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Macro Light Tent

A light tent or light box is a lighting device used to illuminate objects with diffuse light, usually for macro photography. Using a light tent reduces sharp highlights and shadows on the object as well as hard shadows against the background, creating a more even and natural-looking image than a single undiffused light source. Most designs are based on a cube, with three sides made of a translucent material that both diffuses incoming light and reflects light already in the box back to the center, two sides covered by a continuous curved backdrop, and the last side left open for the camera to see into the box. This is a DIY version I built out of mostly paper and foamboard.

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light tent v1, 8.5", lit with continuous lamp

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light tent v2, 14", lit with Sunpak 511

Introduction

Taking macro photographs of small objects with realistic and pleasing lighting can be difficult. Ambient light in most scenes will bounce off of surfaces around the subject, creating diffuse illumination and soft shadows. In small environments, however, there may not be enough nearby reflective surfaces, or the scene may simply need more light. The photographer can add light with a continuous lamp or a flash, but simple direct lighting often gives small objects an unnatural look: surfaces facing the light will get blown out, surfaces facing away will be underexposed, and concave features can be in deep shadow. The object will also cast a hard-edged shadow against the background. Making smooth backgrounds is also tricky: placing the object on a single sheet of white paper works with an overhead camera, but not when shooting from a more level angle.

Using a light tent solves this problem by illuminating the subject inside it from all sides while using only a small number of light sources. First, light entering the box is diffused by the translucent side or top panels, reducing its intensity and the hardness of shadows cast by it. Second, the light will reflect off the other sides, illuminating the subject from the opposite angle with less intensity. And a continuous curved backdrop makes the subject stand out without the dark crease created when using separate flat bottom and back panels.

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Paper airplane

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Canon Speedlite 430 EX II flash

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Micro Zoomers Mini Cooper

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Atmel AVRISP II programmer

-- StephenCavilia - 2009-08-22
Topic attachments
I Attachment Action Size Date Who Comment
IMG_1131.JPGJPG IMG_1131.JPG manage 1351.5 K 10 Jan 2010 - 01:16 StephenCavilia light tent v2
IMG_7557.JPGJPG IMG_7557.JPG manage 2591.9 K 22 Aug 2009 - 15:49 StephenCavilia  
IMG_7560.JPGJPG IMG_7560.JPG manage 2509.3 K 22 Aug 2009 - 15:50 StephenCavilia  
avrisp.jpgjpg avrisp.jpg manage 671.6 K 13 Jan 2010 - 22:29 StephenCavilia  
car.jpgjpg car.jpg manage 939.5 K 13 Jan 2010 - 22:25 StephenCavilia  
plane2.jpgjpg plane2.jpg manage 486.3 K 10 Jan 2010 - 15:04 StephenCavilia  
speedlite.jpgjpg speedlite.jpg manage 558.9 K 10 Jan 2010 - 15:06 StephenCavilia  
Topic revision: r5 - 13 Jan 2010, StephenCavilia
 

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