MyStudio 20 Internet Photo Studio; A Self-Contained Digital Tabletop Studio

I've worked with all kinds of Internet photo studios over the years. Most consist of a light tent of sorts, with or without lights, and the materials used are translucent fabric or plastic. But I have never come across anything like the MyStudio 20 until now. It is definitely different. So, does different make it better, or even as functional as other tabletop setups?

These are the main components in the MyStudio 20 tabletop system. Not shown is the fluorescent fixture, which resides on the reverse side of the crossbar.
Photo Courtesy ProCyc, All Rights Reserved

It's A Corner Cyc
What's a cyc? Short for "cyclorama," a cyc is a sweeping backdrop, but usually on a grander scale than a sweep table and without the legs. A studio cyc usually occupies an entire wall and stretches a number of feet forward. In a corner cyc, two adjoining walls come together in a bend, instead of a sharp corner. This seamless backdrop gives you greater flexibility in lighting and working with subjects of all kinds, from people to products. Usually a cyc is built into the studio as a permanent fixture, although it can be temporary or modular. Studio cycs are usually painted and refinished and repainted countless times. Lighting with a cyc may gradate from white to gray or gray to white down the back wall to the floor. When the corner cyc sweeps up into the ceiling, it becomes a cove.

Now stick that in front of the incredible shrinking ray from Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, and voilà, you've got a miniature cyc, with the added benefit that it can be moved around. Specifically, the MyStudio system consists of a miniature corner cyc and reflective overhang, which together form a cove of sorts (but not technically a cove, since the ceiling here is separate). The kit also comes with a linear fluorescent bulb behind a plastic diffuser, which serves as the key light, and a white metal support system, which holds both the lighting fixture and overhang.

The brushed metal tripod was a suitable subject and a good example to show how quickly and easily you can shoot a tabletop with the complete MyStudio setup. With the overhead lighting, the shadows are soft enough so as not to be disturbing and gradated enough to show depth.
All Photos © 2008, Jack Neubart, All Rights Reserved

Assembly Required
The non-collapsible cyc component is the biggest piece, and assembly, as a whole, is not that arduous. But, once assembled, it's best to find a dust-free space and leave it all in place and ready to use. I worked with the smaller MyStudio 20 (20x20x12" high). The big brother to that is MyStudio 32 (32x32x16" high). (One point: when pulling out the plastic diffuser from the light fixture to place the bulb inside, pinch it lightly at both ends, or you may break off one or more retaining tabs upon removal.)

There are two metal supports and a crossbar, which stabilizes the whole thing and also holds the light fixture and overhang. The crossbar can be adjusted height-wise. I began with the overhang all the way up, but after bumping my head into it countless times, I lowered it as far as it would go. This has the added benefit of bringing the light lower and closer to the subject, which also reduces the depth of shadows.

You can also sand down the cove surface to remove any noticeable sheen, but that really shouldn't be necessary, unless painting it--which you can do. However, once you paint it (with water-based paint), you'll need to repaint it to keep a fresh shooting surface. Either way, wipe down all surfaces when done for a dust-free shooting environment.

The included fluorescent light makes shooting tabletops a snap( top), but, with some effort, you can do better when using strobe (center). For my strobe lighting I used the two mini heads from a macro flash, aiming one head into the overhang, the second head into the back wall (above).

This miniature set also comes with a pair of white bounce cards. These 8x10 cards are supported by an easel (you also put that together).