BUILD AN INEXPENSIVE LIGHT BOX
You will need:
— 1 Piece of 20"x30" Foam Board (I got mine at Michael's for $2.99)
— Ruler (steel is ideal)
— Basic Utility Knife
— Desk Lamp & Light Bulb
— Straight Pins and/or White Glue
Constructing the box is pretty self-explanatory, you just fold the two sides in towards the bottom and attach them. I placed a thin line of white glue along the edge of my base on the left and right and then put a few straight pins in the sides through the base to hold my box together while the glue dries.
Do you need a very fancy expensive camera to take your photos? No, you don't. You will be able to take good photos with just about any camera on the market today. The key is getting to know a few basic things about your camera.
Resolution: Most cameras have a choice of several settings such as Good, Better, Best (on mine it's done in stars, 1, 2 and 3 stars) that represent the resolution of your photo. For posting on the web, where a 72 dpi resolution is the standard, a 'good' setting will likely suffice.
Zoom: You will probably have a zoom option — if you position your camera carefully you probably won't need to use it.
Flash: There is a way to turn the flash on and off — you'll want to set it to OFF when using a light box so you'll avoid those bright, hot spots in your photos.
Focus: Most cameras have an auto-focus feature that you just need to figure out (mine has guides in the view finder and will ding when it's focused) — no matter how beautifully lit your shot is, if it's blurry it won't be good.
PHOTO SHOOT SET-UP
For the photo shoot set up I have placed my light box on a small folding table and clipped my desk lamp directly above it on shelf. I set up in a room with normal lighting, in this case one table lamp on a side table, but the room is definitely not brightly lit outside of my box and my desk lamp.
This shot was taken with the tissue screen. It creates an even light with a few soft shadows.
WHITE VS. COLORED BACKGROUNDS
You might be tempted to use a colored background in your photos but keep in mind that when you use use a white box the light from your bulb reflects off of it and creates additional brightness. The photo of this card above is taken in the white box and the result is photo with fairly accurate color.
CHOOSING A LIGHTBULB
The lamp you see in my set up is a basic $10 clip style desk lamp I bought at WalMart. As far as light bulbs are concerned I have used both OTT Light Bulbs and Sylvania Daylight bulbs with equally good results.
PREPARING YOUR IMAGE
Once you have a well lit, in-focus photo you'll want to crop out some of this background to get closer to the card and you might want to 'sign' or 'watermark' your image so everyone will know who it belongs to. Stay tuned for an tutorial on how you can do both cropping and watermarking online with no additional software.