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.
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