The must have photography equipment for writers?

I know what you’re thinking; must have photography equipment for writers? Really? Hear me out though; I never even contemplated that a writer would need or even want any photographic kit – until recently anyway.

I’ve been working with an engineering client who manufactures very specialised and niche components; for which there are no readily-available stock photographs to purchase for use on their website.  We were struggling.  Any available photos were grainy and amateurish and the cost of hiring in a professional photographer wasn’t palatable to the client.

Airing my frustrations with our web designer, he suggested that we purchase a ‘Photographic Light Box’ similar to the one his company uses.  Retailing at under £50, we took a punt and ordered it for next day delivery; knowing that if it was a success then it could be often re-used – and if it turned out to be a bit of a white elephant then we hadn’t over-invested.

Here’s what we ordered from Amazon:

Photography 80W Cube Tent Box Studio Soft Lighting Kit Equipment Set with Light Stands Bulbs 80cm softbox and Lamp Holders

As is often the case, time conspired against me and the vey first opportunity I had to inspect the product was in the client’s boardroom.  This could have gone horribly wrong.

Luckily the box was unpacked and assembled in around 5-minutes and all was going well until I had a moment of utter deflation when the lights failed to switch on; and with no instructions to assist me, I began to fear the worst.  Fortunately, this was easily rectified by simply screwing the diffuser further onto the stands – and we had light!  Brilliant, fantastic light.

The tent itself is reminiscent of the pop-up tents my kids used to play with many years ago and once you have ‘remembered’ how to make the initial fold on packing away it curls together again with ease.

The murmurs of approval from around the boardroom table where mainly positive – not least the sounds of how the UK manufacturing industry would struggle to make such a comprehensive piece of kit and retail it at that cost.

There are minor drawbacks and points to make, however.  The first concerns the colour backdrops.  The many Velcro attachment points in the tent and on the backdrops make it simple to position any of the available colours with ease.  Do more preparation than I did though – you will need to iron out the ‘folding’ creases for better effect (luckily we could position the components on a blue backdrop to make it seem they were resting on a lush velvet).

I also advise caution when setting up the light stands; make sure the angle of the brackets and the positioning of the tripod feet is suitable for the mass of the lights and diffusers – or you too will have that moment of terror as the light stand falls over (luckily no damage was done).

The pure, shadow-free light that is created by shining the two light sources onto the sides of the tent is remarkable – and I managed to get superb HDR photographs just from my iPhone 6.  The slit in the front ‘door’ is fabulous for a camera (not a phone) – but simply unfastening the door at the bottom allows adequate entry to the light box without diminishing the purity of the light.

The concept of the light box is simple; place your items to be photographed in the pop-up tent (using the preferred colour backdrop); position the light sources onto the sides of the unit and voilà – point and click (or do more ‘stuff’ if you have a proper camera).

2-hours into the photo shoot (sounds much more glamorous than it was) and I’d got some great photos that were perfect for the planned web copy.  One of the on/off switches had stopped working by the time we had finished – but nothing beats the power of the wall socket switch; and at the price we paid I have no issues with this minor let-down.

Shopping around, I see that there is a myriad of such light boxes to suit all budgets and requirements; but purchase one like it and you’ll have a great piece of equipment in your writers’ toolkit.

What seemingly unconnected piece of kit would you recommend to freelance writers?  Let everyone have the benefit of your experience in the comments section below.

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