Inspired by the excellent posts on the home light table setup over at diyphotography.net I took a quick trip the local cardboard box factory this weekend to begin the setup of my own home made light box table. And by local cardboard box factory I mean dumpster diving behind some of the big chain stores that sell refrigerators. Of course you could always walk in and ask a sales associate for a box, but sometimes dumpster diving is more fun - you never know what you might find.
So sure enough I found a great box that would fit the needs I was looking for. I wanted to use a refrigerator box due to its large volume. I wasn't really sure what I would be photographing on the table, but I wanted to make sure I had enough surface area to shoot anything I came up with. I also took the step to make the box into a triangle as you can see below in the photo. This allowed a much more stable platform to work with, and would let me support a greater weight of object. If you decide to build one for yourself, which I highly recommend over buying one for $100 or more, be sure to have a lot of packing tape handy. Duct tape also works well, but clear packing tape makes it look a bit more upscale.
Once the box was completed I took my strobe and placed it in the center of the box. I'm using an open faced strobe and bouncing it off the walls of the inside of the light table. This further softens the light coming from underneath the subject material and makes a nice subtle light. You can also take a soft box and drop it in the middle of the home light table to further control the light source. For this particular setup I wanted a fairly harsh light to really create some pop on the light table surface.
The next step after getting the initial form set up was to find a suitable backdrop to work with. Normally I would throw a roll of seamless paper behind the box, but I'm working in a confined space on this project. I chose to go with a muslin canvas that has eyelets in one end to hang from a support stand. This would allow me to have a few feet of distance from the back end of the light table to the muslin itself. Having a decent distance from your backdrop to the edge of the light table accounts for light fall off and should keep your backdrop nice and dark if you choose to go with black.
With the muslin backdrop being a good twenty feet long, I had plenty of material to work with. Once I managed to get it strung up and holding itself to the wall, I took the other end and flowed it over the back side of the light table and down into the middle. This lets the back of the home light table match the backdrop and creates a nice transition from table to back wall while maintaining the same color.
After getting the setup this far, I needed to run to my favorite home improvement store to grab some more material to complete the home light table setup. The final item needed was an inexpensive piece of plexiglass. If you've never worked with plexiglass in photography before, then you've been missing out. Not only is plexiglass safe to work with since it very rarely shatters, it also can create stunning reflections. As you can see in the next photo, I'm just laying it directly on top of the box. No need to secure it down to anything since the triangle box setup nicely supports a center weighted object.After this point you're all set to start shooting some objects on your new home light table. Be sure to have a note pad handy to write down your camera settings for quick reference next time you want to shoot a product. To create some more interesting light effects stay tuned for a further post on additional light setups.
Hopefully this will help out some photographers that are starting out with a home studio. Basically everything you can create from very low cost items if you're really trying to cut down on the monetary investment in this very expensive industry. Now go build your own home light table and post some images you've taken with it. I'm always interested in seeing what others are doing with home projects.