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Old March 4th, 2009, 11:56 AM   #1
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Location: Los Angeles, CA
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Product Photography

Hi guys,

I'm building a light box for the company I work for. We're in dire need of a better light setup to shoot all of our products and I'm going the DIY route.

I'm building the Light Box based off of this:

Homemade Light Box for Product Photography

Now, I've been doing a lot of research on different types of lights and I simply can't come to a good conclusion on what to get. Tungsten (not very cost effective)?, Halogen? LED? Fluorescent?

Everything will be indoors with a very controlled environment. The camera I use is the Canon EOS 40D.

Would types of lights would be best for my purpose? I know each type of light has their pros and cons for every different application, I just can't seem to come to a conclusive decision as to which is the better light setup for our purpose. Can anyone chime in and help out a lost and amateur photographer?

What about mixing light sources? What are the does and don'ts as far as different light sources?

My original thoughts were to purchase an LED light with a pack of incandescent lights. I would be using the LED flood light as my primary light source while I fill the rest with the globe lights. Here are the links:

LED Flood Light

40W Incandescent Lights

What do you guys think? The more reading I do, it seems as though Fluorescent is the way to go though...according to this article, Fluorescent is the coolest and most accurate light source. Should I be going with a fluorescent light set up instead?

Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thanks.
-Roger Rosales
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Old March 4th, 2009, 03:47 PM   #2
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I think you would have some trouble with the combination you suggested. In general you don't want to mix color temperatures. The incandescent bulbs will have a color around 2600K to 2900K. The LED floodlight is listed as just 'white' so we'll assume something that could be in the range of anywhere from 5000K to 7000K with the cheaper LED flood lights like that which are far from precise. I would stick with fluorescent. You can get the N:Vision bulbs at Home Depot in the blue package (5500K daylight) if you want to go the inexpensive route. The 30w or 40w ones will give a lot of light. Start with one on each side of the box including the front for your key so 4 bulbs total. For fixtures you can just use the clamp on reflectors also available at HD which run somewhere around $5 to $7 each.
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Old March 5th, 2009, 03:57 PM   #3
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Thanks for the response, I appreciate it. We're going to end up using fluorescent lights. I did more research as well and it seems to be the best choice. Thanks again!
-Roger Rosales
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Old March 5th, 2009, 06:31 PM   #4
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This home made approach will work very well with small products. However, you won't be able to get a natural fall-off of light unless you use a sweep. No may not need this, but the effect is impressive. A sweep is simply a long roll of background material which needs to extend behind your object at least 4 feet and be anchored at a point well above the object.

Rolls of background paper are readily available from just about any professional imaging dealer for a very reasonable price.

I regularly prepare digital portfolios for artists. The sweep approach delivers a smooth transition from brightly lit foreground to black backgrounds (because the light value is so low towards the far end of the background paper the camera sees it as black).
You can view some of my work here:

I use 5500 K fluorescent lamps mainly because I got tired of burning m fingers on quartz fixtures. The trade-off is the lack of precise focusing of light. For more control I attach two clip on reflectors to microphone stand booms.

A slightly more expensive and durable approach would be to build the walls of the box with frosted plexiglas. Attach 24" dual element fluorescent to sides and top, install 5500 K lamps.
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Old March 6th, 2009, 03:32 AM   #5
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Depending on what you're shooting, you'll also want some point sources with about the same color temp.

If you're going daylight, then 5000k or 5500k LEDs would work nicely. They don't have to cast a lot of light. Rather, they'll reflect off certain objects to provide a glint or sense of sparkle.

Jewelry needs point sources. So does food to make it look glossy. Play around with it and you'll see the difference it makes.
Dean Sensui
Exec Producer, Hawaii Goes Fishing
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Old March 6th, 2009, 04:18 PM   #6
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Since you are shooting with the 40D, you can shoot in RAW and color-correct afterward when you process your images. You just need to make sure you have a white balance reference target to shoot each time you change the lighting setup. This is what I do when I shoot macros with my 40D.

Make sure you also have the following camera gear for your 40D:

1. A good macro lens if you need to get really close to your subjects to capture fine details. For a lot of product photography, a normal lens can work as long as you keep your lens far enough away from the product to achieve focus. I use the Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM lens with my 40D - it's uber-sharp and can do 1:1 closeups.

2. A sturdy tripod and ballhead to keep the camera still during long exposures. If you are shooting at a low ISO and a small aperture like f/16 for max depth-of-field, you are going to need a massive amount of light to keep your shutter speed high enough to avoid camera shae induced blur. With a good tripod and ballhead, exposure time is now irrelevant. I use a Gitzo GT2530 tripod and a RRS BH-40 LRII ballhead. A RRS L plate on my camera allows me to attach the camera to the ballhead.

3. A remote shutter cord so you don't have to touch the camera to take the picture. I use the Canon RS-80N3 remote shutter cord.

Going the DIY light box route is definitely a money-saver. If you (and the products you are shooting) are not heat-sensitive, you can buy those $10-20 shop lights from Home Depot or Lowes that put out 500 watts each (Utilitech at Lowe's: 500-Watt Professional Portable). These will throw out a ton of light, but also a ton of heat - so BE CAREFUL!

I made a light box out of foamcore, some translucent craft paper, and a pair of shop lights. You can see the results of my shots here: GolfNut's product photos- powered by SmugMug

For some additional DIY ideas and results, check out this awesome thread:

Another DIY light box, with build and test pics - Canon Digital Photography Forums

Good luck and have fun!

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