Documenting family history isn’t just about finding genealogical records. Family history can be found all around our home and the home’s of our relatives. These items need to be documented too. But when you start inventorying what you have – scrapbooks, photo albums, heirlooms and inherited items – it may turn out to be a bigger job than you thought. You could just snap photos with your phone, but you might end up with annoying shadows and glare.

The Shotbox, a handy portable photography studio, solves these problems. I’m using it to document my family keepsakes and even digitize my photo albums. It makes the job much easier and gives me better results, faster.

Videos and show notes

It’s helping me accomplish a goal I’ve wanted to reach for a long time – quality documentation of all the family items that are meaningful to me and that I hope will be meaningful to future generations.

Save on the Shotbox

SHOTBOX SHOP  (thank you for supporting our free channel by using our affiliate link)
GG20 – $20 off the $249 Shotbox bundle
GG10 – $10 off the $199 Shotbox bundle
GG5 – $5 off the Shotbox base unit

Watch the Videos

Watch this special preview unboxing video now to get ready for tomorrow’s live premiere:

Next, in this video you’ll learn how to set up and use the Shotbox to photograph heirlooms, books, old photo albums and more and get stunning results:


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Show Notes

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Shotbox: Multiple Uses

While this article and video focuses on using the Shotbox for family history, there are many other uses for it. You can also use it to create professional looking photos of items you want to sell online, document items for insurance purposes, and (one of my favorites uses) capture your kid’s and grandkid’s artwork.

Unboxing: What’s Included

I like to know what I’m going to get when I order something, so I’ve created an “unboxing video” for you. Here’s everything that comes in the bundle:

  • SHOTBOX Core Light Box and reversable floor panel
    SideShot Kit – smart device platform with an extra 12″ of LED lighting
  • Backdrop Kit – black, white, green, and blue backdrops
  • Black DELUXE Carry Bag – shock-resistant neoprene. Zipped pockets
  • Power cord extension cable
  • Bluetooth shutter remote
  • Glare shield set
  • Archival spatulas and fingertip covers

Setting up the Shotbox

To open the portable studio, grab one of the square holes on the top (the black panel) and pull up. The box is will pop open.

Next, take the small poles on either side of the opening and pull them down to secure in place. This will make the box rigid and sturdy.

Place the reversable floor panel on the bottom of the Shotbox.

Select a backdrop. You have four to choose from: white, black, blue and green. The blue and green will come in handy as “green screens” that will allow you to easily remove or change up the background of the photo when used in a video.

Carefully unroll the backdrop and hold it by the “Shotbox” tag on the end. With the smooth side facing up, hang the backdrop by placing the holes over the tabs at the top of the back of the box.  Gently use the plastic rod at the other end of the backdrop to move it back into place and secure the rod behind the front lip of the box.

Plug the power cord into the back of the box. Use the round dial in the upper right corner of the front of the box to turn on and adjust the lights.

Shotbox backdrops

Backdrop installed in the Shotbox.

Photographing Items

The Shotbox features several holes in the top of the box. These give you options for placing your phone, camera side down, so that you can photograph flat items such as books, paper and artwork through the hold. You can then reposition your item or your phone for the optimal shot.

You can zoom in on your phone screen to get just the right cropped image or edit the photo afterwards. I like to quickly edit after taking a series of photos. Usually there’s little to do but cropping, but sometimes the Enhance feature or other editing tools in your Photos app will help achieve the final results you want.

Shotobx book

Photographing an ancestor’s journal with the Shotbox

Bluetooth Shutter Remote

Use the Bluetooth shutter remote to speed up the photographing process. You’ll need to pair it with your smartphone. Do this by turning on the Bluetooth functionality on your phone. (On my iPhone I went to the Settings app, tapped Bluetooth, switched it to the on mode.) Press and hold the button on the remote until it flashes and then the device should appear in your list of Bluetooth compatible devices on your phone. Once paired, you can simply press the remote button to snap each photo.

Using the SideShot

When photographing three dimensional items you’ll need the SideShot. It’s a separate piece that allows your phone to photograph from a variety of angles from the front.

To install the SideShot, place the end of the long arm into one of the holes on the top. (I started with the center hole.) Make sure it snaps in place and is sturdy. Next, turn the level to release the tension which allows you to position it and the perfect angle for your shot, then tighten it back up. Turn your phone upside down and point the camera through the hold in the SideShot.

You’ll also find foldable side pieces that allow you to also use a tablet as your camera. It’s also a good idea to use the shutter remote so you won’t risk bumping the camera once in position.

Finally, plug the needle tip cord into the back of the box and the other end (the USB) into the SideShot. As you turn on the power to the Shotbox, the lights on the back of the SideShot will also come on.

shotbox sideshot

Using the Shotbox Sideshot to photograph family heirlooms

Reducing Glare

Glare can be a real problem when photographing items that are framed behind glass. The glare shields that come with the Shotbox dramatically reduce glare.

Each glare shield is fitted with four magnets that fit perfectly on the four screws on the inside of the top of the box on each side. Simple place each shield in position and they will hold in place.

Glare can be further reduced by experimenting with repositioning your camera and varying the amount of light with the on/off dial.

Save on the Shotbox

SHOTBOX SHOP  (thank you for supporting our free channel by using our affiliate link)
GG20 – $20 off the $249 Shotbox bundle
GG10 – $10 off the $189 Shotbox bundle
GG5 – $5 off the Shotbox base unit

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