Building a light tent – part 3, results

In the previous two posts in this short series, I decided to build a light tent, and then assembled the parts. In this final post, I’ll present some of the initial results.

Once I’d got the light tent assembled, I put up my tripod, pointed my Canon EOS 350D into the tent, and I was ready to go…

Stack of stonesThe very first shot I decided to try was a still life of some pebbles I picked up in Cornwall in the summer. I went for a light blue backdrop, for no particular reason other than impulse – although I think I might try it again on a darker background at some point, since the light colour of the stones doesn’t seem to work all that well on light blue.

Gnome Pixie Flex TLR

Next up was this old twin-lens reflex camera that I’d found in my mother’s loft a while ago. I think this shot is a little flat, I could probably do with some spot lighting, but I was just wanting to reel off some initial shots to see how the setup worked.


Leningrad 4I particularly liked the way the light meter came out, since it had a bit more of a shape to it.




Pentax ME close

I switched to a plain white background. Close-up shots appear to work nicely. I think this shot of the Pentax ME is an improvement over the one I took previously.



Overall, I’m very happy with the results so far. I’ve only used the 18-55mm kit lens, so clearly I can play around with others. I do want to try out various other backgrounds and lighting setups, but I can see that I’ve got plenty to occupy me on rainy days now 🙂

Improvements to be made:

  • Get a tripod with a pan/tilt head, since my current one is pan only. Recommendations gratefully received. I currently have a cheap Velbon, which does the job but is not very flexible.
  • Use stronger lights. Bill Huber, the author of the original instructions on the light tent, suggests 100W flourescent, with the smaller lamps that I currently use more for spot use or highlighting. I need to see what I can find.
  • Buy a macro lens. Any recommendations for an affordable macro for a Canon 350D?

You can see more of the results in the Vintage Cameras set I’ve just uploaded to Flickr, or by searching on the light tent tag I’ve added to the photos. Please have a look and let me know what you think, either by commenting here, or leaving notes and comments on the photos themselves. I’ll be posting something about the cameras themselves at some stage.

20 thoughts on “Building a light tent – part 3, results”

  1. Good stuff, they seem to have come out well.

    On the tripod front, I can definitely recommend Manfrotto. I picked up some 390B legs and a 390RC 3-way head on EBay and so far it has been solid as a rock, and believe me it got tested by some pretty ferocious winds in Ireland recently! I’d recommend you take a look at the new 804RC2 head which seems very good for the money (about £60) I’ve had a quick play with one and I now want to upgrade to it if I can figure out how to change the head on my tripod!

    A macro is also on my list of lenses to get so I can’t offer any specific advice. However as a stop-gap measure you could try a set of extension tubes which would work well with your 50mm f1.8 for example. However the Canon ones are quite pricey compared to the price of the EF 50mm f2.5 macro for instance, which whilst a very old lens, still seems to be regarded well:

    Otherwise there’s the EF-S 60mm f.28 USM for nearly £300 or the EF 100mm f2.8 USM macro for about £350, both of which seem to be highly recommended.

    I can’t say I’ve taken a look at the macros from Sigma or Tamron.

  2. I just loved these three part article. extremely Informative and absorbing. I learned a lot from here. Thank you so much for sharing and writing.

    I promise to visit here often to learn more.

  3. Adrian: yes, I’ve heard good things about Manfrotto. Thanks for the ideas, I’ll look into those and the macros.

    Suresh: thank you for your visit, I’m glad you enjoyed the posts. I’m always impressed by your amazing landscape photos, although I know I don’t comment on them often enough.

  4. Bogen all the way! – And I have always used Photoflex for all the lighting. I used a translucent polycarbonate surface clipped to a frame, curved up in the back so one can control the underlight. I also made a living for a while doing clipping paths on product shots and putting in black only drop shadows artificially. I used Scitex equipment at the time but similar things can be done with Wacom tablets and Photoshop. For product shots: Hasselblad and Zeiss all the way. If digital, Leaf backs were the way to go! Scitex scanners otherwise with Ektachrome slide film.

  5. Hmm – thanks for the thoughts, but I’m trying to keep to a budget here… I’d love a Hasselblad with a digital back, but I don’t think I’ll be affording one any time soon.

  6. I was sitting around today thinking that I should take some photos as it has been a while, but after travelling 700+ miles in the two previous days for a family funeral I really didn’t feel like going out. I read your post and thought that is what I’ll do and hence proceeded to do so. Mine is not as eloquent, but it does the trick well enough for me.

  7. Adrian: thanks… the penny drops.

    Bonj: glad that I inspired you – yours looks nice, and the results are good, so why worry about how elegant it is? It works! 🙂

  8. Excellent light tent posts! Quick question though: is there any Photoshopping done on the pics? I can’t seem to get the depth that you do to mimic the infinite white background. You’re using 2 lamps right?

  9. Thanks Jesse, and thanks for your question, I should have been more clear. The setup here is 2 halogen lamps, one shining through either side of the tent. I took the photos RAW, and processed using Adobe Lightroom – but that was just for a little white balance adjustment where needed, levels and so on. I haven’t done any extra work in Photoshop or Gimp.

  10. Thanks a lot for a 3 great posts on the light tent. Really enjoyed following them and having a bash at making my own. Very happy with the results so far

    Good luck with yours!

  11. Getting ready to make a light tent myself, this is all great advice. Thanks!

    Don’t know if you’ve picked up a macro lens yet, but check out the Sigma 105mm 2.8 DG Macro. I picked one up a couple of months ago and have been very happy with it (macro shooting is one of my favorites). The good thing about this lens is that is has the focal length to get back from your subject, and a 1:1 mag ratio. Maybe not as sexy as the Canon, but about $150 less.

    I can also recomend Manfrotto for a tripod. I have the one that the center column comes out and mounts horizontally for macro shooting (3021BPRO in the US) and the 322RC2 (ball joint with quick release grip), which is easily adjustable, but sometimes difficult to get square.

  12. Roger, thanks for visiting and for your helpful comments. I haven’t got a macro yet… so I will keep the Sigma in mind (I just read through some of the reviews and generally it seems well thought of for the price). I do need a better tripod too, so thanks for the recommendation on that, too.

  13. Great idea…… got me thinking……… Check out and let your imagination run wild. Could easily be done with 3 basic frames and a custom made tent (black & white). Centre frame would need modifying to take the legs from the top section. Now for something translucent and fairly rigid for the table top (Lastolite use acrylic sheet with a separate sheet of translucent material).

    Under-lit light tent………….. hmm, could be a project for the weekend 🙂

  14. As for tripods. Manfroto – excellent but expensive. Check out the range from Opticron. These are bird watching tripods, equally at home with a camera or spotting scope and are as solid as a rock. Shop round for prices as they vary so much. I got mine from They are not listed on their web site but they had a small selection in their local shop. Got mine for 59 pounds.

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