Here's the challenge. You have to photograph small items for Ebay or for clients’ brochures. Lighting them can be challenging. Small reflective items usually exhibit specular highlights that must be controlled. If you add a product/shooting tent to the equation, your job is made dramatically easier.
A product tent is made of the same translucent cloth material that is used for diffusers. And that's just what it does. It diffuses the light around the product to show it at its best.
To photograph the product, place it inside the tent and position the light source outside the tent as close as you can get without touching the material to avoid a risk of fire. You then completely seal the tent except for a small opening for the camera lens to peak through to take the shot. If you connect your digital camera to a monitor, you can get easier, instant feedback to make fine adjustments to your set up.
Product tents differ in size and accessories, as well as the number, placement, size and type of openings. All of these should be considered when selecting a tent best suited for your needs.
The first consideration is the size of tent you need. Smaller tents are easier to work with and are less expensive, but larger ones allow you to shoot bigger products, as well. Larger tents are more difficult to work with when photographing smaller objects. Because you shoot from one side of the tent towards the other, you have to go back and forth as you adjust the product and then check it through the lens or monitor. If you have a lot of products to photograph, this process becomes tedious and tiring. Storage of larger tents is not an issue because they all collapse to minimal sizes.
Most tents come with accessories such as “sweeps" that serve as the background for the item. Sweeps come in different colors: black helps to prevent shadows on the background and provides separation from the item being photographed. White gives a smooth surface for the object (instead of the tent's seams and zippers). Sweeps come in other colors for variety. Another standard accessory is a removable plastic sheet that forms a rigid base. Extra accessories that can be purchased separately include stands, holding wax, and composition plates to help you consistently place your products when shooting more than one.
The next factor to consider when choosing a shooting tent is the number and placement of openings. Although they increase the price, more openings give you additional options to get the best angle for your product. The type of openings also is a feature to think about. The flaps for openings can be sealed by Velcro or zippers. Deciding on this option is purely a matter of personal preference except that Velcro openings can be more completely closed around both sides of the lens. Larger openings allow you to more easily work with the product in the tent; however, the flaps for those openings are more difficult to close.
One tent that addresses most of these issues well is the Photek Digital Lighthouse Shooting Tent. It comes in four sizes from 10.5 x 10.5 x 13.5 up to 24" x 24" x 36. " Prices range from $46.95 to $117.95 at B&H Photo Video.
The large one has both zippered and Velcro closures, and comes with a plastic form and two sweeps - one black and one white. The tent easily sets up and just as easily folds flat to slip into the included convenient storage bag. Other accessories such as stands, holding wax, and composition plates are available separately.
The Photek sweeps attach to Velcro strips on the inside of the tent. This is a great option; however, the Photek tent's strips are set only so that a sweep can be placed lengthwise. If your product needs to be shot horizontally, you must pin the sweep or other backing to the tent to hide the seams. Otherwise, you can remove the seams in Photoshop. The tent has fewer openings for handling the product and for the camera lens when shooting horizontally, as well. When shooting vertically, the Photek tent works extremely well. The placement, size and number of openings in that direction are ample.
Most of the Photek tent's openings are sealed by Velcro. Since the tent is stretched tightly when set up, it is sometimes hard to re-close the flaps. This is not a design flaw, but rather a necessary result when using the translucent fabric.
Overall, the Photek Shooting Tent performs favorably. Each of the factors that go into making a tent functional has its pros and cons. Photek's tent balances those extremes well. When photographing small items, a product tent such as Photek's will give your photos that enviable professional look with little effort.
Copyright 2005 Carolyn E. Wright All Rights Reserved
- ABOUT THE AUTHOR -
Carolyn E. Wright, Esq. , has a unique legal practice aimed squarely at the needs of photographers. A pro photographer herself, Carolyn has the credentials and the experience to protect photographers. She’s represented clients in multimillion dollar litigations, but also has the desire to help new photographers just starting their careers. Carolyn graduated from Emory University School of Law with a Juris Doctor, and from Tennessee Tech Univ. with a Masters of Business Administration degree and a Bachelor of Science degree in music.
Carolyn wrote the book on photography law. “88 Secrets to the Law for Photographers, " by Carolyn and well-known professional photographer, Scott Bourne, is scheduled for fall 2005 release by Olympic Mountain School Press. Carolyn also is a columnist for PhotoFocus Magazine and Naturescapes.net.
Carolyn specializes in wildlife photography and her legal website is http://www.photoattorney.com