Make a Lightbox

A lightbox is a photographic tool for shooting photos in evenly diffused light.  Lightboxes are often used in advertising photography to present a clean, crisp image.

I recorded the steps of constructing a lightbox to demonstrate how simple it is to get this photographic effect.

Why would you want to construct a lightbox if you are not going to be an advertising photographer?  A lightbox simply showcases your work in the best light.  Suppose you are a sculptor, jeweler, doll maker, knitter or any other type of creative artist who would like to open an online shop and get in on the action and make some serious coin.  Customers need to see your product unencumbered by distracting visual data that impedes their ability to discern if they want to buy your wonderful creations.  Give them simple, give them direct.  Give them tomatoes.  Or tomatos if your Dan Quale.  Does anyone remember this guy?!

Now that I view the tomatoe photo I’d like to edit out the shadow around the bottom and corners. But that’s a Photoshop story.

My husband, Mike Wilson, recently opened an online store aptly named Stone Cairns, to sell his cairn art.   He also sells his cairn art in Suttons Bay, Michigan at The Painted Bird; at the Santa Fe Trading Company in Saugatauk, Michigan, and at The Ruth Conklin Gallery in Glen Arbor, Michigan.  So check out these groovy shops if you’re ever at the lakeshore.

Incidentally, I told him to change his shop profile picture because it looks like I’m married to a twenty-year-old.  I took this picture way back when when we went hiking on Isle Royale, Michigan.   Which reminds me – *News Flash* – Biologists fear moose and wolf populations will soon go extinct on Isle Royale, because population numbers are very low.  So if you’d like to go hiking and see some moose, now is probably the time to go.

Things You’ll Need for Construction:

1. White Felt

2. Cardboard box

3. Glue

4. Scissors

5. Velcro

6. Measuring tape

 

Lightbox Steps

1. Find a large, sturdy, approximately 2 ft. X 2 ft. cardboard box.  Keep in mind what you will be taking photos of, because you don’t want the sides to show.  This will ultimately decide the size of the box you need.  You can always add extra pieces of cardboard along the sides if you need to make the box sturdier.

2. Cut out four openings: the front, two sides, and top.  Leave about 2 inches of cardboard around edge for stability purposes on each side.

3. If you feel the need for more stability, glue strips of cardboard to the edges to make the corners sturdier.

4. Cut out poster board pieces to fit over all exposed areas inside the box except the bottom and the back wall.

5. Then cut poster board to size so it lays on bottom on box and curves up along the back.  You don’t want edges to show in the lightbox because you’ll see them in the photo.

6. Cut felt to fit three open sides.

7. Attach the velcro to the felt so it adheres to the box.  When you’re done, your finished product should look something like this:

Voila!  Enjoy your cheap, custom-made lightbox.  You don’t need special photo equipment or cameras to take great lightbox photos.  Play around with lamps and other light sources to get good results.

 

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The Power of Perspective in Photography

Famous landmarks – the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, Queen Elizabeth, have been photographed from the same angle – the same way, so many times you almost expect it.  They are iconic.  And when something is iconic it seems almost like sacrilege to view it any other way.

This is one of the reasons Annie Liebowitz wanted Queen Elizabeth to take off her crown.

Before you get off the bus and stop at that spot labeled “scenic view” convince your self you will do one better.  Convince yourself of the power of perspective.

My greatest regret in taking pictures in Yellowstone National Park was not getting shots of the people acting like idiots around the animals.  Sure I got some great wildlife shots.  But how often do you see people interacting with large animals in the most memorable of ways?  Grown men with children on their shoulders approaching bull elk of within distances of 8 feet in order to take a picture.  Women and children running in and out of a group of cow elk with calves.

I missed the power of perspective.  I was not thinking like a photo journalist.

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The Disappearing Barns of the Midwest

Barn Leelanau County, copyright Ellen Wilson

I’ve given myself a photo assignment – documumenting the disappearing barns of the Midwest.

At the turn of the century, barns could be found all over the place because there were a lot more small farms.  In 1900 close to 40% of the American labor force was made up of farmers.  Today, it is less than 2%.

Now we have huge agribusinesses that boast of more cost effective and environmentally friendly farms.  Farmers can carefully control profits by making sure animals have the right food to maximize their growth.  And no longer do cattle wade in local streams contaminating the water supply.

But while there are positive attributes to large scale farming technology there are many negative attributes as well.

First and foremost is the fact that the growth and distribution of food is a political and economic force most Americans do not understand.  Animal growth is carefully regulated by the use of hormones.  Antibiotics are also routinely given to combat disease and infection.  Do we want this stuff in our food?

The cost of food is increasing due to increased shipping costs because of the unstable situation in the Middle East.

And we were never told about genetically modified food stuffs that appeared on our supermarket shelves as other countries were.  We, as consumers, were not given a choice.

I think of these things as I travel around the country and see the landscape dotted with falling down barns, or barns that are lovingly attended to as keepsakes.  Like the barns in this post.

Barn, copyright Ellen Wilson

These are all things we have to grapple with now and in the future.

What else will disappear in our lifetime?

What is disappearing in your area?

Photocredit: © Ellen Wilson

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