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I received an email yesterday asking about my camera, because the reader liked my bright white backgrounds. The trick isn’t the camera, although my (current 2019) Canon SX730HS (aff link) is a pretty fantastic point and shoot!), it’s the lights. So, while reassembling my tabletop “studio” today (something I do periodically, usually when prepping for a new pattern and the 1000+ photos I will end up taking, because the paper gets scuffed and dirty) I took some process photos. I’ll share where you can buy my basic equipment, and how I slap it all together with binder clips and painter’s tape. This much gets me about 75% of the way, and then I tweak them in Aperture or Photoshop Elements on my Mac.
Yes, this really cost me about $150. The best part is that the lights make whatever camera you already own take better pics, so you don’t need to run out and buy an expensive DSLR.
Cowboy Studio 1200W Lights & Stands (Four lights on two stands) – $106 @ Amazon (aff link) This set has been very good to me!
Super White 53″ wide background paper – $34 @ Amazon (aff link)
Painter’s Tape ~ $5 @ Amazon (aff link)
Command hook ~ $6 @ Amazon (aff link)
Foam board, 2 pieces, don’t need to be new as you will cover them ~ $8 (available at any craft or office supply store)
Binder clips ~ $3 (available at any office supply store)
Total $162. Use 50% off big box craft store coupons and you’ll get it under $150!
You need a table or desk of some sort. Anything wide and deep, like an old coffee table or desk. I needed to stand on a step-stool to take my overhead process pics, so I swapped this desk out for a lower TV stand.
I use two pieces of foam core board. The first one is flat on the desk, pulled forward just a tiny bit from the back edge of the table and taped down with blue painter’s tape. The second one is placed vertically on the desk, leaning against the wall while the piece taped to the desk prevents it from moving forward. I used clear tape to tape these together to make sure it doesn’t show through the paper.
Measure from the top of the foam board to the front of the desk and cut a piece of background paper off the roll that length plus about 6″.
Now, unroll the paper and make sure it’s lined up OK at the bottom, adjusting the clips or cut the edge straighter if necessary. If it’s OK, tape the top edges down. Then keep it unrolled and kind of shove it into the bottom corner as much as possible WITHOUT making it crease or buckle. You want the vertical and horizontal surfaces to be as flat as possible without a huge curve in the middle, but without a crease for a seamless look. You’ll find the sweet spot.
Then tape down the front corners. I like to use the extra 6″ to wrap it around the front of my desk and tape it underneath. You have to really fight to crease this paper, but it’s worth it to not have to crop blue tape out of of the bottom edge of every photo. If you can’t do this, then just tape it down to the front edge however you can.
Then, you can either hang your bag from the hook, or place it in the middle of the table (away from the wall) for the least amount of shadow and the brightest white background potential. I place the lights as close to the outside corners of the table as their stands will allow.
Not perfect, but not bad. What do you think?