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Create Your Own Light Tent for Small Product Photography

A photo tent—also frequently called a light tent—is an essential aid for every photographer interested in good-quality product photography, for their own purposes or commercially. Speaking of commercially, there is a wide range of photo tents and accessories you can purchase. If you’re thinking of buying one, but you’re not sure if it will pay off, then maybe this article is for you. Because here we’ll be making our own.

To make your own photo tent, you’ll need a little dexterity, and otherwise just these things:

  • a box (choose its size based on the sizes of the objects you’ll be wanting to photograph)
  • a pencil
  • a ruler
  • tracing paper
  • white paper (size based on the size of the box)
  • glue
  • a sharp knife or a scalpel
  • 2 or 3 flashes or small lamps

material

Production Steps

Lay the box on a table with the open side facing towards you. On the two sides to your right and left, and if you wish on the top side as well, mark cutting holes using a pencil and a ruler. You will be lighting your photographed products through these holes. Use the scalpel to cut the holes into the box.

With the holes made, you now have the “draft version” of your tent ready. Finalize it by pasting the white paper into it. That will serve as your photographic background. The paper does not have to be white; you can paste in blue or green paper instead. These background colors are classics for “keying.” On the other hand, you do run the risk that the colors will be reflected in your photographed products, and so I recommend white for your first homemade tent. Once you’ve pasted the paper into the box, you have an endless background (one with no horizon), and it will also soften your light even more.

Now paste over the holes with tracing paper. You can even paste multiple layers over them. With e.g. two or three you’ll get better light diffusion.

Now your tent is ready, and you can start some test runs of lighting and shooting your products. The photo tent in this picture has dimensions of 59 × 39 cm. I made it a few months back.

phototent

Using the Photo Tent

You can use a tent like this for e.g. photographing jewelry. The bigger the tent, the bigger the products that you can photograph. I personally use a photo tent to photograph items for articles, and sometimes, indeed, jewelry. A large photo tent can also come in handy for food photography.  

I light my products using the internal flash on my Nikon D7100 camera, along with two manual-mode flashes placed alongside the sides of the box in the way that you see in the picture. How you light a product is purely up to you.

photo_tent_flash

>> Read more in our article Learn How to Shoot Products on a Tabletop

Advantages and Disadvantages

A big advantage, and the main one, is the low price. My first photo tent was 59×39 cm (23×15 inches), and I made it for far less than ten dollars. The vastly improved product lighting is a major positive. With this setup you don’t need to be shy about selling to photobanks.

A homemade photo tent like this does have its disadvantages too. Its main disadvantage is its bulkiness. It’s strictly just a box, which has to sit somewhere—ideally in a place where your partner won’t despise it. In my case the winning location was a cabinet. I’ve put the tent in there, and it’s not in anyone’s way. Store-bought photo tents, on the other hand, can just be folded up, like a car sun shade. Another disadvantage of a “homemade” photo tent is its lack of mobility. It’s very hard to relocate.

So here again it’s purely up to you whether the advantages or the disadvantages of such a photo tent matter more for you. In my case the advantages win out, because I don’t need to carry or transport the tent anywhere, and it serves me just as well as a commercial one.

bibi

And that’s how your photos look when you use a homemade tent. Can you tell the difference?

And that’s how your photos look when you use a homemade tent. Can you tell the difference?



There are 14 comments

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  1. Andre

    I thought about it two months ago and built one with wooden pieces and thin wooden plates, painted in white. The most important being the background paper sheet (white, grey, or even black!). The idea was that during these winter months, it would be an interesting occupation to explore the possibilities of taking photos of small objects. It’s quite fine, but I have still to improve it. The problem is – as said in the article – it’s bulky and it should be placed somewhere where it doesn’t disturb anybody else :-(

  2. Kadir Muhtar

    Dear Mr. Josef Gabrhell,
    A small light tent is 20-25 USD with LEDS lightened & battery powered!… Mid Size is 30-40 USD with LEDS & battery povered. long-long hours of working is possible with 2-3 USD batteries!
    AND… LETS HAVE LOOK PROJECT OF YOUR VALUABLE & ORIGINATOR MIND!
    *** 2 EA. Slave Flash Light at least 800 ~ 900.- USD!
    AND… There is not trigger in every camera, so generally YOUR TENT WİLL NEED a slave Flash Light triggering unit which their prices are about 40 ~ 50.- USD!
    NOW, MY PROPOSAL!:
    *** If you’ll pay the difference of 750 ~ 800.- USD between buying & producing, I make this Light Tent today!
    – If you ‘ll not pay that amount, your project is only a bull-shit…

    PS. I DID ONE LIGHT TENT FOR MYSELF “TWO YEARS AGO!”…
    *** NO FLASH UNIT, NO EXPENSIVE ACCESSORİES!
    – I BOUGHT 2 EA. LED TORCH LIGHTS & MOUNTED THEM IN AN INDIRECT ENLIGHTING ANGLE (DIRECTED TO THE ROOF OF TENT)!
    – MOUNT & DISMOUNT OF TORCH LIGHTS ARE SO EASY& TENT IS COLLAPSIBLE!
    – I PAID ONLY 12.- USD FOR 2 EA. TORCH LIGHTS…
    – EACH OF THEM CAME WİTH 3 EA. AAA BATTERIES INCLUDED!
    – SINCE TWO YEARS, I ONLY ONE TIME RENEWED THE BATTERES YET!
    – I PAID 6.- USD FOR 6 EA. ENERGIZER BATTERIES (EVERYBODY KNOW THAT QUALITY)!…
    …SO, IT IS POSSIBLE TAKE PHOTOS AT LEAST 4 YEARS MORE!
    AND SO…
    …DON’T SHOW THE EXPENSIVE WAYS OF BULL-SHIT IDEAS TO THE PEOPLE! KEEP YOUR “CLEVER” MIND TO YOURSELF!
    Regards!
    Kadir Muhtar Göğüş
    Ret. Ordinary Person

    • Terry B

      I am surprised Zoner published this very rude post. Better to be civil. We are, after all, photographers, and for me I am not interested in your views if this is all you can come up with.

        • Zoner

          Hello Terry and Andre, thank you for your support. We don’t moderate comments before publishing so anyone can express his or her mind freely. Of course, we are sorry to read a comment like this too.

      • Kadir Muhtar

        Keep your gentle mind yourself! Inviting the people to expensive solutions, is only an imperialismic consumption promotion!
        For a small box, ask people to buy to two big slave flash lights & triggering unit, is only an idiotism!
        Ask the people to spent 800 ~ 900.- $ instead of 15.- USD, is only a big bullshit! That is not problem you accept or not! Absolute cost figures never change!
        You may be very rich and spend your own money as yo wish for bull-shits!
        But thousands of amateur photographers whom they are reading Zonerama & Using Zoner Photo Studio, are small budgeted amateurs like me!
        Otherwise they & I too, wouldn’t be here, they & also me would be interested with expensive, rental Adobe programs!
        Zoner Photo Studio (I specially thank to everybody who has effort in this company) is a…
        …REAL PUBLIC FRIENDLY Program. The is no Competitor of it! Also Zonerama too!
        So… This kind of expensive ideas, not favorable to the way of Zoner!
        Firstly have acknowledge… Than yo can say a right to say to your ideas!
        Nobody needs empty, oiled, colored words!
        Keep your consumption promotion for yourself!
        Realities speaks only!

    • Zoner

      Hello Mr. Muhtar, we are sorry you feel so offended by this tutorial. We believe, it is still usefull for many people and we’re happy if there are readers who share their experience even if they don’t agree completely. So please, share yours politely next time.

      • Andre

        I’m still puzzled by that virulent comment. The subject was a “light tent”, bought or DIY construction. If someone puts 20 flash lights around it, another one candlelight, to light up whatever is the object to be photographed – that’s their problem.
        The LED light is a good idea, but one has also to adjust the settings. For my part, I have tried with a single flash, with desk lamps, and with “available light” (it’s a light tent, isn’t it). That said, you have to test with any lightning – and that’s what I think makes that activity interesting.

  3. Kadir Muhtar

    Dear Ladies & Sirs,

    I know, you frankly did understand what I did mean!
    1) İdeas of Company Oilers as two commenter above, never change my mind!
    2) For banging a nail, hammer must be powerful! That ugly words sorry but were the power of hammer! Otherwise nobody wouldn’ interest!

    Oilers above can not understand…
    *** To show a 50 times expensive way (instead of 15 USD asking to spend ~900.- USD) to amateurs,
    excuse me but from the window that I look from, is again only a “bullshit”!

    The Technical Fact!
    *** If we use flashes in that box for indirected lightening… We never can adjust the shadows, lights as live view!
    – So, it needs many test shoots before… Need changing the position & angle oaf flas lights & subject many time!
    LED lamps give a stable, continous light! Makes all adjusments easily possible & shoot at first click!
    Look that project again please, from this point!…
    …to cheat ourselves is not a solution against to silly projects!

    I’m also sure that, the writer of this incredible (1) project did also understand what I mean!
    If he & your agree to buy 900 USD accessories instead of 5 dollar LED lamps, (for making a very hard to use silly cartoon box) there is no word to say again!

    Meanwhile…
    *** Sorry but “Old Zoner 17 PRO”, was 10X more good, easier & user friendly software, than X!
    – I was advising always to use yours but it was necessary to determine this point!
    Also I saw that, Zoners are not able to keep the Camera & Lens Profiles in her mind… So… I’m advising but not thinking to buy Zoner X! :-)))

    This magazin is very useful for amateurs, thanks for effort of everybody. I’m also sharing the articles in my Photo page at Facebook & sometimes Job page You can see then from following links)!…
    …But, I don’t wish the people whom read that pages, to come here and see this kind of “out of mind” consumption impulsion!

    https://www.facebook.com/Foto%C4%9Fraf%C4%B1n-Hassosu-1449299582043232/?ref=bookmarks
    https://www.facebook.com/IngilizceTurkceTeknikCeviri/?ref=bookmarks
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/239370436093618/?ref=bookmarks

    Thanks again, best wishes & regards…
    Kadir Muhtar Göğüş
    Journalist – Photographer


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