"Least bad" tents for shooting jewelry

Discussion in 'Lighting Equipment' started by lex_jenkins, Jun 29, 2005.

  1. I know from reading many of Garry's posts that he's not fond of the
    bland look imparted by these small tents and domes. Generally I'd
    agree. Most of the time I've laboriously rigged small lights,
    underlighting, etc., to show off each designer's pieces with some

    But the fact is that sometimes I just need to grab something and go.
    The jeweler doesn't care about anything fancy and can't pay much. If
    they're willing to accept compromised results I'll do my best, as
    long as it doesn't take too long.

    What I want is the "least bad" of the many small tents and domes on
    the market. There are way too many to choose from and no single
    dealer I've visited carries more than a single model.

    My priorities, in relative order:

    1. Very portable - lightweight overall and collapsible

    2. Easy to set up

    3. Easy to take down

    4. Accepts sweep backdrops and similar *simple* accessories (nothing
    fancy). And pulling the Velcro shouldn't rip the thing to shreds.

    5. No rigid or semi-rigid transluscent plastic stuff.

    I've also ruled out mini-light tables like the Kaiser Studio-Out-of-
    the-Box and American Recorder Studio-in-a-Box (what an imaginative
    bunch of marketing gurus, huh?). I can rig that up myself.

    And a final question: is an extra hole in the top for aiming a camera
    downward worthwhile, a la the Photoflex LiteRoom?

    Between the stuff from Lastolite, Paterson, Photek, Photoflex, Red-
    Wing, etc., which would be your choice if you were in my position?

    Please, no lectures about doing it the right way or not at all. I
    already know I've sold my soul to mediocrity.

    Thanks, all.
  2. I've tried manufactured tents, rip-stop sail cloth and a variety of other fabric solutions for
    shooting jewelry and in the end, find I am most satisfied using a medium softbox and a
    "house of cards" surrounding the softbox and set made of various size sheets of foam

    It's cheap and easy and I find the results superior to the results I have gotton using various
    tent solutions.

    Good luck.
  3. I'm discovering that a white backdrop with foam core on the sides works wonders.
  4. Thanks, folks, but those are the techniques I've been using. Not portable or quick enough.

    I need something *really* portable and *really* quick for occasional use. I guess my question, more specifically, is which is the "best" small light tent out there? (I've been coyly avoiding using the word "best" because I know Garry's answer will be: "None of 'em!")

    But I'm not looking for something as a permanent or full-time substitute for shooting jewelry my preferred way. Just something to grab and go when the occasion arises.

    If it helps to put things into perspective, I drive a small pickup truck, bench seat, no jump seat and no enclosed storage in the bed. So, again, it's a mobility issue. When I've rented monolights, reflectors, etc., for certain jobs, my assistant (usually my niece, who is studying photography) gets to hold a mess of stuff in her lap.
  5. Lex,

    Red Wing makes some nice lighting tents.
  6. Thanks, Brooks. Hard to tell from a catalog so I appreciate your comments.
  7. Have a look at the ePhotomaker from Lastolite. It meets all the criteria you mention in your post.
  8. Thanks, David. That's an interesting variation of the type of thing I'm interested in.

    As much as anything else I'd like to be able to recommend something to non-photographers that's easy to use and produces good results. I keep running into folks who need photos of their jewelry or other handicrafts made for ebay, etc. I don't really want to do it, they don't know how and can't afford to pay a pro the going rates for personalized results.

    Truthfully, I believe that any jeweler or artisan who wants her work shown off to the fullest should hire the work out to a pro. Otherwise their photos-in-a-light-tent will look like everyone else's. But in reality not many folks will do that.
  9. Lex,

    I had to smile at your post.

    There are many kinds of photography and many kinds of photographers, and it's not for me (or anyone else) to disparage what other people do or what other people consider to be acceptable. My personal view is that there's plenty of work available for people who produce carefully lit, creative product shots and that I don't need to produce cut-price mediocre work that might compromise my own business reputation - but that's just a personal view and I certainly don't knock what you're trying to do here.

    Speaking as a PN member (not as a Lighting Forum Moderator) I find it a bit annoying that when people ask sensible, serious questions about how best to light jewellery or similar small products they almost invariably get answers that advocate the use of light tents, 'magic boxes' or sheets of foamcore - and that's the reason why I'm "not fond of the bland look imparted by these small tents and domes" - more specifically, I'm not fond of the belief that gadgets can replace care and knowledge.

    At the end of the day, products either do or don't sell because of the quality of their marketing, and photography is an important part of the marketing effort. In percentage terms, the cost of better photography is low, so it makes no sense IMO for people to skimp on the photography. But the reality is that many people simply don't agree with me and simply won't spend the money on good photography - there is overwhelming evidence of this in every Ebay category (yes, including the photography ones) and if you can persuade some of the people to go for mediocre instead of appalling then good luck to you!
  10. Thanks, Garry. Glad you took my ribbing in the intended spirit of good humor. And at least you know I actually read your posts. ;>
  11. Get rid of the puddle jumper and get a 1 ton Dodge diesel!
  12. Naw, I can't afford to fill the tank on that Dodge Ram, Miles. But I do kinda wish I'd bought the compact GMC SUV built on the same chassis as my pickup. I really thought I'd need the pickup more for rough toting than I'd need something with smaller capacity for careful stowing. That's why there's such a market for bedliners and pickup truck toolboxes and storage boxes. We really should have bought station wagons but needed to consider the country cool factor as well.

    But, as usually, I digress...
  13. Just to update this thread...

    I got the Photoflex LiteRoom medium size tent from a local dealer. The salesguy spent a lot of time with me, setting it up, letting me decide, so I spent a little more there than I might have paid at B&H or Adorama. (Altho' shipping, etc., can sometimes make small packages less a bargain anyway.)

    I skipped the various packages that offered Starlites, the tungsten lamps Photoflex sells. I don't object to hot lights or continuous lighting setups but I don't think I'm going to do enough small product photography of this very simple type to justify the expense. And anytime I might happen to need more than homebrewed lighting I can rent it cheaply from two or three local dealers - tungsten and cool lights.

    Also, I wanted to keep this setup small. The whole rig rolls up pretty much like an umbrella and stuffs easily into a provided ballistic nylon duffel bag. I can add either two or three clip-on or gooseneck lamps for continuous lighting or a serious of my various hotshoe flashes with optical triggers. Those, plus my reflectors and other gear will fit behind the seat of my compact pickup.

    The LiteRoom resembles a pyramid with the top lopped off. At the top is a peel-back flap for shooting from above or lighting from above. I haven't checked but I think the plastic support collar at the top is a standard size for studio lights. So it's a multi-purpose sorta thing.

    The entire ring is supported just like a dome tent - four flexible metal (I'm assuming they're steel) rods that pop out and support the four major edges. There's a sort of "vestibule" toward the rear with additional flexible rods supporting things but those rods aren't removable. That "vestibule" (I'm sure there's a more accurate term) is designed to provide more depth for sweeps and backgrounds. The LiteRoom doesn't include any sweeps or backgrounds but you can make 'em the usual way from whatever material you want, with a dot of Velcro to attach to the mated Velcro fastener inside the LiteRoom.

    There's no bottom to the LiteRoom so some sort of sweep, background or, at least, suitable "floor" is needed. I'm thinking about buying a few squares of decorative tile for use with product photography.

    I'll probably use bags of beans - literally, bags of dried beans from the grocery store - to help support items. Placed under sweeps and floor clothes these can help create simple, casual arrangements. Handy and cheap.

    The front is fitted with a zippered flap to allow easy access to whatever's inside. Helps when using a flashmeter to take multiple readings. This flap also includes a zippered slit through which the lens can be poked while excluding extraneous light.

    Overall it's a good design. About the only real flaw I can see is that there are quite a few things that might possibly cast shadows inside the tent: stitched seams, the support rods, zippers, Velcro patches, etc. However I haven't been able to determine yet whether this will translate to any sort of actual problem or if it's just a hypothetical problem.

    The only actual problem I've encountered is that my mom's Siamese cat appears to find it irresistable. I could not keep the cat from darting inside the tent every time I opened the flap to adjust the item I was photographing or to take a meter reading. If you have curious cats you might want to keep them in another room while using one of these small light tent thingies.

    Anyway, with luck this will help give me less to fret over next time someone asks me to photography stuff for their ebay auctions.

    Thanks to all who offered suggestions. I considered them all and read the product descriptions on the manufacturers' websites before making a decision.
  14. BTW, Brooks suggested the Red Wing. Since buying my LiteRoom I saw one of the portable Red Wing tent thingies at a local shop. It's definitely a viable candidate among the many choices.

    It's made of a tough, flexible white translucent synthetic. This rig would be very durable. However - and I'm just guessing here - I got the impression that more light would be needed from the outside to get the same illumination inside, compared with tents made from ripstop nylon.

    The Red Wing looks like it would set up and tear down quickly and easily. It's designed to be rolled up for stowing in a provided duffel type bag. Because the material tends to want to unroll itself it's difficult to keep it in a tight, small diameter roll, and you wouldn't want to force anything that might cause a wrinkle in the material. That's one advantage to ripstop nylon - it's limp after the supporting poles are removed.

    Overall, I'd say it's a tossup between the two rigs. They're very different and both very good.

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