In this review I will explain and demonstrate the use of a light shed (aka Shooting Tent) for shooting products. The shed kit reviewed here is Impact Medium Digital Light Shed Kit, available at B&H for $99.95. It allows you to shoot products while isolating them from reflections and harsh shadows, and diffusing any type of light source.
What’s in the kit?
The Impact digital light shed kit includes a collapsible light shed, removable plastic and fabric base for black, white, and translucent backgrounds, two floodlights and two compact light stands. The kit also includes a flat carrying case. Overall the kit is very light and portable and smartly designed.
Light shed: what for?
The shed provides a fast, portable and efficient solution for shooting products and art work in any location. The main characteristic of the light shed is the diffusing of the light coming from out of the tent, thus eliminating unwanted shadows. It allows for high quality photographs to be taken outside of the studio, without using expensive lights. For example, you can use the light shed with nothing more then plain daylight, or light it with any common light source like tungsten bulbs, halogen, fluorescent etc.
How light shed works:
The shed is made of flexible, collapsible metal frame and high-quality, translucent cloth. It can be lit from the sides, top, back, front or it can be placed on a shooting table for bottom illumination. The special characteristics of the cloth allow the light to penetrate the shed while diffusing it and spreading it evenly around the object. This creates a nice soft and even lighting, eliminating shadows on the subject. Thanks to the special design of the shed, the light sources don’t have to be positioned as accurately as when shooting without a shed. This makes the shed more flexible and convenient to use, and also more user friendly especially for amateurs.
There are several openings around the shed for inserting the items to be photographed, setting backgrounds, positioning the camera lens, and also replacing the bottom cloth with a translucent plastic that comes with the kit, for bottom illumination. The openings are equipped with Velcro and zippers for a fast, convenient operation and can be opened wide, or tightly closed to avoid reflections of surrounding objects.
Where is the camera positioned?
The camera can be positioned directly above the object (suitable for laying objects, paintings etc.), or at front, in various angles. You can rotate the shed to its width or depth to fit your needs and get the best results. Tripod should be used to fix the position of the camera and avoid blurred photos.
Tips for using a light shed / shooting tent:
Lighting: The main advantage of a shooting tent is that you can use almost any available light source, be it expensive or cheap, and count on the tent to diffuse and spread the light around the object. To maximize the efficiency of your session be sure to:
- Set your camera to a white balance value that matches your light source temperature.
- You can also use the light shed under daylight without any artificial light. In that case you should prefer to be in the shade and not under direct sunlight, taking the fact that the sun keeps changing position, effecting light intensity and other qualities of the light. In the shade, those changes are less intense.
Camera tips: The key to getting the best results is accurate work and choosing the optimal parameters for the task. I suggest:
- Use a steady tripod, preferably with the option to mount the center column horizontally. This will allow you to mount your camera straight above your items. An example for such a tripod is this Manfrotto.
- Use a remote control to trigger the camera, or a computer software that controls your camera (= tethered shooting). This will avoid the movements and shakes generated when your finger presses the shutter. If you can’t connect your camera to a computer and you have no remote control you can simply set the camera timer, so that when the camera takes the shot, it is actually steady and untouched.
- Select the parameters that will provide the sharpest, cleanest photo; choose low sensitivity (example: ISO 100), and set your aperture to a relatively high value (something like f/11 or even f/16). This will produce a sharp image, with low noise. It is most likely that you’ll need a relatively long exposure to get an accurate exposure which is another reason for me to emphasize the importance of using a tripod, and taking hand-free photos using a remote/mouse/timer.
As a general advice for shooting products and getting color and exposure accuracy, I suggest you use a grey card to calibrate white balance and determine the correct exposure. After you position the shed, your lights and the camera take a shot of your grey card and use it to set custom white balance and to bring your exposure meter to the center spot.
The light shed is a portable kit, providing a quality, easy to use solution for small to medium product photography. It’s useful for setting up a small “studio like” environment in any location, in order to shoot small products, art works, web advertising, e-commerce and more.
- Light weight
- Unbeatable value for price
- Easy to use