Documentation is an essential part of any work practice, and taking photography of creative works is a challenge in and of itself. While computer generated mockups of design solutions have their place, I dislike utilizing them for many reasons, the most of which is that it skips the steps and skills involved in actually producing a printed or other physically formed work. However, matching the quality of the computer generated mockup is difficult, so I decided to create a DIY photobooth lighting setup for such photography.
My first design was a simple white banner roll hung on a dowel above a table with makeshift light diffusers made from lamp shades attached to clamp lights. With only one tripod for my camera, finding the right placement for the lights was limited by surrounding shelves or furniture and proved to be the biggest failing point of the design.
I wanted the next design to be portable, versatile, and collapsible. After plenty of experience with PVC pipe fittings during my senior thesis work Pipe Type, I decided to use PVC pipes as a cheap and efficent building material to construct a framework for the background banner to fit on that would be easily put together and taken apart, light weight and moveable, and incorporate white fabric diffuser panels for lights. With these diffusers built into the lightbox itself, I could ditch the finicky lamp shades altogether, allowing better control over lighting placement.
This design went through several iterations, back and forth trips to the hardware store, and a great deal of remeasuring. Eventually I ended up with a cube consisting of two side diffuser panels and the top rear bar fitting my banner roll with the smallest amount of clearance possible to complete an almost seamless white backdrop. The diffuser panels were made of leftover spandex fabric, and into each edge I sewed a seam big enough to slip the PVC pipe through. Once assembled, I found the top front corners to be the perfect exterior mount for clamp lights to shine through the sides. I also invested in a larger tripod with crossbar for better overhead lighting.
The videos above show the process of putting this light box together. The first is a timelapse of some of the design process and actual making of the box. The second video shows the process of assembly for setting up the box. In this you can see that I usually keep the side diffuser panels assembled as they're easy to store flat. The remaining PVC pipes fit inside the banner roll for storage. The whole assembly takes only a few minutes to set up!
This light box is now one of my most valuable tools; I use it with every project. It's made an immense difference in how I photograph my work, streamlining both the processes of taking photos and editing the shots. I can easily change out the background banner for other colors or even expand the width if necessary with longer PVC pipes. One adjustment I made early on was adding a crossbar on the top of the box for use as a camera mount or for handing posters, t-shirts, and other work. I've also once refigured the pipe 'legs' of the box to create a standing photobooth for head shots.
All of the documentation photos on this site were taken inside this light box (including the sketchbook photos on this page), so browse around for examples of product shots.