Though I've been typing away in front of a computer for decades, it was only a handful of years ago that I took a second look at the keyboard I typed on when a former partner introduced me to the mechanical keyboard community, full of like-minded nerds who went beyond the custom building of computers and branched out into the machine's peripherals as well. The variety of design options for every part of the keyboard drew me in, and the satisfying feel and sound of typing on one of these boards hooked me for life. With my partner already heavily invested with a collection of his own keyboards, I thought them the perfect subject to test out my new light box and practice set dressing and product photography.
My own foray as a keyboard enthusiast started with a custom kit called a KBD75 (the model of the case and switch board, which included the layout of the keys) and clicky Cherry blue switches that I soldered myself, another first. This board had RGB backlighting to the keys, and I topped it with a keyset called DSA Granite, a flat profile keycap in light shades of gray with primary color special keys. The whole process of choosing each element, pairing them together, and building the board itself piqued my industrial design interests and indulged my do-it-yourself passions.
Though I didn't set up a scene to photograph this keyboard, I still took some documentation photos once I completed it. The backlighting and side shine proved difficult to capture at the same lighting level as the keycaps and their colors, so I took both under- and over-exposed photos to combine later in editing.
The first keyboard I set up to take product shots of was a smaller simple silver keyboard on a plain white background. This board was a Pearl with GML 9009 keycaps, a simple beige set with medium green and rose red modifier keys. My goal was to take a few key shots that showed off the elegantly simple design of the case, with its beveled edge, subtle indicator lights, and brass plate behind the keys. After posting some of these shots to the community, many thought they were renderings of the keyboard rather than real life photos—a compliment that told me I'd achieved my goal.
The remaining keyboards to photograph were a bit more detailed or more colorful in design, so I had some fun setting up scenes in which to shoot these boards. Some backgrounds were printed on paper and tiled into a large sheet I could clip to the light box frame and others were set up by stretching fabric around the frame.
The first themed keyboard was a silver LZ CLSh with ePBT Cyrillic keycaps in red, featuring a custom red and black artisan keycap, called an Eggface Picolo from ETF/Nightcaps. This I set up in a pseudo Red Room inspired by the Black Lodge in the TV show Twin Peaks, complete with chevron floor, red curtains, and eerie lighting.
The top of this page features photos of a tiny, 47-key board called a Planck with a lime green case and GMK Mondrian keycaps. This keyboard has a ortholinear layout, meaning all the keys are aligned in a grid rather than staggered, which is supposed to help with typing by only needing to move your fingers from the home row by only 1 or 2 keys. This gridded layout I thought the perfect opportunity to use the Mondrian keycaps, inspired by the iconic paintings of Piet Mondrian. It seemed fitting to use a simple grid pattern for the background.
The next board had more of a sailor's theme. This keyboard was built in a bamboo case with a lid for portability and topped with the GMK Nautilus keycap set in deep shades of blue with red and yellow novelty keys. This I set on a background of white and blue stripes, reminiscent of sailor shirts.
Another simpler board I photographed on a plain white background was this black Leopold case with XDA Canvas keycaps. I thought the plain background the best to showcase the large legends of the alpha keys and the colorful modifier keys.
I shot this same case again in a brighter background with different keycaps, this time a vibrant blue, purple, and pink set called GMK Laser, modeled after cyberpunk aesthetics. To accent the bright pink of the keys, I photographed this board on a similar hot pink background.