Getting Creative and Makeshift “Stuff”–Some Thoughts

I SHOULD be looking for work, but this entry came to light so I figured I should document this before I forget Smile

A while ago, , I was doing some products shots of some stained glass work for my wife’s friend, and when I looked at the shots, they had little or no “dimension”, if you know what I mean.  It had nothing to do with the lighting, per se, they just seemed very two dimensional.  Unfortunately, I can’t show any pics of these as I don’t have permission to but if one has done light box shooting, you probably know what I mean by that.  You can do a bunch of things with lighting, etc.  to emphasize highlights and things along that line, but they simply don’t “pop” out at you like they should.  When I took the first series of these in the fall, one of the things I did, was get some leaves and berries from our yard and used them as additional “props”, that did the trick.  BUT this time around, on the next batch of stained glass that my wife got, those leaves and berries had dried up, and of course, with the snow now, that option went away Sad smile

What am I getting at here?  Welll… the intent here, is to share a few “findings” on things that I’ve had to “makeshift” and props I sometimes use for taking light box type shots, and perhaps other situations.  I’ve done a bit in a previous post.

When I first made my light box, the one thing I did discover, was that most light boxes work on the principle of a box with light shining in via a diffuser.  The intent, of course, was to get that wonderful even flat light with no hot spots.  The issue around this type of design for a light box, was that it took up more room than I had available.  I needed a more “compact” solution.  What I ended up doing, was using a frame from one of those garden bench things that fold up.  They use a metal tubing frame with a foam seat.  I tore off the foam seat.  This thing is about 21 inches wide by 8 inches deep and about 22 inches high.  With a little jury rigging I attached a piece of 1/4 inch plywood to the back of it to form a backdrop and then used the frame to hold several clamp on lights.  I use daylight balanced fluorescent  bulbs to keep the light a little softer as it was direct lighting, not diffused.  That will ultimately change once I get enough space and some cash to work with.  Worked a charm, though for some things, it can be a little harsh.  I showed a few of these pics in my Trinkets entry, but here’s a couple:


I initially had considered buying a light box, and ultimately, as I get more space, I probably will, but in the meantime, I used what I could find.  This is what I’m trying to get at, I guess, is that there are few things either sitting around the house, that can be gotten cheaply that can be used to makeshift things that can be used to make pics a little nicer.

So.. what else.  One thing that shoot are things that need to be “stood up”.  I use a couple of things for this.  I bought a cloth tablecloth for starters to use as a back drop for this, but one thing that I found handy was one of those business card holders.  I use that to hold up knives on occasion.  I’m still working on a better way there.  OR the other thing that’s really handy on occasion, is one of those recipe book stands.  I drape the tablecloth over these and there’s my backdrop Smile  IF you are using the recipe book stand, I will use one of those cloth place mats and flip it vertical for smaller objects, like the boot shot above.  They can be had at Dollar type stores for a buck usually. 

Exposure – depending on the type of shot I was taking, one of the things I was seeing, was that depending on the object, and backdrop, I would under or over expose ever so slightly.  Sure, I could fix that in software, but this is where I found that the meters in most cameras start to fail a bit.  Sure the meters are good for most things, but if you have a bunch of things to take pics of, it’s a bit of a pain, to shoot a series of shots to find the correct exposure.  Soo… the initial thought was to buy a light meter of some sort.  When I looked, I just about fell over with just how much these things cost!!!  Then it dawned on me.  Is there an app out there for one of my tablets?  Ideally, for my Nexus 7.  Two reasons – first, I already owned one.  Second – it was small enough to use in a light box.  I found several but the one I settled on was the beeCam Light Meter.  It was free – bonus!!! 

beeCam Light meter app

I found that my iPad3 for this would simply have been too big.  Even with the Nexus 7, it was still a little large with the case/cover I had, so I took it out, but it worked quite well actually.  The nice thing with this, was that because it was incident light over reflected light, I only need one test sequence to make sure exposure was good and away I went.  My Nexus 7 is one of the older models with one front facing camera, but it’s one that I use a surprising amount for other things. 

The bottom line here – I’m one that is constantly looking for those little things that I can makeshift or find that help me further the craft.  When I’m out shopping or “snooping”, I’m constantly looking for things I can use for props, for instance.  The other day, I found a bag of stones and some fake plastic gem things – they were a buck a bag.  Simple and cheap set of props.

Just like taking photos – watch for opportunities.  Things can be done cheaply and in most cases, very minimal sweat labour Smile 



About gkamitomo
IT Busines Analyst

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