Unboxing Your SHOTBOX

When a creator envisions and puts together his creation, working with the product becomes so second nature that it’s harder to figure out where things might not be as obvious to a first-time user. So, SHOTBOX creator, Aaron Johnson, asked me to relate my experience as someone who is new to SHOTBOX and had never seen one before:

The package arrived.

Inside, I found a black SHOTBOX case and welcome sheet floating in packing peanuts.

The sheet provided instructions on proper care methods, a link to video demonstrations, customer support and Johnson’s personal contact information.

Beneath the SHOTBOX case was a sleeve of the backdrop SBPrints. My curious self decided to open the 4 outer pockets of the black case first. Their contents were:

  1. a power cord,
  1. a USB cable,
  1. a SideShot arm and shoulder strap to attach the case, and
  1. a box of 4 core backdrops -black, white, green and blue-

-and glare shields.

The largest compartment held, of course, the SHOTBOX,

as well as a reversible floor panel and the instructions.

The setup instructions fit on a page and a half and each step was easy to follow

- only it took me a minute to realize that the Support Legs were laid down next to the base of the SHOTBOX.

Because of my delay, it took me approximately 2 minutes to finish setup.

The instructions explained that the power cord in pocket 1 hooks into the middle port on the back of the SHOTBOX

and the USB cable plugs into the SideShot to power its key lights while the other end of the cable goes into the far left port, next to the power cord.

The glare shields attached below the LED lights on the inside via magnets. Easy to put in, easy to take out.

The third port on the back of the SHOTBOX is for customer convenience as a way for smartphone users to charge their devices while taking their pictures.

Saving “best for last”, I got out the colorful patterned prints and set up my first photoshoot.

I’m a painter who dabbles in wood burning, clay figurines and most recently, cross-stitching. I have a website for my work, but my biggest problem has always been taking pictures of my artwork to post.

I hate picture-taking. It always looks so bad when I take pictures. Give me a paintbrush, charcoal, a wood burner, crotchet hooks,anyart form that I can do with my hands, but a camera?

So, my hope was that SHOTBOX could maybe make my pictures look a little less nasty and I was not disappointed.

I used the holes at the top of the box for pictures of my cross-stitch.

To have the best controlled lighting, I turned off the lights in the room I was working in to remove any cast shadows.

From there, I experimented with backdrops, the toggle switch and the dimmer.

I found that I really liked the grass backdrop with the cross-stitch as that item would be light enough to lay on top of real grass without bending it, so the image looked like it could have been done outside.

The next item I took pictures of was a jewelry box that I had wood burned a castle and key slot into.

The SideShot arm came in very useful here. After trying the other holes on top of the SHOTBOX, I found that the back hole was best for the jewelry box.

It propped the SideShot up so that I saw more of the lid in comparison to the side of the box.

And with the SideShot’s extra light, the subtle colors in the wood grain and in the backdrops were emphasized.

The hardest objects to photograph however, were my miniature clay nativities. I didn’t want patterned backdrops to take away from the swirl pattern in the nativities, so I selected the plain black backdrop. But the white characters looked washed out.

So, I tried the blue backdrop, but then the colored swirls looked dimmer.

It comes back to what is called Simultaneous Contrast. Colors placed side by side will appear lighter or darker than they actually are depending on what color is next to them.

For example, the black backdrop made the white characters look too bright, and the blue backdrop was so vibrant that less vibrant colors looked dim.

Halfway through the experience I also found out that I can change the lighting on my phone screen as well, and its combined use with the Shotbox lights minimized the issues that Simultaneous Contrast created.

A couple other big tips I learned concerned the placement of my camera and simply using glare shields.

The nativities were very small, so the camera should have been closer to them. So, I took the phone off the SideShot, moved the SideShot arm to the side of the SHOTBOX - still shining in - and took my pictures with phone and hands inside the box.

Adjusting the brightness and color contrasts was much easier from that point on.

Disassembling the SHOTBOX was as easy as the setup was,

and I could fit the SBPrints backdrops inside the black case as well. I hope this has been useful for both Johnson and our SHOTBOX users. Get creative and light it right.