A Light Box and Portable Studio for Portrait Photographers
A light box or portable studio may not seem like a tool portrait photographers would use very often. But what about using one to take your marketing imagery to the next level? I’ve been wanting to try a light box for just this purpose. Could I use it to create consistently styled social media peeks at products my clients order? The possibilities intrigued me.
At first glance the Foldio3 from Orangemonkie seems like a good fit for this task. It collapses to an easy-to-store size, assembles easily, and has both built-in and add-on LED lighting strips. All these features mean low hassle and little stress, especially for non-commercial photographers.
In the April 2020 print edition of Professional Photographer, we mistakenly referred to Orangemonkie, the company that produces the Foldio3, as Colormonkie in some instances. We regret the error. This article has been edited to reflect the correct company name.
The 25-inch Foldio3 photo studio is made of sturdy flat-packable corrugated white plastic board with magnets and strategically placed hook-and-loop fasteners. The magnets on the flaps hold the unit in its assembled position and serve as attachment points for the optional Halo bar lights. The fasteners hold one of two backdrops in place: a white plastic-type backdrop or a black velvet-like paper backdrop. I experimented with both and preferred the white.
Out of the box, the Foldio3 is easy to assemble and fairly self-explanatory. Clear directions are provided to get it up and running.
It has LED lighting permanently attached to the topmost part on the inside. On the outside is a spot to plug in a dimming controller, which attaches to the power adapter. Out of the box, the three LED lights produced adequate light, but I much preferred the results when I added the Halo bar.
The Halo bar set includes two Halo lights, which are long, triangular strip LEDs (think architect’s scale ruler or Toblerone bar). At the end of each light is a socket to plug in the included Y-cable to attach the dimming controller. The Halo lights cannot operate separately from the Foldio3 unless you purchase an adapter kit. The design allows you to insert the Halo bars into the light box in various locations without having to run cords through the miniature set. That feature and the ability to mount the Halo bars magnetically show that Orangemonkie put thought into how these products can be used efficiently together.
The attached strip LED lighting on its own was a little lackluster. Adding in the Halo bars as strip lighting and mini kickers noticeably improved the overall image quality.
The Halo bars and attached strip LEDs can be controlled independently. You adjust the dual dimmer switch to use the LEDs at full power, partially dimmed, or completely off. That last setting is important in case you want to use only the Halo bars for rim lighting.
My test subjects included action figures, acrylic trophies, albums, a Hasselblad camera, and several themed still life arrangements. It was fun to play with the small scale, and the Foldio3 would definitely be useful in creating images for social media. While I kept things simple for my test images, it’s certainly large enough to add more elements for compositions that reflect your studio’s brand.
I created these images using my DSLR camera rather than a phone because I use a scheduling app on my computer to manage my social media posts. If your social media practice depends on posting pictures from your phone, Orangemonkie offers a mobile app to help you edit images on your phone.
Orangemonkie offers two features on its smaller Foldio2 model that I wish the Foldio3 had: a removable top cover and a detachable front cover. The top cover opening would allow for lay-flat shots, and the front cover (with shoot-through opening) would allow for more pleasing reflections in objects such as glass and acrylic.
The Foldio3 is a nicely designed light box that’s portable, convenient, and effective. If you want to create consistently lit and styled images on the fly for your social media channels, then having a Foldio3 in your studio could be a good solution. I can see it being useful for a portrait photographer who wants to highlight printed product offerings without the hassle of main-taining a dedicated product shot light box area.
The Foldio3 retails for $139, and the Halo bar set is $32. A 360-degree turntable is ($139), and various bundles are available for purchase.
Betsy Finn is a portrait photographer in Dexter, Michigan.