I had this thought last week to try something simple to play around with the external flash that I have. Since I'm still very new to flash photography I wanted a simple, cheap way to play around and not have to spend a bunch of money. Behold the shoebox, simple, cardboard, good for macro and you don't care if it is cut up or destroyed.
My wife keeps her shoeboxes so I had plenty to choose from. For this exercise I just needed a small one. The neat thing about the shoebox is by cutting out one of the short sides you now have a window to shoot through. Next I needed to choose a color for background, I decided on black. Cut some cardboard paper and tape it into the shoebox and try to get as close to the edge as possible. Also, I put some in the underside of the cover piece so when looking into the box with the lid on it is completely black.
Next comes the packaging tape, which naturally goes really well with cardboard. Besides being used to package your photography gear, it also does great for making reflections. I just put a couple pieces down on the bottom of the box.
Now I just needed something to take a picture of, something small. My wife had her sewing materials out and I noticed an interesting needle, so I used that and stuck it in the middle of the box. One last thing left to do before taking the shots. I wanted to play around with light in different ways so I started poking the top of the shoebox with the needle to create holes. I tried to take some pictures with my external flash pointed right into those holes but they were to small to let light through. So I just took a kitchen knife and poked some random holes into the top. Now it is ready!
I tried some shots with the flash straight at the needle which turned the black paper gray. Then I tried turning the flash to point outside of the box but left enough light to hit the needle, those turned out pretty neat. Next I tried without the flash and just the ambient light of the bedroom, these ones came out to dark because I didn't want to increase my ISO up the roof. Last I got a camping LED head lamp and put it on the white light and put it pointed down so the light was shining through the holes I made. The holes were small enough that just a little bit of light came shining through and hit the top of the needle. I really like how these last ones turned out.
I combined my favorites from this experiment which you can see below.
Here are my camera settings for each image starting at the left. I shot these with my Nikkor 60mm 2.8 macro lens.
1. 1/8th second, f / 3.2, ISO 400, no flash - used LED head lamp.
2. 3 seconds, f / 5.0, ISO 400.
3. 1/125th second, f / 4.5, ISO 100, used flash straight on with TTL.
4. 1/8th second, f / 3.2, ISO 400, used flash and angled flash outside of box with TTL.
5. 1.3 seconds, f / 3.2, ISO 400, no flash - used LED head lamp.