Monday, March 31, 2014

A Year Ago on Boost Your Photography

Welcome to a new alternate-weekly post: A Year Ago on Boost Your Photography. Now that we have passed the one-year threshold, this series will provide a look back at the week that was (or weeks that were) for previous years of posts and information. This series will alternate on Mondays with another new addition: compilation posts of great photography resources and articles from around the web.


  • Make the Shot: Close-up Eyeball. Our first 'how to' post provides step-by-step directions (and set up information) for taking a close-up or macro photograph of your own eyeball. 
Make the Shot: close up eyeball | Boost Your Photography

  • Travel: What's Your Sign? Our first live post, this one provides ideas and inspiration for photographing signs when you travel.
Travel Photography: What's Your Sign? | Boost Your Photography

Friday, March 28, 2014

One Year Blogoversary Deal!

Today marks a full year since the official launch of Boost Your Photography (originally Archaeofrog Photography). One year and one hundred ten posts later, there is a lot to celebrate!

It has been so much fun sharing this journey with you and helping so many people to grow in their creativity and skill set as photographers. To keep the growth and celebration going, starting today there is a very special Kindle Countdown Deal on my photography eBook, Boost Your Photography: Learn Your DSLR!

Starting from right now and lasting 48 hours, you can get your own copy of Boost Your Photography: Learn Your DSLR for better than half off, or only $1.99. Still not sure? If you wait too long, the price will jump to $2.99 for another 24 hours before settling back in at the original (and still an amazing value) price of $4.99. (Click the cover or links above to see how much time is left in the deal. This deal above is only available through Click here to see the version of the deal - same timing, great savings!)

For about the cost of a pack of gum, you can have over 120 pages of step-by-step photography advice to get you out and shooting with your DSLR camera. Best of all, the Kindle eBook format means that it is portable and accessible from anywhere, including your computer, tablet, or cell phone.

Here are a few thoughts from reviewers of Boost Your Photography: Learn Your DSLR:

"I just read your take on camera zero - thank you for making it so easy to follow and understand!"

"With her background as an educator and academic, Katie clearly and expertly explains the basics of using a DSLR camera. She gives concrete examples her readers can put into practice immediately. It gives readers a solid foundation to move beyond Auto mode to get the best results straight out of their cameras without investing a fortune in additional equipment and software."

"It’s consistently practical, with explanations that are accessible for a novice like me. There's also a nice balance between technical explanations and creative exercises. Because it’s an ebook, I always have it with me, which is crucial for a photography book because you never know when and where you might need it. I bought a similar print book at one point, for about 5 times as much, and it basically just sits on the shelf. This is definitely the way to go."

Thank you all so much for being an active part of Boost Your Photography! Excited to celebrate this first year blogoversary and looking forward to many more to come.

Have a topic you would like to see covered on  Boost Your Photography? Leave a comment on this post or ask a question.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Tell a Story with Easter Photographs – plus how to tie-dye eggs

Easter egg dying is a fun family tradition and a great photography subject. This post will provide examples of how to tell a story with Easter photographs, and as a bonus, will include how to tie-dye your own Easter eggs, courtesy of a set of directions hand-written by me as part of a second-grade school project (and yes, my handwriting really was that awesome).

Tell a Story with Easter Photographs | Boost Your Photography

Plan Ahead

First, think about the story that you want to tell beforehand. For this series, I wanted to capture the process of dying and tie-dying eggs. I also wanted to focus on hands, partially for their storytelling power, and partially because the rest of my extended family was feeling a bit camera-shy about the whole thing.

Tell a Story with Easter Photographs | Boost Your Photography

Think about the scene and the lighting. The process shots were taken at the kitchen table, next to a large window that allowed for significant natural light. Natural lighting is always preferable with this kind of lifestyle photography, and a bright sunny day should allow you to easily shoot handheld without having to raise your ISO above 100.
Easy Tie-Dye Easter Eggs | Boost Your Photography

Think Through the Story

Every family has different traditions, methods, or strategies when it comes to Easter and Easter eggs. Anticipate what those moments will be and how to capture them. For these shots, I knew that I wanted to capture the entire process from start to finish of dying and tie-dying. So, I made sure to arrange and take some intentional set-up shots showing each different step of the process.

Try to capture some before and after shots to show off the transformation. (Read more on doing the 'after' shots and see some examples with a bowl of Easter eggs in the article Easy Photography Upgrade: the tri-fold board.)

Bonus Feature:
DIY Tie-Dyed Easter Eggs

Want to create your own tie-dye Easter eggs? The supplies and process are simple, and the results are always interesting and unexpected.

What you need:
  • Eggs to dye
  • Your preferred dye
  • Cups to hold dye
  • Six-inch squares of thin white cloth
  • Small rubber bands or twist ties

That's it! You can use hardboiled eggs or blow the whites out of raw eggs, if you want to keep the tie-dyed eggs from year to year. (You may want to dye the raw eggs first and then empty the insides, as an empty egg shell will need to be held down in the dye.)

Wrap the egg like a cylinder with the cloth square. Twist the ends closed and secure with rubber bands or twist ties. Choose two different colors of dye to use. Dip the egg and cloth entirely in the lighter color of dye for about three minutes. Be sure that everything gets covered in dye.

After three minutes, carefully remove the wrapped egg. (You may want to squeeze excess dye out of the edges of the cloth.) Then dip the wrapped egg into the darker colored dye for a minute and a half to two minutes. Remove from the dye and squeeze out the edges of the cloth. Place the still-wrapped egg in a carton or other container, and store overnight in the fridge.

The next day, when the cloth is dry to the touch, you can unwrap the egg and reveal the tie-dye pattern. You can even run the cloth wraps through the washing machine and reuse them year after year.

Tie-dye Easter eggs are a fun activity, and the surprise of the reveal is always exciting. Do you have a special Easter egg family tradition? Share a link or photo in the comments below.

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Series of Posts on Light Tents and Product Photography

All four articles of mine on light tents and using light tents for product photography are now up and available between here and Digital Photography School. This post provides a quick overview and links to each post.

How to Use a Light Tent

This article, How to Use a Light Tent for Small Product Photography, provides a step-by-step how to for shooting with a light tent, and these directions and recommendations are applicable whether you are shooting with a commercially available light tent kit or a DIY version. Find out how best to shoot with a light tent, what kinds of light and lighting to use, and post-processing considerations for getting the best photographic results. A great starting point for anyone interested in light tents and product photography.

DIY Light Tent

This post, Foldable DIY Photography Light Tent, has quickly become the most popular and most viewed post on Boost Your Photography. From basic supplies that you likely already have in your home (or will only cost you a few dollars to go pick up), you can build yourself a functional, serviceable light tent in less than half an hour. This tent design also has a few extra features, including clips for securely holding backgrounds in place and the option to fold it flat for easy storage and reusability. Why make excuses when you can make a light tent?

DIY Photography Light Tent | Boost Your Photography

Light Tent Kit

This post is a detailed Product Review of the Square Perfect SP500 Light Tent Kit, which I own and use for my personal photography. Find out all the details about this all-in-one kit and its ease of use. This post also includes a selection of recent photographs shot using this light tent.

Square Perfect SP500 Light Tent Kit | Boost Your Photography

DIY vs. Light Tent Kit: head-to-head

The final post, over on DPS, is Light Tent Comparison: DIY vs. Kit Tents. See how the DIY light tent (built using the specifications in the article above) matches up against the smaller light tent from the Square Perfect Light Tent Kit (above). See direct head-to-head comparisons of photographs taken using each light tent, and read the analysis of the relative merits and disadvantages of each version. This post will help you decide whether a DIY or light tent kit might be right for you.

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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Make the Shot: Water on CD Refraction

Looking for a quick and easy indoor photography idea? Look no further than that stack of old CDs or DVDs you have lying around. Just add water, and you have a fun and interesting photography project ready to go. This is an excellent opportunity to practice your macro and close-up photography skills as well.

Fun with Refraction: water on CD | Boost Your Photography

Fun with Refraction

CDs and DVDs have shiny surfaces that naturally bend light rays and create prismatic effects. If you haven't before, spend a little time with a CD or DVD on a bright day. Hold the disc out level and look at the colors and patterns across the surface. Tilt the disc in various ways and see how the colors change and move. (Tip: this works better with a blank CD or DVD without any data written to it. That way you have a clean surface to observe.)

Rainbow Prism on a CD | Boost Your Photography
Rainbows on the surface of a CD, taken with 10x close-up lens
Adding water to a CD takes your photographic options to a new level. Each water drop will further refract the light and create miniature patterns of light, color, and pattern that are repeated in each drop. 

Set-Up for Water on CD Refraction Photography

Find a location near a window with good natural light. You want the full spectrum of sunlight to play with for this kind of shot. You do not need direct sunlight, as strong indirect light will also work well. 

The easiest way to add water to a CD is to use a spray bottle. Turn the sprayer to mist and spray the CD several times. (The more water you spray, the more water will bead up together and create larger drops.) You may want to let the water sit few minutes to see if it agglomerates any more.  

Set-Up for Water on CD Refraction | Boost Your Photography
Example set up with tripod and extension tube, as used for the following photographs

I recommend using a tripod, especially if you are shooting close-up or macro views. A tripod will allow you to shoot at an aperture of f/22 for maximum depth of field. I like trying to keep all my drops in-focus for this kind of shot, but you can also experiment to see what results you prefer.

Water on CD Refraction | Boost Your Photography
Shot at f/22 using the set-up above

Different angles between the CD, the light, and the camera will give different results. Also pay attention to the colors and patterns that are reflected and refracted in the droplets. In the photograph above, you can see the rectangular lines and patterns of the window in each droplet.

Water on CD Refraction | Boost Your Photography

For this photograph, the CD was rotated so that the window light is now streaming in across the CD, leading to a brighter look to the light and a different color scheme. (If you look at the pattern of drops carefully, you can see that they are the same as in the previous photograph.)

Water on CD Refraction | Boost Your Photography

The addition of the 14 mm extension tube to the 7 mm extension tube allowed me to shoot a much closer-in composition of the water droplets, featuring a single droplet and rainbow. I experimented with several angles and directions for the light in order to get the most color and rainbow variety in a single shot.

Water Droplets on a CD | Boost Your Photography
Go all out and have fun with it!

Curious about the image at the top of the article? That one was taken using a ring flash mounted on the front of the camera lens. All of those bright lights and circles are reflections of the light from the ring flash across each of the individual drops and their curving surfaces.

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Boost Your Photography: Learn Your DSLR is now available from Amazon. Get the most out of your camera with practical advice about the technical and creative aspects of DSLR photography that will have you taking beautiful pictures right away.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Focus Stacking for Macro and Close-Up Photography

Focus can be a difficult prospect with macro and close-up photography. The closer you are to your subject, the thinner your depth of field (the area of your subject in focus) becomes. Even if you use a narrow aperture (like f/22, read more here), your widest depth of field might be less than an inch, front-to-back. Focus stacking is a technique for shooting and combining a series of photographs to achieve focus across as much of your subject as you want.

Focus Stacking for Close-Up Flower Photograph | Boost Your Photography
Close-up flower, photographed using 50 mm lens and 10x close-up lens. 3 images focus stacked.

How to Photograph a Series for Focus Stacking

In order to easily blend your series of images, you will want to shoot in Manual mode (M) on your camera. This will ensure that all your photographs have the same settings and exposure. (Unsure about manual mode? Take a test image of your subject first, using whatever mode you are comfortable with ... Av/A for aperture, Tv/S for shutter, P for Program, or even just Auto. Then, look at the settings your camera chose for that picture. Switch into manual mode and dial in those same settings for ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. Ta da!)

You will also want to use manual focusing. You can either decide on your composition and twirl the focus ring on your camera lens until your subject looks perfectly in focus, or you can twirl the focus ring on your camera lens first and then move your body slightly forward or backward towards your subject until it looks perfectly in focus. (The first method will give you exactly the composition you want, while the second method will give you the closest-in focus you can get.)

Then, think about your composition and exactly which parts of your subject you do or do not want in focus in the final image. Maybe you want every single thing in focus, or maybe you only want one certain area of your subject to be in focus.

Focus Stacking for Flower Photography | Boost Your Photography
2-image focus stack of a close-up flower

For this photograph of a flower I knew that I wanted the center of the flower to be in focus, but I still wanted the petals blurred and out of focus. When I took my test shot, I focused on the front of the flower's center, and I was able to get about half of the center in focus. I then took a second shot keeping the back half of the flower's center in focus. You can see that the rest of the petals are not in focus while most of the center (except for the very foreground) is in focus.

Since you are using manual focus, the movement required between each shot will be very, very small. All you need is the slightest of leans closer or farther from your subject. Practice looking through your viewfinder (or using Live View, if you prefer) and watching the area of focus move through your subject as you lean in-and-out slowly and slightly. When you are ready to photograph your series for focus stacking, start from either the closest in or farthest out that you want in focus. Take the first photograph, move slightly to adjust the focus, freeze and take the next photograph, and repeat.

Focus Stacking and Processing

Once you have your series of photographs with varying areas in focus, you are ready for the post-processing focus stacking step. These directions and 'how to' images are using Adobe Photoshop. There may be other options available for focus stacking, but this is what I use.

The first step is to open each of the individual images in Photoshop. Then you will copy and paste them all into one single file. Hold down shift and click to select each of the individual layers. Then choose Edit -> Auto-Align Layers. I find the Auto projection usually works just fine. Click OK. This will exactly line up all of the individual images. Since you have to move slightly to take each picture and change the focus, the images will each be slightly off from each other, and this will correct those differences.

After the Auto-Aligning is finished, all of your layers should still be selected. Then choose Edit -> Auto-Blend Layers and choose the Stack option. Click OK. Photoshop will then select the sections from each image that are best in focus and create a composite final image.

Focus Stacking Combines In-Focus Sections from a Series of Photographs | Boost Your Photography
Click caption to see focus stacked image larger on Flickr.

This series shows the results of focus stacking three individual photographs of frozen droplets. The top three images show the different pieces of the three images that were selected for inclusion in the final, blended, focus stack image beneath. (You can tell from the final image that I really needed a fourth photograph, of the ice crystals closest to the camera, in order to get them in focus as well.)

Click caption to see the final image larger on Flickr.

This collage shows a comparison of the four individual photographs and the final, focus stacked image. You can see, again, that small sections of the leaf are still not in focus, because the area in focus jumped slightly too much from image to image (for example, look at the middle of the near-middle leaf). The key with focus stacking is always to move very slightly and try to overlap the regions in focus from image to image.

Try Focus Stacking

Focus stacking is a great technique to try when photographing a close-up or macro subject when you want a larger area of the photograph in focus. Focus stacking allows you to combine multiple images with slightly different areas in focus into one, well-focused final image. The tricks for successful focus stacking and blending are to use manual settings and focus and to make only minimal movements from image-to-image in order to ensure perfect focus.

Focus Stacked Photograph of a Close-Up Flower | Boost Your Photography

What will you use focus stacking for? Share an idea or photograph in the comments below.

Boost Your Photography: Learn Your DSLR is now available from Amazon. Get the most out of your camera with practical advice about the technical and creative aspects of DSLR photography that will have you taking beautiful pictures right away.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Shutter Speed: an overview

Shutter speed is one of the three in-camera variables when taking a photograph, the other two being aperture and ISO. You need to understand how shutter speed works and how to use shutter speed to get the kinds of photographs that you want. This post will provide an illustrated overview of shutter speed and some recommendations about which speeds to use in which situations.

Compare Shutter Speed | Boost Your Photography

What is Shutter Speed?

Shutter speed is a measurement of the length of time that your camera's shutter is open for the sensor to capture and record the light that is hitting it. The longer your shutter speed, the more light is captured and recorded. The shorter your shutter speed, the less light is captured and recorded.

You can also think about it from the opposite perspective: the more light you have already in the scene, the quicker of a shutter speed you can use. The less light you have in the scene, the longer you will need to have your shutter open in order to record a balanced photograph. So, if you are shooting on a bright sunny day, you can often use shutter speeds measured in fractions of a second. If you are shooting at night without much light, you will often need to use shutter speeds measured in full seconds.

If you shoot with a long shutter speed, you need to make sure that you camera stays rock-steady. The best way to do this is to use a tripod or rest your camera on a stable surface. (Read more about How to Maximize Your Tripod.) The general rule of thumb is that you can safely handhold your camera down to a shutter speed fraction of 1 over the focal length of the lens, as in 1/50th of a second for a 50 mm lens or 1/200th of a second for a 200 mm zoom lens, etc. If your shutter speed will be longer than that value, use a tripod.

Shutter Speed: an illustrated overview

The following infographic is an illustrated representation of shutter speed and its application to different situations. Shutter speed is measured in a unit called stops, and each stop represents a halving or a doubling of light from the previous speed. Each interval on the chart represents one full stop of light.

1/4000th of a second is a common limit for the fastest shutter speed offered on DSLR cameras, although some top-models can shoot faster. You want to use this very quick speed if you are shooting a quickly moving subject (like a bird in flight) and want to stop its motion completely.

1/2000th and 1/1000th of a second are still very fast shutter speeds, and ones that you will mainly be able to use if you are shooting outdoors or in very bright light. The backlit heron was shot at 1/1000th of a second against the backdrop of a bright rising sun.

1/500th of a second is a great shutter speed to use when trying to freeze the motion of your subject. In general, you should be able to get a moving subject to look like it is still if you are shooting at 1/500th of a second.

1/250th is an important shutter speed to remember. This is the general limit for freezing the motion of a subject. Any slower, and you will start to see motion blur, such as with the jumping squirrel at 1/30th.

1/250th is also the flash sync speed for many cameras. Your camera will be unable to take a successful picture using the flash at a speed faster than 1/250th. (If you try, you will see a black bar across the top or bottom of your picture - this is the camera's shutter itself being recorded while in the process of opening up to take the picture.)

1/60th of a second will show a subject like flowing water as individual droplets (as shown) and is reaching the limit at which you can reliably handhold your camera.

By 1/15th of a second, you should consider using a tripod or expect that some form of motion blur from your shaking hands may become a visible in the photograph. Practice pushing the shutter button smoothly and bracing your elbows against yourself for added stability.

Around 1/4th of a second, you can create a panning effect by moving the camera at the same speed as your subject while shooting. This creates blur in the background by renders the subject frozen. Read more about Panning Photography.

1" or one second is another good shutter speed to remember. At this speed or longer, water starts becoming less individual drops and instead appears like flowing, silky strands. The three waterfalls in the graphic were shot at shutter speeds of 1/4th, 2 seconds, and 6 seconds, respectively. Read more about Shooting Waterfalls.

Shutter speeds of multiple seconds allow for unique and creative nighttime photographs. The hearts and spirals were drawn with sparklers over the course of 10 seconds, while the massive amount of traffic trails by the Christmas trees took 30 seconds.See more examples and how tos in Long Exposure Photography at the Fair(e), Light Painting: how to spin an orb, and Spinning Fire with Steel Wool Photography.

The final shutter speed is often labelled as "B" for Bulb. In bulb mode, the camera's shutter will stay open as long as it is held down (or, more commonly, as long as the remote shutter release is held or locked down). Bulb mode is useful for situations when you want a shutter speed of longer than 30 seconds. Your camera will generally provide a count-up timer while you are shooting, so you know how long the shutter has been open.

Shutter Speed: in review

It is important to understand shutter speed and to choose appropriate shutter speeds for your photography situation. If you are shooting in Time Value (Tv) or Shutter Priority (S) mode, you choose the ISO and shutter speed, and your camera will select the aperture. In Manual (M) mode, you choose the ISO, shutter speed, and aperture. Even if you are shooting in Auto or Program (P), you should always keep an eye on your shutter. Make sure that it is quick enough for your to handhold (or get out that tripod) and is quick enough or slow enough to capture the effect you are looking for.

Want more posts geared toward beginners? Click 'For Beginners' up at the top or try the rest of our series, Camera Settings and Strategies:

Want a full introduction to your DSLR and photography? Boost Your Photography: Learn Your DSLR is now available from Amazon. Get the most out of your camera with practical advice about the technical and creative aspects of DSLR photography that will have you taking beautiful pictures right away.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Product Review: Square Perfect Light Tent

Those of you that follow me on 365Project know that I became the proud owner of a light tent last month as a birthday gift and that I have been using it a lot. A lot. Many of you were asking for more specifics, so I wanted to include a more formal product review about it.

High Key Flower Bouquet | Boost Your Photography
Bright, high key flowers photographed on white background in 30-inch light tent cube.

This is part of a mini series about light tents in general. The foldable DIY light tent directions are here, and the next two posts: How to Use a Light Tent for Small Product Photography and Compare Light Tents: DIY vs. Kit are now up over on Digital Photography School.

Product Review of the Square Perfect SP500 Light Tent Kit

The full name of the light tent is the Square Perfect SP500 Platinum Photo Studio in a Box, and it currently retails on Amazon for around $140 USD, originally priced at $350. There are also other versions by Square Perfect with different sizes or models of tents, such as the Premium Studio with only the larger light tent for $70 USD. You can also buy just the light tent cubes alone in various sizes: 60-inch cube48-inch cube, 12-inch cube, etc.

Square Perfect SP500 Platinum Photo Studio in a Box Light Tent | Boost Your Photography

The Square Perfect SP500 Platinum Photo Studio in a Box contains two different light tent cubes, as well as lights and accessories. The complete contents are

  • 1 12-inch light tent cube
  • 1 30-inch light tent cube
  • 1 camera tripod
  • 8 fabric color backgrounds (white, black, red, and blue - one set for each light tent; larger backgrounds not pictured above)
  • 2 lights with adjustable stands
  • 2 30W / 5400K daylight fluorescent spiral bulbs
  • 1 canvas carrying case (approx 18 x 24 x 7 inches)

Unpacking and Initial Impressions

The light tents were easy to unpack, and I was able to start using them right away. Folding the tents back down into the flattened shapes they came in is a little more difficult, and many Amazon reviewers suggested searching for YouTube videos to get the hang of it. I have been storing mine open and unfolded for the time being, but if you are short on space, refolding is possible with a little practice.

Roll, Do Not Fold Fabric Backgrounds | Boost Your Photography

The fabric backgrounds come folded up inside the carrying case. I highly recommend that you take the time to unfold and iron them before trying to shoot with them. The wrinkles and shadows from the folds will be visible in your images and require unnecessary post-processing work. I ironed mine gently on both the front and the back using a low setting. For long-term storage, save the cardboard tube from a roll of wrapping paper (or paper towels for the smaller backgrounds) and carefully roll up the backgrounds. This should eliminate the need for constant ironing. (I have not had to iron mine again since that first time.) Keep a small lint roller on hand too, to remove any visible lint, dust, whathaveyou that might accumulate while shooting.

Setting Up and Shooting with the Light Tents

I have found myself using the larger 30-inch cube for the majority of my light tent shots, but I did do substantial initial shots with the 12-inch cube in order to compare it to my DIY version for the forthcoming DPS article. I have had the best success using both sizes of cubes elevated on a coffee/end table. This allows me to set up the lights in the middle of the light tent and also allows me to more easily use my full-size tripod.

Square Perfect Light Tent Set-Up | Boost Your Photography
30-inch light tent cube for a white product-style photograph
Speaking of tripods, after my first attempt, I have not used the tripod that came with the kit except for when I wanted to take setup shots showing my DSLR camera on a tripod. The attachment base that screws into your camera body is thin and flimsy, and I could not get the screw to tighten or stay tightened. The legs are very thin and seem unstable, and the tripod sticks and is difficult to get back closed. Most photographers already have a tripod, so this is not really a concern about the product. 

My other complaint about the kit is with the smaller cube: the bottom is not perfectly flat (likely a result of how long it was stored in its folded-up state prior to being purchased). I ended up putting a small book in the bottom, underneath the backgrounds, in order to keep my subjects level. The lip on the smaller light tent is also a bit high, but the book raised the bottom up enough to avoid having the lip show up when shooting. 

Issues with Small Light Tent Cube | Boost Your Photography

The 30-inch tent is a great size for shooting a wide range of subjects and sizes of subjects. I have shot everything from an entire vase of flowers down to a small, few inches high statuette. I even used the side of the light tent as a white backdrop to shoot a profile selfie shot. (No, I did not need to stick my head inside the tent.)

The lights that come with the kit work extremely well. I have been able to shoot in the evenings using just the light from the two lamps, as well as in the middle of the day with some ambient light already in the room. The light stands are adjustable up and down from a height of 20 inches up to 32 inches, and the light hoods themselves are also adjustable and can be angled up and down to further direct the light. When the 30-inch cube is placed on my 18-inch high IKEA end table, the lights extend up exactly into the middle of the tent.
Purse Product Shot using Light Tent | Boost Your Photography
Example shot of the purse (no yellow tones)
The daylight color temperature of the lights (rated at 5500 Kelvins) is a very useful feature. This allows you to shoot on Auto or Daylight white balance, and the whites stay white. Common indoor fluorescent and halogen lights impart a yellowish glow that requires more work or post-processing but many of my shots with these lights could be used straight out of the camera.

Example Shots Using the Light Tent Kit

Here are a few example shots to show you what kinds of results the light tents are capable of producing.

Low Key Wolf Photograph | Boost Your Photography
Low key photograph of wolf statue, using only one light and the light tent
Chinese Mirror Photographed in Light Tent | Boost Your Photography
Chinese mirror, photographed on red paper in white light tent
Macro Bubbles on a Feather | Boost Your Photography
Macro bubbles photographed in light tent on white background.
See more in Product Review: close up lens
Same feather as above, shown inside the light tent to provide a sense of scale.
Sandwich Food Photography | Boost Your Photography
Tasty sandwich photographed on a wooden tray, inside the light tent

Final Verdict

Overall, I am extremely happy with the Square Perfect SP500 Platinum Photo Studio in a Box. It has provided any easy way for me to shoot indoors and solved the problem of always hating how little quality light there is at night in my apartment! I have used it for white-background product-style photographs, black-background low key shots, food photographs, and even for a variety of macro and close-up photographs, some of which I used simple pieces of scrapbooking paper for backgrounds (read more in Macro Fakery: background creation.)

While I received mine as a birthday gift, I think you receive a lot of value for the price. (The bulbs alone constitute $30-40 of the total price, as replacement daylight-balanced light bulbs are listed online for $15-20 USD each.) The two sizes of the light tent cubes and four different colors of fabric backgrounds provide a wide variety of set-ups for different situations.

If you are looking for a way to shoot consistently high-quality shots of smaller items, and especially if you are trying to shoot product shots for eBay or an Etsy store, then I definitely recommend getting a light tent. You will save yourself endless hassle and post-processing "correcting" with a minimum of set-up and fuss.

What do you think?  Do you own a light tent?  Any comments about yours I might have missed?

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