Introduction: Photo Light Studio for Small Reflective Objects Such As Jewelry :) Cheap, Portable, Recycled Materials, and Best of All, It REALLY Works!!!
Five years after learning how to make fine silver and bronze jewelry, opening my own etsy shop, purchasing a Paragon jewelry kiln, all the tools, an OTT light, and a Canon Rebel, I was finally getting ready to invest in a light box to properly photograph the reflective little beauties. I googled 'make a light box', found & joined Instructables.com because they had some really cool do-it-yourself boxes!! I read all of the super-great projects, and was thinking of combining elements from each of the instructables to make my own personal cube. I needed something light-weight and portable, really cheap, small, functional, and did I mention REALLY CHEAP? Did I have time to make it (my time is valuable!)? Would it take up much room in my shop-art-ment (900 sq ft)? Could I take it in the RV without taking up a lot of space? Looking at the lists of materials, there was no question in my mind that I would choose vellum over fabric or paper, because of its unique, beautiful ability to soften light. I was going about my daily chores and projects and the vellum was in the back of my mind, I couldn't seem to think of anything but a vellum box; that's when I visualized the empty milk jug floating around in the outer space of my mind! Perfect shape! Built-in vellum top bottom sides! Lightweight! Portable with a sturdy built-in factory-molded handle! Made of recycled plastic! Small enough to stash away even in the RV! No doubt it was a creative challenge! No doubt it would be fun! But could I do it? Would it work? Could I afford it? Would people laugh at me? 20 years from now, when I'm 80 yrs old will I care OR even remember if they did laugh?! Ok! My mind's made up, my first instructable was coming together right before my eyes-
ABOVE: Bronze butterfly medallion photographed in the milk jug light studio. I used a metal embossing plate and Goldie Bronze clay to make the medallion. Patina: Vintaj "clay" and "aged bronze" over the top of the bronze then sealed with a metal lacquer
Step 1: Slap Yo Teen-age Son Up 'side the Head and Jerk the Milk Jug Away From His Mouth.
Materials you will need:
- 2 empty gallon plastic milk, water, or other frosted white jugs
- A clothes pin or chip clip, or one of those small clippie combs that you use to pull your hair back (use your imagination, whatever you have around that will hold a dangling object without scratching it)
- Box cutter or sharp paring knife
- Scissors (don't use your fabric shears, use the junky paper-cutting pair)
- Used Greeting cards- in your fav colors for a background against your object to photograph (computer paper will work too). Don't use the ones the kids gave you for mother's day, you will make them cry- besides when they leave home, and you run across them in the cluttered drawer, they will make YOU cry and you will be glad you saved them, even if the paper overflow is spilling out the backside of the drawer and down to the next drawer.
- Double-stick tape or you can roll little tubes of any kind of tape sticky side out
- Marker like a permanent one or whatever will mark on your plastic jug
Step 2: Cut Out Your Milk Jug
With the box cutter, the sissors or knife cut out the end with the spout. Be sure to throw all scraps into the recycle can.
Step 3: 2nd Milk Jug
Just cut the bottom out of your 2nd jug for a pattern so you will know the width you need your backdrop paper to be. 2nd pic: you are going to need it to be 2-3 times longer than your milk jug bottom piece so you can stuff it in the back of the first milk jug light studio. Just have fun with it! I wanted a light colored backdrop and a dark one. My used greeting card had a spray of beautiful gold cut out leaves that showed the black card in the negative spaces of the leaves, very pretty-so I saved that for a future design in bronze jewelry. I also used a sheet of white embossed rose scrapbook paper I had in the overstuffed cluttered drawer with all the kids' cards they have ever given me, and some from hubby he didn't mind me cutting up :) Eventually I wanted plain white for a backdrop, so I cut up a long sheet of computer paper. Use the double stick tape under the paper to stabilize the paper to the studio light box floor. The paper can bend in the middle, or you can fold it so it will stand against the back of the jug.
Step 4: Design Your Top
Draw a slit in the top, center. Not too long, it will weaken the support of the top a little anyway. Start at the back where the jug is stronger. This slit will be used to move your dangling object forward or backward, depending on how 'in focus' you want your background to be behind your dangling object. Cut it out with your sharp instrument. Be careful! I had my first accident with a sharp instrument as a 16-yr-old, working for Howard's Dept Store, Commerce, Texas in 1967. We were opening the store, and unloading boxes. I had never run a box-cutter (hand-held) before, and one slip, cut my thumb open, and I fainted at the sight of my own blood. Imagine- 6 years later I graduated from nursing school. God has a great sense of humor to call me into the medical field!
Next, you're going to cut a slit at the back of the jug, the cuts will make a "T" so you can slide the ends of your string, chain, or beads that hold your dangling object. Pic #3 shows how you will use the clothespin to keep the dangling object from falling to the floor of your studio light box.
Step 5: Cut a Top Square Hole for Above Object Photos
I cut a nice big square in front of the slit right on top. That way you can lay your objects on the floor of the studio and get an arial shot directly over your object from above :) You can also cut 2 squares from sides of milk jug #2 and draw a circle in the middle of one (some jugs have a nice circle indention already as part of the design) cut that out, then you can lay your little circle frame in front of your studio or on top to make a soft frame around your object. Leave the other side whole, and you can place that one on top over the square hole for above diffused lighting. I found out if your backdrop is black, the different densities in the plastic of the circle frame show a bit in the photo (#3). Also I am always in a slow hurry, and I noticed a little hangnail where I didn't take time to cut the circle out nicely. I am going to get a different black paper as well, maybe a black flocked type paper to give a richer result than the black cardstock paper is doing in the 3rd photo.
I am always looking for shortcuts, and rather than drag out my tripod, I found I can place my studio on the top of my kitchen bar and rest my camera right in front of the jug, voila! no need for tripod! I am having too much fun today!
Step 6: WOW I Like...
Hey it works for me! You can store all your fabulous backdrops in the jug, along with your circle frame, your clothespin, maybe even your camera! Position your lights(you should invest in some daylight bulbs for your lamps [I use an OTTLITE I got for half-price at JoAnn's during a sale, and a cheap desk light I picked up at Goodwill]) around the outside of the jug and take lots of photos :) See my test photos above & explanations below. You need to use your close-up camera lens, and try using your mobile phone camera (I've seen mobile phone camera light boxes for sale online, so I know it's possible!). If you are photographing small objects you need a close-up lens or macro setting anyway. Otherwise this small light studio won't work for you, the angle of the side with the handle will get in the way (crop it out if it is marginal). Now I need to search for some photo instructables!
Photo #1: Taken from front of studio: bronze leaf w Vintaj patina, cinnabar, moss, black & antique brass on necklace of Swarovski crystals & unakite beads; gift bag leaf tissue paper I had laying around
Photo #2: Taken from above
Photo #3:Lights positioned as desired; front view with optional circle frame propped up in front of opening
Photo #4: Ready to go; circle frame inside; carry your backdrops & possibly camera too-
Photo #5: Syringe-formed God's wing of fine silver (unpolished/unburnished white state) and Swarovski crystals, inspired by Psalm 91:4 "He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou trust : His truth shall be thy shield and buckler. "
Photo #6: Memorial fingerprint keyring hammered dogtag in fine silver photographed from above through square cut-out directly over jewelry laying on script scrapbook paper. Polished & burnished. I didn't use my tripod, but I think it would be valuable to use it here.
Photo #7: Photographed through the end of the light box: Hanging fine silver leaf (Hobby Lobby has a similar one in stainless steel, I wanted a fine silver one) w freshwater peacock pearls and Swarovski crystals. Matt silver finish
Photo #8: Photographed through the end, necklace laying on floor of light box
My etsy shop: http://www.picturesofsilver.etsy.com