Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Cheap, Green & Diffuse: A Paper & Binder Clip Light Tent

Does the web need yet another how to post on making your own light tent? There are certainly other good options out there for DIY light tents.

But using just paper and binder clips it's possible to make an even cheaper and even simpler light tent. And if for some reason you get beet juice on it, it can be recycled.

Start with three A3, 11" by 17", foolscap, B, tabloid or similar size medium-thickness pieces of paper. Then get 4 binder clips. In a pinch paper clips will work.

Take one of the sheets of paper and fold it in half lengthwise (1). Then make a roughly one inch fold on one of the ends perpendicular to the first fold (2). Cut a roughly 2.5 centimeter slit on the other end of first folded edge (3). Finally fold a T-shape with the slitted end (4). This is the first side of your light tent.

Attach a binder clip to the folded side near the T-fold side to clip together the edges of the paper that were formed with the very first fold.

Take a second piece of paper and fold it in half lengthwise (5). Then make a roughly 2.5 centimeter fold on one of the edges perpendicular to the first fold (6). Note that folds 2 and 6 mirror each other. That is fold 2 above is to the right while fold 6 is to the left. This step isn't critical but will result in sides that are mirror images. Once again make a roughly 1 inch slit (7) and T-shaped fold (8).

Attach a binder clip to the second side in the corresponding position as was used for the first binder clip.

Almost done. Take the third piece of paper and make a fold on one of the short ends of the page. This page will be the back and bottom of the light cube. The fold will be used to attach the paper to the sides and should be about thumb wide.

Take the two sides and position them in front of you with the T-folds away from you. The sides should be about a page width apart. The mirroring of folds 2 and 6 should be evident and in this case they fold out from the center of the light tent.

Use the last two binder clips to attach to the folded edge of the back/bottom page to the T-folds of the two sides. The folded edge of the back/bottom should sit on top of the slitted edge of the inner T-folds of the sides.

That's it.

There are plenty of variations. More binder clips can be used to add stability. Double folds can be used if the paper is thinner. Different colored paper can be used for different colored light tents. A fourth folded page can be added as a top. I typically shoot with indirect office lighting or reflected daylight so the four sided cube is adequate.

This light tent can also be scaled up and down. How else to take photos of your new light tent but inside of a larger light tent? Cheap railboard is great for larger versions. In the intrest of brevity, instructions for matryoshka light tents will not be covered in this post. Given the wide availability of paper and paper clips it's also quite handy to be able to construct a light tent as needed, especially when traveling, in a co-worker's cube or on the beach. It takes me about a minute to make one from scratch. The binder clips can be removed for lay-flat storage of the light tent. The resulting images, for example the composition below, are sufficient for many uses, even blogging.

And remeber if you get beet juice on your light tent it can easily be recycled.

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