Daily Archives: January 8, 2008

Back to the light tent – sort of

Some of my most regular blog traffic comes from a short series of posts I wrote a year ago, about building a tabletop light tent. I also sometimes receive questions and comments about it.

The most recent query appeared over in my guest book, from a gentleman called Buzz Coren. He wrote:

I’ve already built my light box and have been fooling around a bit with different lighting setups….I’m getting very fuzzy results and wondering if I might need a higher MP camera than my 5-year old Canon 2.3 digital elph. Comments?

In the spirit of open communication, I’m going to reply to that question here, as well as dropping Buzz a line directly.

The first thing to say is that I’m probably just as new at this – light boxes and lighting – as Buzz is! In fact the photos on his website look as though he’s probably spent a lot more time on lighting than I’ve ever done.

I took a look at Buzz’s site (which is really nice by the way – I like the “made on a Mac” part especially!) and to be honest, the photos there look fine. They are obviously not very large size, so I can’t assess how noisy / fuzzy / grainy they are. I don’t know whether they are taken with the 2.3MP camera? They are pretty good if they are!

My view is that yes, you’ll certainly get better results in terms of definition, detail, fuzzy/grainy-ness if you move up to a newer model of camera… most compacts start at around 5MP now, and the IXUS / Digital Elph I own has 7 (I think) which has been superb for outdoors photography and snapshots, although I’ve not used it in the context of the light tent. Here’s what I wrote about it back in May.

I’m not sure what Buzz’s precise problem is, though. With these kind of images you will also get better results if you can use a tripod, and a timer or remote release to avoid shaking the camera. Lighting is key too, I think even the lamps I got for the light tent were a little under-powered.

To be fair, I have not done a huge amount with the light tent but I have found that shots are noisier, and I put this down to lighting and the length of exposure. Someone else who contacted me about the light tent articles suggested trumpet bulbs, which are apparently available on eBay – these are supposed to be pretty good for this kind of photography too (thanks to Fiona Sands for this tip, which she shared with me back in September).

The moral of the story is, now that I’ve got a nice macro lens and external flash, I really ought to invest in some more bulbs and pop the tent up again! It’s fantastic that my articles attract so much interest.