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The simple lightbox

The simple lightbox

The pen is mightier than the sword. - Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Today I suddenly had an idea for a very easy light setup for macro or product shots. I was thinking about lightboxes and how to imitate one in an easy way. Building your own lightbox is not hard, but a fixed lightbox can be cumbersome to setup and need a lot of storage space. There must be something simpler, easier to set up and stow away.

In its essence a lightbox is nothing but a highly reflective environment for your subject which can be illuminated from within or from the outside (using transparent material for the walls). The goal is to create a light source that is evenly distributed around the subject giving diffuse light to suppress shadows and highlights. In 3D raytracing such a light source is often simulated by a large hemisphere around the object. Today I realized that in real life this can be your reflective umbrella! What if you put your subject under the opened umbrella together with a speedlite?

Such a setup could look like this:

Umbrella lightbox setup

It turns out that – at least for the scene I was testing it with – this setup works wonderfully! By repositioning the speedlight, you can adjust the amount and direction of the shadows you’ll get. Using differently sized and colored ground material (sheet of white paper here), you can also easily adjust the light even further. Below is a possible result created with this setup:

The pen is mightier than the sword. – Edward Bulwer-Lytton

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