Building A Simple Photo Box

By Alex Cornella
Cornella Family Loft

I have been experimenting with capturing my pigeons in photos for many years with varying degrees of success. Not long ago I took a 30” x 30” cardboard box a computer came in and set it up in my garage. I cut holes in the front, top, sides and front, and then spray-painted the inside of the box. At first, I used blue paint and later went to white background. It ain’t pretty, but it gets the job done.

A simple photo box made from a discarded cardboard box

I installed three lights, one on top and two on the sides. The light fixtures on the sides are aluminum work lights that you find in the hardware store with 40-watt bulbs. The light on top is an old fluorescent fixture. I painted a nest bowl gold, but decided I liked white better, and turned it upside down to give the birds a perch. I use a long-handled, narrow paintbrush to position the bird and smooth ruffled feathers. I try to remember to wash the bird’s feet before snapping its picture.

Initially, I employed a 35 mm camera with a short lens and 200 ASA film. The results were reasonably good; however, the cost of film and processing was a bit expensive considering usually one or two photos per roll are keepers. More recently, I graduated to a digital camera I like very much and has more features than I will ever be able to comprehend. With the digicam, you know immediately if a shot is good and you can crop out objectionable background like inevitable pigeon droppings. The camera I use is a Sony CD Mavica (3.3 mega pixels) that cost around $500. The Mavica records the images on a mini CD disk that I can pop into my computer without fooling with wires, which is a great feature. The key to purchasing a digital camera for this purpose is to get one with the most mega pixels you can afford. The more mega pixels, the better quality of the images. Although I am not completely satisfied with the results – there are still some shadows in the images – my pigeon photos have come a long way. While they are not as good as the photos the professionals take, they are reasonably good and getting better.

A finished photo taken with a digital camera

Of course, positioning the bird takes patience and practice. Not all birds are calm and cooperative, or stand nicely for a photo. I speak to the bird softly, gently prodding him with the paintbrush until I have a good position and take many shots. When I finally get a good image, I am rewarded with a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment.