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Phil Preston

Advice sought on light tents for table top photography

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I am considering buying a light tent to try table top / still life photography, and wondered if anyone could recommend a suitable purchase?

 

I'm looking for something approx 60cm wide/high/deep, that can easily be set up or folded down. Having looked on the internet, professional items such as the Lastolite Cubelite 58cm are about £100, while cheaper products of a similar size on Amazon are about £15 to £20. It would only be used by myself for personal work, so I don't need a top of the range professional model suitable for client based work, but don't want to purchase something very cheap if it doesn't deliver 'reasonable' results.

 

As cheaper prices are more appealing, I wondered if anyone here has used any of the cheaper branded items, and could advise whether they are worth considering, or whether its better to spend more in order to get a better quality item that will produce better photographic output?

 

Thanks in advance.

 

Phil

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If you are going to be using it a lot then the Lastolite would be a good choice. We have a cheap chinese (ebay)one for my daughter to photograph the jewelery that she makes and it is fine and has been for ages

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If you are going to be using it a lot then the Lastolite would be a good choice. We have a cheap chinese (ebay)one for my daughter to photograph the jewelery that she makes and it is fine and has been for ages

 

Thanks for your comments Mark. When looking at website photos showing the cheaper products, they seem to be made of thin looking material with lots of creases in them, I wondered if thin material is not so good at producing nice diffused light and whether the creases cause problems getting smooth backgrounds in photos?

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We have not had problems even using speedlights, I do use card as the actual background (inside the light tent)

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We have not had problems even using speedlights, I do use card as the actual background (inside the light tent)

 

I will be using speedlights too, so sounds like one of the cheaper light tents might be adequate for my purposes.

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Oh and we have some strips of vinyl cut to fit the light tent and for a "cove" or curve. Easy to wipe clean.

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Modern speedlights are very powerful so sometime we bounce the light off of umbrellas and then through the tent.

I also sometimes place the light tent on a sheet of class and light from underneath as well for shadowless lighting, gels work well for changing the light colour

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Oh and we have some strips of vinyl cut to fit the light tent and for a "cove" or curve. Easy to wipe clean.

 

I had wondered about getting some plastic eg acrylic or foamboard and doing a DIY job, but some initial prices I saw on the internet suggested it might be more expensive that buying one of the cheaper ready made light tents.

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Modern speedlights are very powerful so sometime we bounce the light off of umbrellas and then through the tent.

 

I also sometimes place the light tent on a sheet of class and light from underneath as well for shadowless lighting, gels work well for changing the light colour

 

Some good advice coming here Mark, thanks! Have recently purchased some Yongnuo flashguns for my camera, and now considering getting some diffusers or softboxes to go with them. I already have a table with a glass top that the light tent will stand on, which as you suggest will be good for lighting underneath.

 

As someone who has neither photo umbrellas or flashgun softboxes, would you have a preference on which might be best for table top photography?

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Any of the chaep umbrellas should be fine, I use light boxes a lot so

I use a Lastolite 76x76cm Ezybox Hotshoe Softbox

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I made my own light tent. A trip to a building supply store, where they cut PVC pipe to my measurements. Then I picked out connectors the type that let me make a box.

Went to a fabric shop and bought pure white, filmy fabric. From Amazon, I ordered a two-light continuous source set of lights that came on stands with included softboxes, around $100. It is wonderful to actually see the strength of the light so I can move them around for the effect I want. The bulbs are fluorescent, the proper kelvin. Comes with the bulbs.

 

Took me about 15 minutes to unpack and set up. At the bottom of the page on Amozon, I saw a set of 6 clamps, perfect size to hold the fabric onto the PVC.

Even if you buy a light tent, these lights are great. I can't say to the build quality being superb, but for my purpose, I set them up and only change positioning, so the quality is fine. I do want to order some replacement bulbs in case I have a burnout, so I won't miss a beat.

When I used strobes, it seemed I was taking too many test shots to get it right. Not with the continuous source.

 

If I can do this on my own, no experience and just figuring it out on paper, anyone can do it. I have shots of this setup in my port.

 

I'm on my iPad, so haven't figured out how to upload an image on the pad.

Betty

OK, look at E4CTB7. And E4CTB8.

You can see the pvc pipe in the back because I didn't need to cover it for the jewelry shots. I zoomed in on the black bust. But now, for other tabletop, I have a long piece of pure white satin curving forward. One could order a insert.

Edited by Betty LaRue
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Betty, was EACH light/soft box/stand in the set $100?

 

I made my own light tent. A trip to a building supply store, where they cut PVC pipe to my measurements. Then I picked out connectors the type that let me make a box.

Went to a fabric shop and bought pure white, filmy fabric. From Amazon, I ordered a two-light continuous source set of lights that came on stands with included softboxes, around $100. It is wonderful to actually see the strength of the light so I can move them around for the effect I want. The bulbs are fluorescent, the proper kelvin. Comes with the bulbs.

Took me about 15 minutes to unpack and set up. At the bottom of the page on Amozon, I saw a set of 6 clamps, perfect size to hold the fabric onto the PVC.

Even if you buy a light tent, these lights are great. I can't say to the build quality being superb, but for my purpose, I set them up and only change positioning, so the quality is fine. I do want to order some replacement bulbs in case I have a burnout, so I won't miss a beat.

When I used strobes, it seemed I was taking too many test shots to get it right. Not with the continuous source.

If I can do this on my own, no experience and just figuring it out on paper, anyone can do it. I have shots of this setup in my port.

I'm on my iPad, so haven't figured out how to upload an image on the pad.

Betty

OK, look at E4CTB7. And E4CTB8.

You can see the pvc pipe in the back because I didn't need to cover it for the jewelry shots. I zoomed in on the black bust. But now, for other tabletop, I have a long piece of pure white satin curving forward. One could order a insert.

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No, Ann. It is a two light set for $100.

PBL Studio Photography Video Light Kit Continuous made by Steve Kaeser. Price $98.47 for a 2 light set.

Edited by Betty LaRue

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Betty, perhaps you should patent your light tent and start selling them! Sadly, I'm not really a DIY person, so am more inclined to just go and purchase something. Think I will try one of the cheaper light tents first, if it meets my needs fine, otherwise its no great financial  loss if something more expensive turns out to be required.

 

Interesting to hear your comments about continuous lights v speedlights. I have just bought some Yongnuo flashes for the table top work, so have already made that purchase, but know what you mean about lots of test shots to get things right. Mind you, thats more down to my lack of knowledge and experience with speedlights, so things will hopefully get quicker as my knowledge increases.

 

Phil

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Betty, perhaps you should patent your light tent and start selling them! Sadly, I'm not really a DIY person, so am more inclined to just go and purchase something. Think I will try one of the cheaper light tents first, if it meets my needs fine, otherwise its no great financial  loss if something more expensive turns out to be required.

 

Interesting to hear your comments about continuous lights v speedlights. I have just bought some Yongnuo flashes for the table top work, so have already made that purchase, but know what you mean about lots of test shots to get things right. Mind you, thats more down to my lack of knowledge and experience with speedlights, so things will hopefully get quicker as my knowledge increases.

 

Phil

That's me, Phil. I bought a light meter years ago but it mastered me instead of the other way around. I had Alien Bee strobes for portraits, and still had a lot of trial and error getting the right output. But I hated them for tabletop. Hot spots, even using an umbrella, and I didn't have a 3rd light for the background, so I ended up with dirty gray BGs which caused a lot of pp. I no longer have those problems. :)

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I use 6ft seamlesses and up to 6,000 watts of studio strobes with boxes, umbrellas

grids and barndoors.  I even have 22inch beauty dishes.  I've had people buy my

items on ebay just because of the photographs I did of items that I am selling.  I also

have a 100% + feedback on ebay.

 

Chuck

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Some great advice above, but, for the parsimonious, such as myself, a north facing window provides soft white light without the need for any other specialist kit.

lilliput-lane-figurine-or-model-building

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Some great advice above, but, for the parsimonious, such as myself, a north facing window provides soft white light without the need for any other specialist kit.

lilliput-lane-figurine-or-model-building

As someone who lives in a Northern mill town where ALL the factory windows faced north to give the best light for the Burlers and Menders, I know you have a very good point there Bryan. Not many working mills here any more, I wish I'd had the opportunity to shoot in them when they were up and running, before their sad demise.

 

I don't shoot any studio stuff, yet but would probably choose to dump my strobes and use studio flash with modelling lights and a choice of backgrounds.

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Thanks to everyone for their comments on this thread, the advice has been helpful. 

 

Its clear from suggestions above, and from videos I've recently seen on YouTube, there are quite a few different approaches to lighting setups for table top photography. I think my approach will be to start in a small and economical way, and develop my knowledge and skills first, before spending too much on kit I may not really need (which is very easy to do with photography!).

 

Phil

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Some great advice above, but, for the parsimonious, such as myself, a north facing window provides soft white light without the need for any other specialist kit.

lilliput-lane-figurine-or-model-building

 

I recognise the structure, seen it many times when in the Lake District but can't remember where.

 

HELP!

 

Allan

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Some great advice above, but, for the parsimonious, such as myself, a north facing window provides soft white light without the need for any other specialist kit.

lilliput-lane-figurine-or-model-building

 

I recognise the structure, seen it many times when in the Lake District but can't remember where.

 

HELP!

 

Allan

 

 

Bridge House, Ambleside.

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Thanks Keith.

 

Allan

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Some great advice above, but, for the parsimonious, such as myself, a north facing window provides soft white light without the need for any other specialist kit.

lilliput-lane-figurine-or-model-building

 

I recognise the structure, seen it many times when in the Lake District but can't remember where.

 

HELP!

 

Allan

 

 

Bridge House, Ambleside.

 

Must have had a massive light box!

  • Upvote 1

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Wow! Thanks for the info, Betty.

 

No, Ann. It is a two light set for $100.

PBL Studio Photography Video Light Kit Continuous made by Steve Kaeser. Price $98.47 for a 2 light set.

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The Calumet light tent is cheap - not as cheap as the ebay/amazon ones, but at least can have a look at it.

 

https://www.calphoto.co.uk/product/calumet-cocoon-80s-lighting-tent/RM1003/?tracking=|searchterm:tent

 

It looks similar to the one I bought from them years ago - it's been fine for me, possible I need to bleach one of the sheets as it's a little pizza and cocktail stained now!

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