Like many people, I am running on a fairly tight budget just now. As such, I needed a way to take pictures with the minimum cost and with the least amount of space used. The picture above shows the setup I use for taking pictures.
I got the idea for making this little light box from Corvus miniatures. There, he uses an aquarium and foil to get light from many angles. I replicated this design using an old toaster box lined with aluminum foil. I recently modified it so I can fold it up for storage. There is foil on the sides and bottom that do a great job of reflecting light. The aluminum foil is just held on with scotch tape. I have a bulldog clip on there that I used to hold the backgrounds sometimes. I usually rest the camera on the table in front of the model when taking pictures or hold it at different angles. This setup took about 30 minutes to make.
Cost: $0.50 of aluminum foil and tape
From everything I have read, a light is one of the essential tools for taking decent pictures. The lamp I have is a basic one from Ikea. I also bought some daylight, full spectrum light bulbs to reduce the yellow or blue look from light bulbs that are not full spectrum. The lamp and bulbs are also used whenever I paint or model. I have found that a single light with the light box gets a decent result.
Cost: $15 for lamp, $5 for daylight bulb
A nice background really helps to add to the professional finish of the pictures. Corvus miniatures also has some great free backgrounds that I use. My pictures so far have been taken with backgrounds printed using my home inkjet printer. It is a little grainy, but it works alright. I recently got some backgrounds professionally printed. They are a bit glossy, so I have not perfected using them yet.
Cost: $0.50 for ink, $0.50/background at a printers
I am sure that a nice camera makes a big difference. Digital SLR cameras give you lots of options and fine control over your pictures. Unfortunately they are also the same cost as a months rent... I have a five year old, five megapixel Canon camera that I use for my pictures. It was out of date when I bought it and it is definitely on its last legs. It is a Canon Powershot A530. It works. The batteries drain in about 10 pictures though, so it needs replacing soon. As the batteries are so bad, I don't have time to play with settings and just shoot pictures on auto or indoor setting mode, with macro and no flash. I have found this camera takes decent pictures with vibrant colours. Honestly though, if you need to buy a new camera, buy something more modern with rechargeable batteries!
Cost: Used on Amazon.com: $32
The camera. Has survived four international vacations, being dropped, frozen, and abused for five years.Conclusions
Total cost new: $53
Total cost for me: $3 (backgrounds)
This setup is cheap and effective. The lighting is not perfect but you can play around with the pictures, lighting, and angles to get decent results. A professional photo booth, lighting, macro lenses, and dSLR cameras will undoubtedly get better results in the right hands. Taking more time with my lighting and timers would also help. This setup works perfectly fine for an amateur on a budget who is not really interested in photography.
With that said, here are some pictures I have taken with this setup.
Check back tomorrow for Part 2, where I explore the difference that different lighting conditions will make to your pictures. If you have any questions, please feel free to post in the comments section.