three shots series, bracketed at -1, 0, and +1 exposure. This way, you can determine how to achieve optimal results. In the case of white backgrounds, better results may be obtained around +1;, and this changes to -1 with black backgrounds. In case a full stop comes off as too dark or too light, you can go for half or a third of a stop.

Post-Processing Considerations

It could be challenging to get background for your shots look completely white or black as your subject remains properly exposed. In such scenarios, some additional post-processing may be required to make sure that the whites remain white, while your blacks stay black. The description below depends on tools that are available in Adobe Photoshop. However, you must be able to do a lot of this with other software products.

In case you are clicking pictures in RAW, you must tune your image’s white balance first, to ensure that your whites look white, as opposed to yellow. The majority of light bulbs tend to list the light’s color temperature they produce, which can be used as a guide to set the white balance. Moreover, the white balance can also be set manually by shooting a white card and calibrating from that image. If you are sure that your background is pure white or black, make use of the color picker in the RAW processor for neutralizing any tint.

When processing, make use of your histogram as a guide. Although advice related to standard photography recommends against leveraging your histogram for touching the edges of the scale (clipping), product shots must attain exactly this. When your background is clicked, it will result in a homogenous look on the background and direct the attention towards your subject.

In Photoshop, the Levels tool can be used to adjust either end of the histogram. By holding down the Alt (Option for Mac) key as the sliders are adjusted, it enables you to view the areas of the picture that are being clipped, which can be seen in the image above. Shift the slider towards the center till the background is clipped uniformly, while the subject is not. In case this action affects your subject too much, there may be a need to scale back your adjustment.

In case attaining a uniformly white background in the pictures is proving to be difficult, you can integrate a thin border to your final image. Although it is not exactly a white background, any picture that is displayed against a completely white background might look dingy anyway. On the other hand, a slightly grey background that has a black border can ensure that the shade of the background looks intentional.

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