And I really mean cheap and easy. OK, not free. I did have to buy some plastic place mats on Amazon. But I got 12 for $18.00 which leaves plenty left over to use as place mats and as traveling work surfaces for polymer. That, packing tape and white card stock which I had (you could use printer paper too) and I was all set.
I have one of those cloth photo tents like this one and they are great for taking pictures of vases and bigger items. But it’s big and unwieldy in my studio and I actually had to watch a video on how to fold it and get it back into its storage bag. I wanted a smaller photo cube for jewelry and similarly sized items. I could have bought something, but could not find the size I wanted. It seems like these things come in two sizes: tiny and enormous.
That meant making one. I didn’t want to have to buy special paper. I didn’t want to have to find the right size box and saw the sides out of it. When I was finished taking pictures, I wanted to stow the box in a drawer or on a bookshelf. So here’s what I came up with:
Here’s the photo setup. I cut the place mats to size with scissors and used packing tape to make this triptych-like screen.
Here’s the set up with white paper behind the triptych under it. You can use paper and the other mats to make any kind of configuration you like. Just tape them together. You can put the lights anywhere to get the effect you want. The light I am using here is nothing fancy. It’s an LED desk lamp I bought at Five Below and it uses three AA batteries which means you can move it anywhere and not be fighting with wires. You can get something similar on Amazon here. Don’t pay more than $5.00 per lamp. They’re great for traveling to which is why I originally bought them. And don’t think you need to buy lights if you already have something you can use.
So, how do the pictures look? Let’s see.
Here’s a setup to shoot a pair of bronze clay earrings suspended on a piece of floral wire.
The image on the left is unlit. I used the lamp on the image on the right. I didn’t use any photo editing software.
Here are the same images Gimped. Click on the images a couple of times to view them full size. Gimp is a free open-source image editor that I have used for years. It can do anything you want. Did I mention that it’s free?
This is the photo studio folded up and ready to be put away. It hardly takes up any room at all. If you need something bigger, just tape on another mat or two. If you want something smaller, cut one down.
Here’s another idea. The plastic drawers in this storage unit are also made of translucent plastic. Before I started using the place mats, I got some pretty good shots using empty drawers.
Here’s a tassel I laid on one of the empty drawers. You don’t have use a place mat on the drawer like I did; simply turn it over if the underside is free from markings. You can try putting your small, battery-operated lamps inside or outside the drawer. Experiment.
Here’s a shot of the tassel with some light from the battery-operated lamp. Not too bad. One of the great things about these photo setups is that they are small and cheap enough to take outside into the natural light where you should be able to get some pretty good results. Experiment! And don’t forget to have fun.