Getting the full picture: Upgrading the light box

In which I supersede my soft light box with a quick trip to the local hardware shop, for less than the cost of medium size LEGO set…This gives me a place to take pictures of Voltron, who has learned some new moves.

Over the last couple of years, I have used a number of techniques to light and photograph LEGO Models and minifiugres here at the Rambling Brick.

I started out using a relatively minimalistic set up, using a phone, a foldable light with baking paper as a diffuser, and a piece of white paper.

Before too long, I started using a small, reliable ‘Soft box’ – with two compact fluorescent tubes, some diffusing fabric and folding up into a convenient carry case. This has been my mainstay of LEGO® photography over the last few years. It is pretty good for most smaller, which have a footprint of less than a square foot.

A Sizeable Challenge

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Short of breaking Voltron down and stacking the individual lions, I was never going to make this set fit in this box, all at once.

Voltron 31211: this set challenged my sensibilities with regard to what I could fit in the light box. In real life, I don’t have the space for a dedicated studio, with large lights. A bit of bench space in my build room is all I have. (you can read my review here)

But it was time to revisit my photographic setup, ideally while maintaining enough budget to pick up one of the new Powered Up trains. Perhaps I will need to look at the passenger train rather than the freight train now. I took my inspiration from my friend @frostbricks, who recently shared images of his kitchen table photo studio on Instagram.

I picked up a small roller blind at a Swedish based flat pack furnishings store, to provide a nice smooth background. The great thing with the blind is that it is long and narrow, and provides a smooth curve between the bench and wall. It set me back $24AUD

For lighting, I have held back a little: two small table lamps, with flexible necks ($10 AUD each at a large hardware – warehouse.  This is about the same as around two and a half to three coffees coffees) and some 75Watt LED bulbs (three to four coffees/$15 AUD for a pack of 3) on either side. The bulbs are cool white/ sunlight (64000K) and have a pearl effect.

IMG_9792IMG_9791Baking paper over the lamps acts to soften the light and reduce the harshness of any shadows cast. They are not perfect: I am still looking for an ideal device here at near minimal cost.

Here is the final photo from the above set up:

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I will confess to a little injudicious use of the healing tool on the lower left side of the image

It gives me a space where I can now take pictures of a couple of larger models, with an uninterrupted view of the front. There is still a soft white (slightly yellow) downlight that occasionally affects the pictures, as the room lighting is slightly yellow (warm white) in its colour cast.

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Two huge Ideas Sets, side by side. One has greater play value. In the absence of the cardboard cutout backdrops, it is a little sparse.

Giving Voltron Some Moves!

Now, since I posted my review of Voltron, the fan designer of the set, Lendy Tayag, has been exploring options with the final model, and has posted a way to workaround the lack of lateral articulation in the arms. The head is attached to the thorax, and the thorax to the abdomen using double ball joints, which normally restrict lateral movement. however, if you ‘pop’ the outer ball on these joints, the hand can swing towards the middle. There is no doubt that this severely weakens the strength of the joints: the arms become barely self supporting. However, locking them into a ring allows Voltron to maintain a sword up or down pose for a while. My experiments with this leave me thinking that the effect might be lost with a stiff breeze, or person stamping on the floor. I can understand why the default setting of ‘double ball joint, limited movement’ is used in the official model.

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Here are some examples of what I achieved with this technique.  That said, it was certainly on a hair trigger, with Voltron ready to drop his sword at any time!

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Voltron swings into action.

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Personally, I found this to be a bit of a revelation. It improves the poseability no end. I am sure it is only a matter of time before someone comes up with a way to get around the knee not flexing. I cannot emphasise that, despite the mobility, it greatly compromises the strength of the model.

In Conclusion

I look forward to experimenting further with this new ‘photo zone’, to see if it will help me get some more consistent images, as well as making it easier to take pictures of larger models. What do you think? Do you have a dedicated photo studio space for your LEGO creations? Let us know in the comments below.

Also, have you entered our Antman and the Wasp competition yet? build a model at large or small scale relative to a minifigure, for a chance to win a copy of the Ant-Man And the Wasp: Quantum Realm Explorers. Check out the original post for further details. you still have a couple of weeks to get your entry in.  In the meantime,

Play well.

3 thoughts on “Getting the full picture: Upgrading the light box

  1. Those photos look great, and that’s a clever setup you have! I’ve gone through a couple iterations myself – for a while I used a homemade light box – http://www.brickpile.com/2009/04/21/light-box/ – and in recent years I’ve been using one purchased from Amazon, that you can see here – http://www.brickpile.com/2016/12/01/advent-2016-day-1/ (scroll to the bottom of the blog post for the camera setup). While the box I use now is pretty big, your solution can accommodate nearly any size model. I may give something like that a try in the future.

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  2. Great results, Richard!

    I’m probably teaching you to suck eggs, but the further away you can move the diffuser from the light source, which of course requires it to be bigger, the softer the shadows will be. And, the further away the subject is from the back drop, the better.

    All of which requires space, of course…

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    • Thanks Huw- the distance from the light source I hadn’t considered. Size is a challenge, The distance from the background I was aware of. One of my goals is rapid deployment and packup, as well as minimal space used. I can see a time when I might move to something more …professional, but I need to get my whole space sorted first.

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