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Light tent

Ideal for photographing small, shiny subjects.


A commercial light tent that is collapsible for storage is ideal for evenly illuminating small subjects with diffused light.
A commercial light tent that is collapsible for storage is ideal for evenly illuminating small subjects with diffused light.

Small to medium sized subjects that require even illumination without casting harsh shadows are ideally photographed in a light tent.

This handy accessory is especially suited to taking pictures of jewelry, coins, electronic parts and other objects so that their details are clearly seen.

You can make your own light tent using white nylon or another diaphanous white material, however commercially-available light tents are relatively inexpensive, in the $50 range, and will produce professional-looking results.

We use Promaster's 24" by 24" SystemPRO LiteTent and are impressed with its quality construction and its practical features: collapsible for storage, quick to set up, supplied with three colored inserts for a backdrop - black, red and blue - and a panel that fits snugly across the front with a slit in it for a camera's lens.


The pictures on the right illustrate the effect you can expect to achieve when using a light tent.

A photograph of a watch, especially of its crystal, or of any object that is shiny will often contain undesired, overpowering highlights (top picture). These overexposed areas are caused by light reflecting from the surfaces of the object.

Diffusing the light will cause the object to be more evenly illuminated, reducing the harmful effects of reflected light.

This is easily achieved with a light tent when photographing small to medium-sized objects inside it. Light from above or from the sides is diffused, spreading itself evenly over the object without strong highlights.

The tent can be used outdoors in daylight or in a studio, using flash or hot lights directed at the tent's exterior.

Because the "floor" of the tent is made of the same material as the sides and top, photographing an object placed on it will provide it with a white background.

If you wish the object to be photographed against a colored background, the background must obviously be able to fit inside the light tent.

Some commercially-made light tents come with a selection of colored backdrops that can be attached using velcro strips to the tent's interior. The lower image on the right was taken on just such a blue backdrop.

The upper image shows reflection from a small object when photographed outdoors. Glare and reflection are easily controlled when photographing the watch in a light tent.
The upper image shows reflection from a small object when photographed outdoors. Glare and reflection are easily controlled when photographing the watch in a light tent.

The front panel of a properly-made light tent contains a slit that is large enough to fit a lens through.
The front panel of a properly-made light tent contains a slit that is large enough to fit a lens through.

An effective light tent must diffuse all exterior light striking it. This means that it should have a frontpiece made from the same diaphanous material that is used in the tent's overall construction.

But, the frontpiece must be removable, like a door or tent flap, to permit you to insert the item to be photographed, to attach a backdrop and to change the arrangement of items inside the tent. A good commercial light tent will have such a removable frontpiece. It is typically attached using sewn-on velcro strips. (Some light tents are manufactured with a flap on top that permits you to access items inside the tent from above.)

The image on the left shows a light tent with its frontpiece attached. Because it is held in place with a number of velcro strips, you need only to detach one or two of them to give you enough of an opening to work inside the tent, and then quickly re-attach them to take a picture.

It is difficult to see the camera slit built into the frontpiece in the upper photo, but it is clearly shown in the lower close-up picture. The slit is large enough to accommodate any camera's lens.

Because any item, not just a reflective one, photographed inside a light tent will be evenly illuminated when properly exposed, its details will all be clearly shown without harsh shadows or bright highlights. This makes the picture ideal for displaying the item for sale in a catalog or on a webpage.

Such a photograph on eBay, for example, may be of great help in promoting the sale of an item. If you are one of the many who displays and sells items on eBay or similar websites, then a light tent may be a photo accessory that you will find you can't do without.


It is important that you keep your light tent clean so that it doesn't have any blemishes on it that might alter the light passing through it.

Keep it away from dusty or damp environments and stow it in its storage pouch when not in use to protect it and to prolong its usable life.

It's also a good idea to keep its storage pouch clean. An easy way to do that is to stow it in a box, drawer or a plastic bag, or even in the original plastic wrapping that it was in when purchased.

If you'd like clear instructions on how to easily fold your light tent, Promaster provides full information here.

It is surprising to see how little space a light tent takes up when it is properly folded for storage.
It is surprising to see how little space a light tent takes up when it is properly folded for storage.


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