In our latest DIY Photography Hacks post we show you how to make a simple light tent using 3-ring binders, which you can use to diffuse sunlight for shooting outdoor flower photography.
Spring and summer are the perfect times to get outside and shoot flowers, as it’s the time when the most colourful blooms are at their best.
However, the bright, sunny conditions that are ideal for the flowers themselves can make it difficult to shoot them successfully.
If the flower is in direct sunshine, the contrast produced by the strong light means it’s often impossible to get detail in both the shadows and the highlights. The solution is to take control of the lighting by using a light tent.
This is simply a large diffuser, which you can place over the flower you’re shooting to produce softer, lower-contrast lighting.
As well as diffusing direct sunlight, light tents are ideal for adding more controlled light on dull, overcast days, when the whole scene can otherwise look too flat.
To do this you need to put the tent over your chosen flower, as before, but use an off-camera flash positioned outside the light tent to simulate sunlight.
Instead of the harsh, high contrast light you’d normally get from using flash, the translucent walls of the light tent diffuse it to produce a even, soft light on the flower.
Using a light tent also allows you to control the background. You can use the white material of the tent as a backdrop or place a piece of coloured card behind the object you’re shooting for a more colourful image. Because the subject is enclosed, using a light tent can even reduce the possibility of subject movement on windy days.
We made a DIY light tent out of three semi-opaque white A4-sized ring binders, and used duct tape to join them together to form a foldable enclosure. Here’s how you can do it too…
How to make and use your DIY photography light tent
01 Get your light tent
To build a light tent like this you’ll need three ring binders. Join two together with duct tape to produce the main three sides. Cut one of the flaps off the third file, and then attach it to the middle of the three existing sides to form a ‘roof’. Or you could buy a commercially made light tent.
02 Position your subject
Position the light tent over the subject, making sure that the light falling on the flower is diffused over the area that you want to shoot, and the opening that you will use to shoot through is positioned so that you can get a good composition of the flower.
03 Set up your camera
Once the light tent is in position, set your camera to manual exposure mode and select an aperture of f/5.6, then set the shutter speed to 1/200 sec so you’ll be able to use the camera handheld, and set the ISO to 200. Take a test shot to check the exposure, and if it’s too light reduce the ISO.
04 Choose a background
You can shoot simple, effective images using the white material of the light tent as a background, or for more colour you can use a piece of A4 card or stiff paper in a colour that suits your subject. Try using blue, green or even black for the most natural-looking results.
To get a photograph of a flower with a plain, white background, shoot against the white interior of the light tent. The large area of white will, however, fool your metering into underexposing the picture, so that the background comes out as a muddy grey rather than a brilliant white. To correct this, set the exposure compensation on your camera to +1 or even +1.7EV.
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