Desktop photoshoot behind the scenes

My favorite culinary scientist, Alton Brown, has a rule for the kitchen that there should only be one unitasker; a fire extinguisher. Makes a lot of sense. I have been trying to apply that idea as I acquire things. I am trying to find a way to use one tool to do multiple things. Then again that rule goes completely out the window with my recent acquisition of Funko Pop Figures, also known as bobbleheads. Basically they are decoration and for humor only. While trying to keep track of them all though, I did come up with other learning experiences.

One of the challenges is that after a while one cannot keep track of all of the different figures that are owned. In addition I thought that many of the bobbleheads could be used as my current mood indicators. I thought about how do I document the figures consistently as well as other smaller items.

I already had a two umbrella flash system that is scaled for filling a whole room. I tried scaling that down to work with the bobbles but it was not successful. Either the figure was over exposed, had hot spots, or the process was just physically difficult given the items I had at my disposal. I also did not want to setup a system that was only useful or configured for shooting these small items but could be scaled relatively effectively and easily. I have a muslin backdrop but working with a large backdrop can be quite cumbersome at time.

I know that there are photographic tools designed specifically for this task. However as I looked at the various solutions I found things that prevented me from being satisfied by the solutions that were available. The key item was that I hadn’t quite determined what I wanted to do yet. I went browsing at Amazon (search 1 & search 2), brick and mortar Calumet Photographic, and Gene’s Camera Store. I still couldn’t figure out which one was going to meet my needs.

I had done some research years ago about building a light box on my own. I had found this one on and thought it was pretty close. I had done some experimenting with just using a roll of white craft paper and ambient light with a long exposure and had come up with some pretty decent shots.

May 22, 2012

As you can see the color is off and there is some shadowing. However the cyclorama effect does work with just a piece of white paper taped and draped behind it. I purchased a 2 foot by 25 foot roll for testing and it worked really well

When I was building my standing desk and the seated work space, one of the things I thought about was how to use it as a table top photo studio. The vertical standards are metal so I could attach paper with magnet, there are lots of places to attach lights, my mind started going through the options.

The first attempt to build a cyclorama and do some shooting, before buying a lightbox, I simply put a piece of paper on the standard using tape and taped the other end to the shelf. I then swung a desk arm lamp over and started doing some shooting.

King Bob

These didn’t seem to come out too badly. Better color temperature as I had more practice but there was still too much shadow for my eye.

I tried setting up some off camera flashes with shoot through umbrellas however the spacing physically was just not going to work out.

After searching for a lightbox, I finally decided I could configure the work space to be a tabletop cyclorama with the purchase of a few accessories and perhaps building my own. I sketched up what I wanted.

I wanted to build the system out of parts that could be reused and retasked easily not just made to be a lightbox and then no longer available. I came up with the following idea, two systems of a clamp to hold a small pivoting arm with a bolt/stud on it to attach the flash’s cold shoes to. I will tell you that there are times trying to purchase these things off the Internet is too complicated. I went to Gene’s Camera Store, but their selection was not very deep. Off to Calumet to try out the idea and build the idea. The people at the downtown store were helpful as I was trying to build the system in the store before purchasing. I took all sorts of items out of boxes and just started mixing and matching studio clamps and adjustable heads. I came up with a solution that would work and was under budget. I then figured to make it three sets as that way I could also mount a camera easily without a tripod at times. I ended up purchasing the following:

3 – Calumet MF6822 Studio Clip Clamp

3 – Calumet MF6817 Adjustable Head With Support Platform


I also was not able to find any small soft boxes in the store, so I thought about making my own, however after a quick amazon search I found a six inch by nine inch soft box for less than I could build my own for. I was all set, time to build up the system. As you can see it truly was tabletop based and ready to be overrun by bobbles.

Behind the scenes of a Bobble Shoot
I think that the results came out pretty well:

Sandtrooper & Dewback

Additionally I can rearrange the system to do other things, such as holding a camera to act as a document camera or take pictures of larger items. I can pack everything into my camera bag and go exploring and shooting while traveling.

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