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Thread: The Buckley Large DIY Light Tent (blame Terry)

  1. #1

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    The Buckley Large DIY Light Tent (blame Terry)

    I haven't used my store-bought light tent in a long time because I've always had better alternatives ever since I set up my makeshift studio. I suddenly preferred using a light tent today to make this photo, so I made one that is substantially larger, more versatile and cheaper than the one I already own.

    Why, as the title of the thread suggests, is this Terry's (Loose Canon's) fault? Because he forced me to buy a roll of Savage Translum awhile back, which is the primary material used to make the light tent.

    My DIY tent pictured below is standing on its own on a tabletop that is covered with material that is very similar to the translucent material that was used to make the light tent. Though the light tent is shown with no roof, I can easily lay a roof of any sufficiently light material on the top without having to attach the roof to the rest of the tent.
    The Buckley Large DIY Light Tent (blame Terry)


    CIRCULAR LIGHT TENT

    Materials
    Savage Translum (an 18-foot roll costs $50 at B&H Photo including shipping)
    Gaffer's tape
    Two 2"x 10" pieces of 3/16" white foam core

    Tools
    Scissors to cut the Savage Translum and the foam core
    Ruler and pencil to mark where to make the cuts

    Why Savage Translum?
    It's translucent. It's somewhat reflective when the subject is glass or something with similar properties. (Terry has posted a couple photos already that exploit the reflective property.) It diffuses light transmitted through it very evenly. It's white, so it reflects light. It's rigid enough to stand on a tabletop on its own with no support needed even when a roof is placed on the tent. It's crease-resistant (much more so than a roll of background paper). Even after using 8 feet of the Translum roll to make my light tent, I still have more than half of the roll left for use in other ways. Similarly, the piece of Translum that I used to make the light tent can be used in other ways when not being used as a light tent.

    Making the light tent
    1. Determine the height of the tent. Mine is 26" high, which is about the length of my arms.

    2. Determine the diameter of the tent. It should be no more than two inches larger than the shortest side of a rectangular tabletop. The diameter of mine is about 26" and I use it on a 24" square tabletop.

    3. Determine the circumference of the circular tent. (There are lots of free web sites that will calculate that for you once you input the dimension of the radius.)

    4. Mark a roll of Savage Translum using a ruler and pencil to indicate where to make the cuts. (Pencil markings erases easily in the event of a mistake.) The width of the cut piece will be the height of the tent. The length of the cut piece will be the tent's circumference that you determined above plus another 4 inches. Once the tent is assembled, those 4 inches will provide an opening for the camera lens.

    5. Cut the rectangular piece described above from the roll of Savage Translum.

    6. Using the piece that you cut in Step 5, mark and cut one end so that a piece 4" deep and 2" in from each side is removed. Doing so results in a strip on each side of the cut piece that is 2" wide and extends 4" beyond the main length.

    7. Cut two pieces of the foam core measuring 2" x 10". Crimp each piece of foam core about every inch so the board will easily bend, allowing it to accommodate the curved shape of the tent.

    8. Lay the cut Translum on the tabletop so the two ends meet each other facing upward. Using gaffer's tape (it doesn't leave any residue once it is removed), attach the two strips that extend beyond the one end of the Translum to the other end of the Translum.

    9. Using gaffer's tape again, attach each piece of foam core to the Translum so each one is centered lengthwise on each 2" strip of Translum. The foam core will stabilize the open side of the tent once it is standing. Notice in the photo shown above that the lower piece of foam core is NOT centered lengthwise on the 2" strip of Translum. After realizing that centering the strip provides more stability, I attached the upper piece of foam core properly centered.

    10. Now that the sides of the circular light tent are assembled, they are ready to be placed upright on the tabletop as shown in the above photograph.

    Using the light tent
    1. Position the tabletop. If you want a white tabletop that is free of texture, consider using a piece of the Savage Translum. If you want the tabletop to be translucent so light can be shined through it from underneath, place a piece of Translum on a glass tabletop.

    2. Position the subject to be photographed on the tabletop and position the camera. Refine the positioning as much as possible.

    3. Place the sides of the tent upright on the tabletop around the subject so the camera lens is pointed toward or is inserted into the opening in the side of the tent.

    4. If a roof is required for the tent, consider placing a piece of 3/16" foam core or other similarly light material on top of the tent. If the roof needs to be translucent and/or white, a store-bought circular diffuser works perfectly. Whatever you use as a roof, it does not have to be attached to the sides; simply add the roof to the tent.

    5. Position the lighting equipment at the sides, top and/or bottom of the tent.

    6. Refine the positioning of the subject, camera and lighting equipment. Make the camera settings and release the shutter.

    Disassembling and storing the light tent
    Remove all gaffer's tape from the tent and roll the tent sides around the tube of Savage Translum. Store the two pieces of foam core that are used to stabilize the side of the tent.

    Using the sides of the light tent for other purposes
    You now have a durable piece of white, translucent material that can be used for purposes other than an enclosed light tent.
    Last edited by Mike Buckley; 10th November 2013 at 10:54 AM.

  2. #2
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    Re: The Buckley Large DIY Light Tent (blame Terry)

    Can we see a pic of the light tent?

  3. #3

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    Re: The Buckley Large DIY Light Tent (blame Terry)

    I added a very crude photo and accompanying description to the first post. Hope that helps!

  4. #4

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    Re: The Buckley Large DIY Light Tent (blame Terry)

    Hi Mike,
    Very informatif !!!
    A few questions iff I may...
    How many lights do you use ?
    What type off lights ??
    Have you a 'standard' light setup ?
    Thanks, Kr, Rudi

  5. #5

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    Re: The Buckley Large DIY Light Tent (blame Terry)

    Rudi,

    I use whatever combination of lights and lighting accessories that produces the look I am trying to achieve. My lighting hardware includes:

    1 speed light that is always used off-camera that can be completely controlled by the camera
    2 lamps with approximately 9-inch reflectors that hold one bulb
    1 lamp with approximately 5-inch reflector holding one bulb usually used to light the background
    1 lamp with approximately 18-inch reflector that holds five bulbs
    4 standard stands (with three telescoping tripod-like legs) used to hold not just lamps but other things
    1 small stand with a fixed square base usually used to hold the lamp lighting the background
    Compact fluorescent bulbs rated 5500K and about 30 watts (light output equal to about 120 watts of an incandescent bulb)
    Diffuser socks that fit all of the reflectors
    Translucent materials such as vellum and acrylic that I want to transmit the light through
    Numerous pieces of black and white foam core in various sizes for reflecting, subtracting and blocking light
    1 store-bought snoot

    If you've seen my photos of clear glass such as this one that are lit to produce dark lines on a bright background, I have been using just the one large lamp shooting directly from behind and toward the subject through translucent white acrylic. Photos such as this one that are lit to produce bright lines on a dark background are made using the exact same setup except that the translucent acrylic is replaced by any opaque material (which perhaps surprisingly can even be white and still produce the dark background). Other than those two setups that I regularly use, anything goes so long as it produces the look that I want.
    Last edited by Mike Buckley; 10th November 2013 at 11:13 AM.

  6. #6

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    Re: The Buckley Large DIY Light Tent (blame Terry)

    Thanks for the detailed info Mike. Now I can set up my own fancy studio
    Kr, Rudi

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