31 August 2012

Photo Friday: Lightbox and Lighting Review


I wanted to make sure I provided a final recap of how an amateur photographer with a few tools can take some wonderful pictures of the heirlooms and memorabilia in their family history collection. These pictures can then be used in a variety of formats from a digital heritage scrapbook to a printed family history.

When you first use a light box, you might be disappointed with the results. You have a camera, that you don't know well, a tripod, and a light box. You should take some wonderful pictures

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These photos aren't terrible, but they're not exactly what one would treasure. They are overall a bit dark. With a little research, the photos can be vastly improved. I've done some of the research for you. Here is what I did and what I learned.

I have created a seamless background using a piece of white cardboard inside a DIY lightbox. This looks so nice and was very easy to work with. I had my light box on the daybed in our guest room. I used a work light from my husband's construction projects. The other light was very indirect as I placed the box in a shaded part of the guest bedroom during the afternoon.

I used the macro setting on my camera. I was in the “P” setting on my camera as I've yet to learn about the Tv and the Av settings. This setting on the Cannon PowerShot allows me to adjust for the light source (day light, tungsten, fluorescent).  

After a little bit of research, I knew that I needed to use custom white balancing, frame my pictures better, and understand lighting more.

If you want an area to be true white, you'll want to take a picture of that white area using the custom white balance setting. Before each object was placed in the light tent, I figured out where it would be placed. Then I took a picture of that white area. Then I placed the object in the light box and did so by looking through the camera screen.

With my lightbox on a daybed, I wasn't able to compose the pictures the way I wanted. The low surface and the tripod did not seem to work together. I moved the light box onto my ironing board. With an adjustable tripod and an adjustable ironing board, I would be able to frame up my pictures better. Again, I'm an amateur. Perhaps a professional wouldn't have this problem, but this was a fabulous solution for me.

The lighting was just not what I had hoped. I'd seen beautiful pictures on the DIY websites and I just couldn't figure it out. Was it my equipment or my inexperience? I researched how to use light better with my light box. I rediscovered this website How To: DIY $10 Macro Photo Studio. After detailing how to construct a light box, Strobist gave me clues as to what could be the problem.

The blogger suggested that I could use the sun's light come from which ever direction I wanted by simply turning the box. I should turn the box until it had the appearance I desired.

I used the sun and one work light. With the light box on the ironing board near the window, I moved the objects around, or the light box itself, until I finally had the amount of light I desired. With the camera on a tripod using custom white balancign, I began to snap away. I saw an immediate improvement in the quality of my photos.


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These pictures look vastly better. I know I still have much, much more to learn. But I now have items that I can preserve as a collection. I can use the photos for sharing with my relatives. I can create a family history album specific to my grandfather or my grandfather's family. The possibilities are now endless.

And should various relatives desire any of these objects in the future, I could give it to them and know I still have the pictures as a collection. Can you just image how much easier it might be to settle estates after a loved one passes away?

Can you imagine the doors a collection of your artifacts might open to other family members when you share these pictures with them? Can you imagine the stories they would share about the relative in question by seeing these photos? Can you imagine the other items they might dig out for you knowing that you will take a nice picture of the item so all may share the love of it? The possibilities are simply endless. 

As a a digital scrapbooker and an amateur genealogist, I want to improve my photo skills. Genealogy is not just about digging through census records and cemeteries. It is about telling and sharing the most complete story of our loved ones for our living and future relatives.

Here is another link that might be useful in improving your photography skills www.pbase.com/wlhuber/light_box_light_tent

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