Creating a Photo Box

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I feel it is important to have good pictures to show off the color and type of the birds. This makes it easier to evaluate your own finches, as well as making it easier for prospective buyers to get a true representation of the bird they might buy.

Birds that are hunched down on cage bottoms, ¬†obscured by wire or poorly lit don’t show themselves off very well. I made a simple and cheap photo box that safely contains the finch and allows it to relax in order to get a nice picture. I gathered some ideas for photo boxes online and came up with a plan that works for me. It’s not fancy, but works great… and best of all, cost about $3!

Here is a basic ‘How-to’ if you would like to try to make your own photo box:

Supplies-

  • 3 sheets of white foam board (Dollar Tree has the best price)
  • Hot Glue gun
  • Heavy Duty packing tape
  • Parchment paper, wax paper or vellum
  • 12 x 12 sheet of colored paper for background
  • A small branch to use as a perch
  • A nail, brad, etc to use as a hinge for your bird-door

Step 1- Cut the board.

I chose to go with a 14″ x 12″ x 12″ box. This should work great for most finches, adjust accordingly if you have larger or smaller birds. I found that the foam board was not always cut square, so be sure to measure carefully if using one of the existing edges. The foam board cuts easily with a knife, but will have a cleaner edge if you score through the paper and then cut. Scissors don’t work as good as a knife.

  • 4- 14″ x 12″ pieces
  • 2- 12″ x 12″ pieces

Step 2- Assemble the box.

Using heavy duty packing tape, assemble the four 14″ x 12″ pieces into the box. Do not yet attach the lid or bottom. My cuts weren’t perfect, I used the packing tape to snug the edges tight, overlapping them so they are flush.

Place your background paper inside the box on one of the walls. The paper will be a little shorter than the wall if you used a 12″ x 12″ piece of cardstock like I did. It’s not a big deal, just be sure that the paper is flush to what will be come the top edge of your box rather than the bottom.

Step 3- The perch and base.

I wanted a natural perch that would encourage the bird to stay centered in front of my camera. I didn’t want to have to fuss with the bird or move my camera at all once the bird was in the box. To achieve this I chose an L-shaped branch from a bird-safe tree in my yard. The short leg of the ‘L’ is around 3″ long. This allows the bird to have enough room to perch and turn around but not so much so that it can move out of the center of the camera’s view.

Cut the perch so the long leg of the ‘L’ is around 7-8″ long

This is where a little trial and error come in: You want the long section of your perch to be secured to the base of the box so that the short end of the perch will be centered in the box. DO NOT center the long end or your bird will perch too closely to the wall. Also, the perch should be closer to the back wall that the the front, where the camera will be located. I found that for my camera (my iPhone)- the best focus was achieved when the perch was 8″ away from the camera, which means it is 4″ from the back of the box. Once you have found this distance, it will make centering the short-end of the perch side-to-side easier.

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See how the base of the perch is off-centered, which allows the portion the bird sits on to be centered.

I traced a hole in the base piece of the box the diameter of the long leg of the ‘L’ and cut the hole out. The I put hot glue in the hole, inserted the perch and used the hot glue to secure the perch. I found it was most sturdy when I built up a cone of hot glue around the base of the perch where it attaches to the foam board.

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Build up the hot glue around the base to stabilize the perch.

At this point I set the 4 sides of the box over the base with the perch. From the inside, I used a pencil to mark about where the birds body would be on the perch on the front panel of the box. The one the camera will be shooting through. I then cut a slit, just wide enough for the lens of the camera. You don’t want it wide enough for your bird to escape through. I glued a small piece of foam board to the outside of the front panel to act as a shelf for my camera (phone) to sit on so that I don’t have to hold it and worry about the focus changing.

Once you get it so that your camera is focusing nicely and the perch is centered in the viewfinder, you can tape the bottom in place, just as you did with the four sides.

Step 4- The Door

You could get very fancy with this. I chose to keep it very simple. I cut a square hole in the right side of the box. I made sure I could easily get my hand in and out while holding a finch.

I cut a circle out of leftover foam board slightly bigger than the opening. I tried a square shape for the door first, but the corners would get caught on my hand and the opening. To attach the door, I used a simple brad (or small nail) pushed through the top of the circle and into the box. Be sure it is hanging so that the opening is completely covered when closed. On the inside of the box, where the brad poked through the foam board, I placed a bead of hot glue to secure the door and to keep the birds from hurting themselves on the point if they were to touch it.

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This is how the door looks from the inside. Notice the bead of hot glue securing the brad that is the ‘hinge’ for the door.

Step 5- The Lighting

After some trial and error, I found that having the light shine directly on the birds made reflections, shadows, too much heat and the pictures turned out a bit harsh. To fix this, I used a piece of parchment paper as a light diffuser. Parchment is what I had on hand, vellum is more traditionally used but wax paper would work as well. Tape doesn’t stick well to these types of paper and the paper alone is not real sturdy. To get around this issue I cut the center out of the top piece of foam board and sandwiched the paper between the edges of the box and the ‘frame’ made out of the top of the box. I did use some hot glue to stick the paper to the box edges to keep it in place while securing the top frame.

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The center was cut out of the 12″ x 12″ top piece, leaving a 3/4″ frame.

The source of light I used is a simple workshop type clamp light that I had on hand. I clamped it so that the light is just above the top of the box, coming down into it at a slight angle towards the bird on the perch. I like the look of a daylight spectrum compact fluorescent light bulb the best out of several that I tried. But play around with it and see what you like best!

 

Tips:

  • A piece of paper towel in the bottom makes cleanup easy after a photo shoot.
  • Play around with the perch/camera placing before securing anything permanently during Step 3.
  • I used a bird size clip to attach to the perch about where the bird will sit while playing with the positioning so I wasn’t stressing a live bird.
  • Don’t worrying about making everything perfect. These materials are forgiving and no one will see what the finished project looks like, except you!

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