Learn How to Build a Light Table

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A light table is a piece of photography studio furniture whose top and rear wall is made from a piece of translucent acrylic plastic (one such brand is called Plexiglas®). Often called “a sweep”, the acrylic tabletop’s rear edge extends past the table’s flattop so it can be flexed upwards to create a background without a horizon line. Additionally, because the table’s top and rear wall is translucent, you can place a light (or lights) under the table or behind it to eliminate shadows altogether. There are commercially available light tables from a few manufacturers but there are big advantages to using one you construct for yourself. Here are some of them:

  • The price differential! Commercially available light tables that using an approximately 4 X 8-foot sheet of translucent acrylic, are priced between $675 to well over $2,000 but you can construct your own for under $500, or for under $300 if you use equipment you might (or should) already have! This price differential is large enough to not be overlooked.
  • All the components of a scratch built light table can be broken down and used for other purposes when you don’t need your light table. The sawhorses, C-clamps, floor to ceiling uprights, sand bags, closet poles, and even the acrylic sheet itself can perform other duties when not being used as parts of your light table.
  • The acrylic sheet used for the table’s top and background surface can be stored flat and even hung on a nail hammered into the studio wall when it’s not in use or the acrylic sheet can used as a giant light diffuser surface on other assignments.
  • When you buy your 4 X 8 foot acrylic sheet you can have one side sandblasted (or chemically etched) giving you the choice of using either side. The standard, glossy side will cause your subject to reflect in it while the sandblasted (or chemically etched) side will be not show a reflection of your subject.

You can get a more info about this video with a full set of written, interactive instructions here.

The information in this tutorial is a very small excerpt from Steve Sint's upcoming book Digital Still Life Photography: Art, Business, and Style to be released in late 2012. Updates on this book's progress can be found at: www.SteveSint.com

Tutorial Supplies Checklist

  • Setweight - 22lb. Sandbag (Orange)
    These classic double zippered saddle-style sand bags are available in Black or Blaze Orange. 22lb when filled with sand. (Sold Empty)

    Setweight 22lb. Sand Bag (Black)
    These classic double zippered saddle-style sand bags are available in Black or Blaze Orange. 22lb when filled with sand. (Sold Empty)

    1/8" Transluscent White Acrylic Sheet 4' x 8' (2-sides glossy)
    This Translucent White acrylic sheet 4' x 8' and 1/8" thick. Often referred to as Milky White, this acrylic sheet is glossy on both sides. A cheaper and safer solution to a real 4' x 8' glass, this Translucent White acrylic sheet is a versatile plastic material that can be used in numerous applications and has great impact strength. Translucent White acrylic sheet is easy to work with as it can be sawed, drilled, routed, glued, painted, decorated, silk-screened, and formed.

    1/8" Transluscent White Acrylic Sheet 4' x 8 (1-side matte)
    This Translucent White Acrylic Sheet 4' x 8' and 3/16" thick. Often referred to as Milky White, this acrylic sheet is glossy on one side and the matte. Best for lighting underneather like light box, this is a cheaper and safer solution to a real 4' x 8' glass. This Translucent White acrylic sheet is a versatile plastic material that can be used in numerous applications and has great impact strength. Translucent White acrylic sheet is easy to work with as it can be sawed, drilled, routed, glued, painted, decorated, silk-screened, and formed.

    Timber Toppers for 2" x 4"
    Timber Toppers are spring-loaded grey metal caps, slid over the end of 2x4's cut slightly shorter than ceiling height, with both then wedged between floor and ceiling to jointly create a sturdy support for studio backgrounds, lights, and so on. They were also quite handy for creating temporary shelves (primary use outside photography) and similar. Rubber gaskets helped to avoid marring the ceiling.

    Pony Spring Clamps- 2" – Classic metal "A" clamps with orange grips.

    Adjustable 4" - "C" Clamp – 4 inch wide jaw.

    Adjustable 6" - "C" Clamp – 6" wide jaw. The big boy for big jobs.

Steve Sint

Digital Still Life Photography: Art, Business, and Style

Steve Sint has spent a great deal of his life walking down aisles backwards. Over a 40 year career, he has photographed over 4,000 weddings, taken over 2 million photographs, and shot over 1 million portraits for his own studio and others in the New York metropolitan area. As a commercial photographer he has photographed thousands of executives and still life subjects. His client list includes, or has included, the American Broadcasting Company, Time Inc., Hearst Publications, Yves St. Laurent, AT&T, NCR, National Semiconductor, Miller Freeman Publishing, MacGroupUS, and Hachette-Filipacchi Magazines. His photographs have appeared on the covers of over 60 national magazines including LIFE, Omni, Stereo Review, and Modern Photography.

As a columnist and contributor his words and photographs have also appeared in Studio Photography, Lens Magazine, Modern Photography, Popular Photography, View Camera Magazine, Railroad Model Craftsman, and he has authored 7 books on photography. In his most recently published book, Digital Wedding Photography: Art, Business, and Style, he shares his experience with his readers in the breezy, knowledgeable, and accessible style his writing is known for. At this point in his career he limits his assignments to 50 per year for a select New York clientele, photographs and writes about things he enjoys, and still finds time to lecture on professional photography, create and produce tutorial videos, conduct workshops on wedding, portrait, and still life photography, while still finding time to work on his model railroad.

His newest book, Digital Still Life Photography: Art, Business, and Style, was released in January 2013.