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  1. #1
    BPnet Veteran littleindiangirl's Avatar
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    How to make a light tent (DUW)

    How to make an efficient and inexpensive Light Tent
    By Connie Silvernaile

    Are you looking to get some great photos without spending a ton of money on a fancy camera or set up? Then let this be your guide. For about $40 you can make a light tent that will give you the right lighting to avoid those washed out or glaring photos, and bring out the true natural colors of your snakes.

    We will be setting up a frame of in. PVC pipe. I decided to use PVC because it can be dismantled, stored, and transported very easy.

    To diffuse the light as much as possible to achieve a softer more natural look, we will wrap the frame in a white muslin cloth available at most craft and hobby stores. (i.e. Jo Ann Fabrics etc)

    For a backdrop, I went with a non glossy white poster board. Try to pick a sheet that is free from any marks or creases. Everything will show up with the amount of light directed at it.

    For the light housing, I bought a 10.5 in. Brooder clamp light with a porcelain socket. We want to spread the light, not focus it.

    Lastly, the most important part; the light bulb. I went with an N:Vision 100 watt daylight (UV) bulb. This is very important to avoid an off white look with our setup, and well worth every penny.

    Shopping list
    From the Home depot or Lowe’s:
    (2) 10 ft in. (20 ft) PVC pipe: About $1.70 for 10 ft (They will cut this down for you if you don’t have a truck.)
    (8) in. PVC elbows: $0.25 ea.
    (1) 10.5 in. light dome: $12
    (1) N:Vision 100 watt bulb: $7
    Subtotal: $24.40

    From Jo Ann Fabrics:
    5 yd of white muslin 36”: $2 yd
    1 white non glossy poster board: $2
    Subtotal: $12
    (you will also need safety pins or clips to affix the cloth to the pvc, so pick some up if you don’t have any.)
    Total amount (minus tax): $36.40

    Assembly 1
    You will need to cut the PVC into eight 2ft lengths. A hack saw or circular saw works well. Remember safety first and practice it. (The longer pieces are for the frame at the end of this set up.)

    We will assemble the pvc and elbows into a frame like so:

    For the next few parts, I took pictures of my new tent that uses 3 light sources and a larger PVC frame to attach them too. The dimensions and cost of that will be at the end of this set up.

    Next, cut your muslin into 2 pieces. The short top piece is over a yard long and the rest can stay intact. (I don’t measure, I just wrap and cut, sorry.)

    We will wrap the longer muslin piece around 3 sides of the frame, I use these clips I found at Bed Bath and Beyond, they fit perfectly over the pvc, but you can use safety pins as well.

    Next, take your shorter piece of muslin and drape over the top, fixing it into place with your clips or safety pins.

    Like I said, I now have a tent with 3 different lights, for less manual touching up after the shoot.

    For the single light set up, place your light and dome directly on top of the muslin, you will have to fix the clamp light to something to hold it into place.

    For the 3 light set up, you will have the frame to hold your lights.

    Turn the light on, and put down your poster board with the edge curving up the back. This avoids shadowing, and keeps everything looking nice and white.
    Throw a snake in and shoot away. Get creative! See if they look better with or without flash. Use different angles. Use more or less light. This is your time to explore, and the snake will too. (Macro shots don’t work well with flash btw)

    And you’re all set.

    Yes, this set up will render great results, but you may find that you want some touching up in an image editing program like Photoshop or the GIMP ( -- an open source image manipulation program.)

    For a quick and easy contrast correction using the GIMP, just use the “white balance” feature. In Photoshop you want to use "Auto Contrast" or "Auto Levels."

    Whiter Whites: the GIMP way

    Open photo in GIMP, and crop to whatever size you find most appealing. Try to avoid too much white space, and balance the photo to make it pleasing to the eye.

    Now we will use the auto feature, white contrast, in the layer menu at the top of the screen. (Layer > Colors > Auto > White Balance)

    Use the function, and get this as a result.

    More light please!
    I previously mentioned that I am now using a light tent with 3 lights. I made a frame out of PVC to hold the clamp lights when taking pictures.

    Here are the additional materials you will need for this setup.
    Two more 10 ft lengths of 1/2 inch PVC (four total -- the extra two will be for our light support frame)
    4 more 1/2 inch elbows (12 total)
    2 more hoods and lights (3 total)
    The total for this set up will run you about $78. The majority of this is the lights.

    The cuts for the PVC are 3 ft. I just found that 3 ft doesn’t tip over so easy and also gives enough clearance for the dome lights. Use whatever works for you.

    The frame will be in line with the front of the box, so your lights can be aimed more towards the subject to avoid back lighting.
    With 3 lights, you are getting 2 more angles, cutting down on shadows, and just really bringing out a true white contrast.

    All of these shots of the light tent are in the day time, with the lights on. I don't believe you need a dark room to achieve these results. (The pics just came out really dark)

    There you have it, my light tent!!!
    Thanks for reading~ Connie and Chris
    Last edited by JLC; 11-11-2010 at 12:33 PM. Reason: removing broken image

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  3. #2
    BPnet Veteran Rapture's Avatar
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    Re: How to make a light tent (DUW)

    You rock my socks! I had just started to consider the best way to put together a light tent of the size I would need... and I didn't want to pay $100 plus shipping for a little bitty one! Thanks for this post!

    Support Captive Breeders

  4. #3
    Steel Magnolia rabernet's Avatar
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    Re: How to make a light tent (DUW)

    EXCELLENT Connie! Sticky worthy!

  5. #4
    BPnet Veteran catawhat75's Avatar
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    Re: How to make a light tent (DUW)

    Awesome, I know what my next project is Maybe I will finally be able to get some good shots.
    12.21 BPs
    0.1 Macklots
    2.0 crazy dogs (Chow mix & Houla mix)
    4.2 even crazier cats
    0.1 Red-Eye tree frog
    0.1 Daughter who loves this crazy house as much as I do
    1.0 Boyfriend who puts up with the craziness & finally has snakes of his own!- 0.1 Dumerils & 0.1 BP

  6. #5
    BPnet Veteran littleindiangirl's Avatar
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    Re: How to make a light tent (DUW)

    Thanks everyone. It was hard trying to keep it on just "building" the light tent. I kept straying into one big overview of photography. I wanted to write exactly what I do for pictures and why, but I cut it down to a bare bones "set up" instead. It was getting long!

  7. #6
    Old enough to remember. Freakie_frog's Avatar
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    Re: How to make a light tent (DUW)

    Quote Originally Posted by rabernet
    EXCELLENT Connie! Sticky worthy!
    Sticky gets my vote.
    When you've got 10,000 people trying to do the same thing, why would you want to be number 10,001? ~ Mark Cuban
    "for the discerning collector"

  8. #7
    BPnet Veteran Laooda's Avatar
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    Re: How to make a light tent (DUW)

    Quote Originally Posted by Freakie_frog
    Sticky gets my vote.

    Grey Scale is a good thing...

  9. #8
    BPnet Veteran panthercz's Avatar
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    Re: How to make a light tent (DUW)

    I've made several DIY light tents and they are very handy and a cost effective lighting setup. I agree use "daylight" bulbs, instead of the normal orange incandescent bulbs.

    Keep one thing in mind. Do NOT leave it unattended with the lights on. Light bulbs get hot, they are right up against fabric, that can mean fire. So use some common sense.
    "If I were stranded on a desert island and could only have one book, record and person...I'd probably die of exposure."


  10. #9
    Telling it like it is! Stewart_Reptiles's Avatar
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    Re: How to make a light tent (DUW)

    Agree it is sticky worthy
    Deborah Stewart

  11. #10
    BPnet Veteran Nordinho's Avatar
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    Re: How to make a light tent (DUW)

    Thank you for sharing!

    This is a perfect way to replace those expensive light tents

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