When I started doing product reviews, one of the challenges I faced was with photographs. For most products, I was using two umbrellas with speed lights and a neutral backdrop. Things were fine but they occupied a lot of space. I had to set up things in my living room and then pack everything back after finishing the photo-shoot. Not a very comfortable idea considering the fact that I sometimes do product shoots every alternate day.
I started searching for light-tents which give better lighting for small products and occupy less space. Most light tents are made with some sort of white cloth stretched across a wire frame. Flash have to be placed outside the light-tent. While searching I came across an innovative product called ‘Boxtudio’. This seemed interesting. On Amazon India, the product was available for INR 1799 (About USD 25). Quite affordable! The description highlighted it as a Tabletop Portable Photo Studio. I ordered one without even giving a second thought.
It reached me in a few days. Took me just a few seconds to set it up. Unfortunately the power adapter was broken in transit. (Do they really play football with our parcels?) On informing the seller, they shipped another power adapter. I got it in a couple of days. Out of my comfort with the usual umbrella lights, I left it packed in one corner of my office, for the next few weeks. I continued to use my umbrellas and backdrop for product photography. One fine day, my backdrop was shredded to small pieces by my daughter. She is learning to use scissors in her activity classes in school. This was when I got down to assembling the Boxtudio and giving it a try.
(How it looks after getting set. The lights are on the small flap on the top. Its 15 Inch by 15 Inch base is large enough for most of my requirements.)
It is made up of plastic sheets which open up to form the base, back and the top of the box. Each of these has triangular flaps on both the sides. The sides have magnets at each end, fixed there by foam stickers. The side flaps snap to each other and keep the box open. Very neat setup to look at. It comes with a plethora of accessories. There are four backdrops made of high density foam and a carry bag wherein the whole setup in its carton easily fits. Even small paper clips are included to hold the backdrops in place.
There are hundreds of similar box studios available on various internet sites but this one turned out a little different. This also has built-in LED lights. I was planning to place my flash units on the side of the unit when I thought of trying out these lights. The moment I plugged them in and switched on, the whole Boxtudio was flooded with bright light. I had to bend the strip holding the LED lights slightly inwards for properly illuminating the box. The white material helped to evenly distribute the light all around. There were no dark or bright bands anywhere. I placed the object I wanted to photograph and clicked a few sample shots. No flash or any other light was used. The results were good. Interestingly the provided LED lights are powerful and very close to natural light. There was no need for correcting the color temperature balance. There maybe many more light tents and similar boxes available, so take your pick. I like this one.
I tried various photographs over an hour. The LED lights were kept switched on, all the time. There was no color temperature shift with time. The LED lights in my set turned out to be the best part of the bargain.
I left the box open on further use over the next few days. After a couple of days, the side flaps could not bear the weight and the top sagged a little. Magnets however held everything together. My suggestion – fold it back after every photo-shoot. It doesn’t take any time to assemble so there’s no reason not to fold it back every time. Just don’t store it folded for a long time. The rubbers holding the magnets tend to stick to the white plastic and can leave a mark.
How to get good product images with white background?
This is a simple to use method to quickly increase the contrast and get white background. Ideal method is either to use a mask or use clipping path and then create a white background but the method given over here is hassle free and provides acceptable results for most practical purposes.
- Do not use the white backdrop. The material of the Boxtudio is white enough.
- Keep the item to be photographed on the front part of the lower flap. Keeping it away from the rear sheet helps.
- Set the camera on a tripod.
- Switch on the built-in LED lights.
- Use aperture priority and click the image at a small enough aperture to get the desired depth of field.
- Keep the ISO at 100 or whatever is recommended as the least noisy for your camera.
- Use 3D matrix or evaluative metering (Metering Modes).
- In the post-processing stage, go to the Curves tool (Curves Tool at your service).
- Drag the White Point (Anchor/Control Point) at the top right, to a little beyond the right-most peak on histogram. This will blow out the white background and increase the contrast of the remaining image. (See the images below)
- Any remains of the shadows can be further wiped out in your image editing program using a white brush. I usually avoid it since absence of all shadows makes the photograph look too lifeless.
(Hand-painted wooden Easter Eggs, quite common in erstwhile USSR countries and in the Eastern parts of Europe. Photograph clicked in the Boxstudio with the standard camera settings as above)
(Used the curves tool in GIMP to blow out the highlights, in this case – the backdrop. The white point was shifted to exclude the histogram spike corresponding to the backdrop. The resulting image below has white background which merges well with this website. This is an easier method than Clipping Tool.)
(Easter Eggs after Curves tool. The background now merges well with the white background of this website. I also used a white brush to give the final touches without disturbing the shadows. There are three shadows for each object due to three groups of LED lights on top. If this is bothersome, smudging in post-processing may be done.)
Their website – http://www.whitecubeinnovation.com/
(I am not affiliated to them in any way except for being a happy user and on requesting they provided me with some pictures of the boxtudio from which I have used a few in this review. Many other companies have also started manufacturing similar products.)
EDIT : Lately I have seen many similar and even better looking products from various other companies. I have not done a review since I do not need more than one such solutions. If however, someone from my friends, happens to buy a similar product, I’ll sure check that out.