Homemade light tent

Discussion in 'Fly Tying' started by pittendrigh, Dec 23, 2009.

  1. pittendrigh Active Member

    Posts: 306
    montana
    Ratings: +52 / 0
    I mentioned my "light tent" in another thread, and someone asked me to explain.
    I use this for shooting photos of flies.
    It's just a simple box made out of 1" thick foundation foam, glued together with
    a hot melt glue gun. On top of that I poked in (into the foam) some lengths of stainless steel spinner
    wire to form upward-facing hoops. On top of the hoops I lay over some thick
    synthetic "curtain" material from the ladies sewing store. I use various blue posterboard
    backgrounds. It's important to make the tent long enough (about 2') so the background
    is never in focus. I use a Nikor 105mm macro lense, sometimes with an extension ring
    and sometimes with a bellows. I use cheap incandescent study lights. Set the camera
    white balance to "incandescent" and then set the camera to "aperture priority"
    at F 22 ..... F 32. Usually a 2 -3 second exposure. So a tripod is neskesary.
    That gives me the ballpark exposure. Then I reset the camera to totally manual,
    and shoot 3 exposure times at that F stop, to make sure one of them is right.

    After shooting, it's still usually necessary to "color balance" the digital image
    with Photoshop or Gimp (gimp is free, photoshop costs a small fortune).
    A buddy of mine bought a factory made tent for about a hundred bucks.
    It's nice. But it isn't long enough. So, if you use a small F-stop (to get maximum depth of field)
    then the background ends up in focus, which detracts attention away from the subject.
    Also, "daylight lamps," which are supposed to be color balanced for the camera's "daylight"
    white balance setting, are not so good. They are close to daylight, but not quite.
    I think I get better results with incandescent light (if the camera is set that way).

    It's also important to have two lights shining on the background. You want the background
    to be out of focus, but bright too. You don't want a darkly-lit background behind the subject.
    Some closeup manuals tell you to put a small directional (not diffused) light source inside
    the tent, shining on the back side of the fly (from behind) in order to sharply-delineate
    the edges of the subject.....somewhat similar to the way fashion studio photographers
    use a backlight behind the head of the beautiful model they're working with.
    I do that sometimes, with a piece of aluminum foil glued onto a small 4" x 4" cardboard.
    It helps some. But not a great deal. I also set the image quality to "raw" instead of "high resolution jpeg"
    I'm not sure that's necessary. But it does give you the best quality image to edit from.

    The bottom of the foam box base-assembly has a square hole cut out.
    I put plexiglass on top of that, and then one or two pieces of typewriter paper ( as light diffusers )
    Underneath that is a hidden study light. If you don't put at least some light shining
    up from below, you get get fly images with a brightly-lit top side and a dark, shadowy
    bottom side. Al Cambell has a nice tutorial on closeup fly photography at faol (fly anglers online????)
    Al does the whole thing inside a translucent plastic jug, with back cut out (so the background
    can be set far enough back). That's great for most flies. But sometimes I like to shoot bigger
    subjects.....and therefore the tent.



    http://montana-riverboats.com/Robopages/index.php?page=Sculpins/foamNcurtain-tent.jpg <== a few more images here

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