Building a light table - DIY Project
I'm set on this idea as my 8x10 lightbox isn't cutting the cake and I miss the big 8 foot light table I used to use at the lab, so I'm gonna start building one very soon. I know it's simple and inexpensive to build, but I wanna go one step further and build something I can be proud of and use for many years. I find I need a better light table 2-3 times a week when looking over 3-10 rolls a week for myself, friends and students. So, I'm gonna build something that's about 5 feet long and 2 feet wide at least. I have attached a photo of something I'm looking to imulate, but I'm wondering if anyone else has done this and can make suggestions (kinda like an "if I had to do it all over again, this is what I would do). The key features I'm looking to have is having the table on a stand that tilts to whatever desired angle, but also has a ledge. If you have plans you wanna send, that would be great, but even suggestions on reflectors inside, the surface used, reliable tilting hardware, etc. that would be great. I'm sure I can figure most things out on my own and come up with something decent, but I'm looking to build something that kicks ass and my skills in this field are alright, but certainly not great.
I forgot to mention that I already have bought a 4 foot flourescent light fixture with 2 cold/white bulbs for it and a cord to run it. This table is also $1500, which I find mind-boggling as I can probably do it with less than $100 and 5-8 hours of labour.
I notice that you bought cold/white bulbs. If you can I would exchange them for 5000-5500K bulbs. They are also called full spectrum bulbs and will fit the same fixture. Since it might end up being heavy, consider wheels for mobility. Also perhaps a building supply has a mechanism for awning style windows that you could use to crank up to any angle.
I never built one and just use a smaller view box that has 5000K bulbs.
I had one of these I built about 30 years ago for editing slides for a multi-projector slide shot that my high school camera club ran annually. It was about 12" deep, 20" wide,and 48" long.
It was lit with a 2-T12 flourescent fixture, and at the time I did not have the $$ for other than stock lamps.
The top was translucent plexiglass, about 3/16 thick.
The inside of the chamber was painted white.
It worked very well, but I grew tired of carting it around in moves at uni, and tossed it or sold it.
It used to get sat on a pair of chairs, but a cart, like you are planning, to stand at would have been very nice.
my real name, imagine that.
Consider wiring in a power outlet.
If you have a table or counter that you are likely to work near, try to build it exactly the same hight, in order to permit putting them together to create a really long continuous work surface.
A drawer for scissors or small cutters and various other accessories would be useful.
A pull out shelf on the side or front could be useful too.
“Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”
Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2
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I definitely will be installing a small box on the side for supplies.
I'm not sure if the bulbs I have are full spectrum or not. From my understanding full spectrum is a close to "natural light". I could have gotten warm or cold for my fixture, so I think I might have the ones you're talking about. They might just be advertised as "cold" because they aren't warm? I dunno, but I'll look into it.
I have a friend that installs windows, so I'll see what he has for a hinges for adjusting the angle. I never thought of that.
Thanks guys for your help. I'm taking everything into consideration. More ideas are certainly welcome.
There's more to light quality than just colour temp. You don't want anything over 5600k or under 4500k; about 5000k is good, 3500k and 6000k are really bad. You also need to make sure it has a high CRI (preferably greater than 90), which will ensure that chromes don't look wrong, e.g. due to there being a hole in the light's spectrum at one of critical dye wavelengths.
Might be useful to put an additional fluoro tube along the back, raised by about 300mm so that you can use the table to illuminate and view prints too.
You want your room lighting (for inspecting prints) to match the light table or it's going to look very wrong.
You may consider using a drafting table frame or simply install the lighting unit on top of the board.. They're sturdy and already have the tilt. They also tend to be pretty wide
Excellent suggestion! I built a light table about 10 years ago and did NOT think of that, using fluorescent tubes in the table and halogen lights above. What a mistake! I changed the halogen over to fluorescent, and it is much better now.
Originally Posted by polyglot
What I haven't heard discussed is what type of diffusion, other than the translucent top, might be required. Or is the translucent top enough?
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