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How To 24" Light Cube Photo Box - Cell Phone Tests and Mods for Knives

Discussion in 'The Gallery' started by SharpByCoop, Apr 5, 2020.

  1. SharpByCoop

    SharpByCoop Enjoying the discussions Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Oct 8, 2001
    Modern products are available to everyone. Because of the propensity for online sales, there are many manufacturers who make pre-made 'light tent' cubes to clearly photograph objects.

    Amazon, who DEMANDS clear photography on a white background helps their clients with this offering:

    Amzdeal Foldable Photo Studio 24x24 Inch Light Box with 4 LED Strips 5000LM 5500K,Photography Cube Shooting Tent,with Velcro Design,4 Backdrops (Blue/White/Black/Orange)

    As I write, it is less than $75. (Shipping extra unless you have AMZ Prime.) It's BIG.

    MANY years ago I created a popular thread for the hobbiest to take clear knife images, by building and creating the: 'No Frills' $75.00 home studio tent/lightbox.

    It's served MANY collectors and makers. However, the times have changed. Now EVERYONE has a great camera in their pocket, and LED lights have replaced Fluorescent daylight.

    I wanted to instruct how to do it on your own again. It's NEVER cost me business. In fact....

    I purchased one of these units and did a variety of tests. As I estimated, once I took some samples, the shortcomings for KNIFE
    PHOTOGRAPHY were readily apparent. Can I overcome them? Yes. :D

    Here's the setup as it came with the components laid out:


    Nice carrying case supplied! There is Velcro everywhere to stick it together. All the corners mate. (It's trickier to assemble than I thought, but follow the instructions!) Note the supplied vinyl backgrounds: White, black, tan, blue.

    Inside here's how they designed it:


    Note there are a ring of daylight LED's above, and portals to shoot straight down and from the side. Also see they INCLUDE a fabric diffuser (with a hole in it). It makes a difference if you need diffusion.

    The BOTTOM two photos are MY addition. I will get back to that in a minute...

    This is built especially for 'product photography', selling on Amazon, on Ebay etc. Here is an image I took of a knick-knack lit with NO diffuser. Really darn CLEAR! That's where it shines.


    But.... Knife Photography is tricky. I know it. The shiny blades have careful grinds and show unnecessary reflections unless positioned in a specialized 'tent'. (My own 'Pro' setup is a custom PVC frame with diffuser I created.)

    After I took a number of test shots with various knife subjects, I realized what I anticipated: That it would NOT provide GOOD knife images without more help.

    Blades need diffused lighting, and although they provided some help with an included diffuser, there was STILL a big hole in the top showing the tent frame.

    Let's look at some knife images as it came with their components, and THEN with the addition of the diffuser I hastily made and crafted to fit inside.


    Yeah, those LED'S alone are harsh. Their diffuser really helps. However, the additional diffuser tames them nicely. (Knife courtesy of BF maker @TK Steingass )


    Not quite as poor on this version. The smaller the blade, the less 'need' for a BIG diffuser. (Knife courtesy of ME, built from a KnifeKits.com kit years ago.)


    Now you can really see the lighting distinctions when a LARGE blade is captured. (Knife from my collection: A fighter by DeLeon)

    I did ONLY some in-camera editing for brightness on these. You can see they vary in color cast. Not perfect at all, and I would want to tweek them more, but that would influence this test beyond instructional. So I didn't.

    I created that inner diffusion panel with tracing paper/vellum, available online or at an Artist Supply Store. The frame was cut from a large piece of white poster board and I simply taped the paper to that. I used exact dimensions of 22" x 28" and taped tabs on the sides to support it on an angle. About 6" from the bottom at the rear and up to the top towards the camera. You can do better, yet I wanted to give an idea of the mounting simplicity.

    So, it's your call. I think that this product is good and with a small amount of work you can make it VERY Good.
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2020
  2. RayseM

    RayseM Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 18, 2010
    With this set up I could photograph my knives without going outside for a change :thumbsup: ;)

    To be honest I wasn't certain I would be able to pick out the best of 3 photographs but that was not the case. Completely obvious those taken with your added diffuser panel. I am inspired. Not quite certain that I am seeing your mods correctly - it would likely become obvious with the light tent in hand.

    I expect that later this summer I will purchase one and so refine the quality of my knife and jewelry photos. Thanks very much for your efforts on our behalf Mr. Cooper - SHARP indeed :)
  3. SharpByCoop

    SharpByCoop Enjoying the discussions Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Oct 8, 2001
    @RayseM Thank you. These are the responses I hoped this might generate.

    Here's a bit clearer (not cropped to fit) look at MY modification with the diffuser.


    A rectangle of diffuser with a thin posterboard frame, and those tabs are also cut from the posterboard, and folded and taped to the walls of the inside of the cube.

    Starts at upper top and extends down to about 6" off the floor.

    I sure wish this 'cube' was a rectangle. That's what a long thin knife needs.
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2020
    Dusty One and RayseM like this.
  4. RayseM

    RayseM Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 18, 2010
    Abundantly clear now. Thanks!
  5. Dusty One

    Dusty One Gold Member Gold Member

    Oct 12, 2004
    Thank you for taking the time to check this out and recommend a great addition to improve this for knife photography.
    Looks like it would be fun to mess around with !
  6. SharpByCoop

    SharpByCoop Enjoying the discussions Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Oct 8, 2001
    Additionally, I need to point out I took a few shots of the folder with my Canon 6D-MKII 26mp DSLR.....

    Not better whatsoever. Not a concern.

    This underscores how GOOD cell phone cameras are. The Samsung series have always been in the forefront. My son has the iPhone 11 pro max and it's amazing.

    (Of course I will continue to use the DSLR as my professional setup, as a cell phone CANNOT match it in my Pro setup shots.)
  7. UnknownVT


    Feb 15, 2003
    Just wanted to chime in on Coop's new thread.

    I'm still using my cheapo $1 foam board from the $1 store...

    As for my camera - still using the old Fuji X-M1 mirrorless because of the accuracy of focusing right on the sensor.
    I use an LCD viewfinder that magnifies the rear LCD screen 2.8x - so it becomes a cheapo "view camera"

    A demanding test is a close-up of something with lots of fine detail like a $ bill - below is a 100% crop:

    Being confined to home, I wanted to give myself a challenge -
    these are some pretty cheap knives in BF terms -
    but they are interesting because of the "blackwash" finish -
    so black-on-black challenge....

    One of the "problems" we all have is mirror polished blades - not just high sheen but real mirror polished - as the name says mirrors tend to reflect (unwanted) things - hence Coop getting this portable set-up.

    The main challenge is when trying to take a shot straight on - where the photographer and camera gets reflected with the tale-tell sign of flesh tones in the image.

    I like this image -
    but if you look carefully, the polished edge shows flesh tones(!)

    Partial mitigation for me is to wear black gloves, and since my camera is black -
    reflected "black" seems somewhat acceptable -
    Here's a shot where the mirror reflection is in multiple directions - without black gloves would have shown lots of flesh tones -
    but with black gloves - I can move around, almost with impunity, to get the best angle/modelling to show the tsuchime or hammering -

    all knife photos and the $ have EXIF metadata attached.

    Congrats on new thread -

    Last edited: Apr 15, 2020
    d762nato, ice-pic, Tigerfan and 2 others like this.
  8. Hengelo_77

    Hengelo_77 Basic Member Basic Member

    Mar 2, 2006
    Thnx for all the good info Coop.

    I'm working my way trouht the 'No Frills' $75.00 home studio tent/lightbox-threat at the moment as well.

    A question on the difusion paper you use.
    I have to translate everything to find stuff here in Germany.
    I've found what could be called "transparent paper", it is used in arts and for tracing, and not to expensive. 65 g/m² Is that what I should use as an extra difuser?
  9. 12345678910


    Jul 13, 2009
    I've had trouble finding the stuff he recommended too, but waxed paper works.

    I've also found it easy to buy plastic garbage bags that are translucent white and they work too.
  10. SharpByCoop

    SharpByCoop Enjoying the discussions Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Oct 8, 2001
    Tracing paper or 'vellum' is now old school as everything is done digitally. But.... that's what you are looking for.

    The plastic garbage bags are the right choice, yet hard to stretch. The acetate papers are easier, it available.

    Good luck!
    12345678910 likes this.
  11. Hengelo_77

    Hengelo_77 Basic Member Basic Member

    Mar 2, 2006
    Thnx I'll try the paper.
    Digital is to abstract for me :)
  12. mag1c


    Oct 4, 2018
    I picked this up, finally I can take decent photos with a homemade diffuser this is great.
    d762nato likes this.
  13. d762nato

    d762nato Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 16, 2009
    I got to get one of these, Thanks for all the info. :thumbsup:
  14. loonybin

    loonybin Gold Member Gold Member

    May 18, 1999
    Great write-upn Thanks for updating things. Now, if you can do an instructional on replacing a crappy cellphone camera when you like everything else about your phone (LG V30)...

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