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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

How to get better pictures of your pens -The "Pen Box"...

So, I'll just say this up front: This original idea is not mine. I got it from a friend.

All that aside: When I first began repairing pens I discovered something very important. When selling a pen photography is almost everything. Yup, if you have horrible pictures (blurry, discolored, darkened, etc.) then people will not be as interested in your pen. I'm sure this applies to most things.

So, I decided I needed a way to photograph my pens so they really looked good. I'll show a before and after picture of my pen photography:

Here's one of my old pictures. Notice the poor florescent lighting. It creates bright spots on the pen like the one right by the lever where the light is really shining. It's not a "bad" photograph but it's not good either.

Enter the photo box: We see a huge improvement here. Even lighting, correct coloration, and it even shows of the gloss of the pen better!

So by now I'm sure you're dying to know: So how do I build my own light-box? Well I'll tell you. First, as I was told by my friend when he gave me these instructions, read cheap. This should not cost you more than around $20.00 total which includes buying a tripod. That's why I like this method so much!

The easiest way to show you how to build one is with pictures. Here it is folks: 777's camera set-up...

Here's the box sitting on top of a stool. I use the stool to get a lower plane of angle when shooting my pictures.

The box is just a rubbermaid that I got from wal-mart. Around $5.00 or so.

Inside the box, I placed tracing paper on all the sides except the top. The top part gets a piece of poster board. What this does is stop the direct sunlight from entering the box. The tracing paper on the sides let just a little soft light in. This makes the perfect combination for shooting pen photos.

Here's a wal-mart place-mat for about $1.50. Works well as a backdrop.

And one of the most important pieces is a tripod for your camera. This is really essential to getting good clear photographs. If your camera doesn't have a "mount" for a tripod attachment then rubber-bands will work to secure it to the camera to the tripod. I've done this before with great success.

So there you have it. My DIY picture box. Here's a list of all the "parts" you need:
- Plastic box (mine is about 12" wide which works very well) - Around $5.00.
- Tracing paper for the sides of the box - Around $1.50 for a whole pack of it.
- Poster board for the top of the box Around $1.50 for five sheets.
- A cheap or expensive camera tripod (mines cheap - ebay for $10.00).
- Most importantly: Sunshine! You can take photos on a cloudy day but nothing beats the sunlight for good photos...

That's all there is to it! This has been a huge help for me in getting good pen photos. I hope it's able to help you out too.

777 - Tyler Dahl


  1. That's a great way to build a cheap lightbox. My only (minor) gripe would be the background whose texture is a bit distracting. It's a bit too large for fine items such as pens and nibs.

  2. Yes, I do agree about the background part in some cases. Luckily, you can use whatever suits you

    I used the place-mat cause' it was all they had at the store... I know I'm a cheapo, I admit it... :)

    777 - Tyler Dahl

  3. Cheap is good, especially when you can get the same results as using more expensive equipment. I've tried various backgrounds for my photography (not just pen photography) but I've always gone back to plain paper. In most cases it is less distracting than other materials, even if a bit boring.

  4. Yes, plain white is good stuff! Recently I've been doing the bubble wrap over white paper and it's been working very well for me. You don't even notice the bubble wrap in the pictures but this keeps the pens from rolling without the use of sticky-tack!