Making a simple, effective and inexpensive lightbox

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a photographer shoots a scene inside of a lightbox

Lightboxes are great tools for any photographer to have in their arsenal. They create a controlled environment with great lighting that a photographer can alter to their choosing. Lightboxes are perfect for still life and product photography. We will go over an inexpensive way to make a lightbox and end with a couple examples of how we used ours.

Materials


Here’s a list of the materials you will need:

  • Box (duh. ours was 17x13x15, we wish we would have used a bigger one)
  • Packaging tape
  • Scissors
  • Box cutter (we used an exact-o knife. It was not ideal, but it worked.)
  • Lights (again, duh. Ideally, full spectrum directional lights, 100 watts.)
  • White matte poster board
  • Black matte poster board
  • White muslin (I learned that muslin is a type of cloth while doing this project. Nylon or similar fabrics work as well. Something that can gently diffuse the light)
  • Tape measure or yard stick (straight edge to mark the lines)
  • Pencil

How to make your lightbox


1. Start out by taping the bottom of the box shut.

Make sure the box is sturdy and held together well. We used a crappy box from my closet, which necessitates step five. Otherwise, you can get a brand new box pretty cheap from stores, probably, we didn’t really look.


2. Next, mark off about 1 inch from the edge around 3 sides of the box.

3. Using a box cutter (err… or similar), cut along all of the lines that you marked.

This is what the box should look like at this point. Notice that one long side is kept intact. This will be the back of the “stage.”

4. Next, cut off the top flaps of the box. Who needs ’em, anyways?

5. If you’re using a worn box like we did (did we mention that this is a cheap project? Because this is a cheap project), make sure to reinforce some of the thin corners.

6. Now take the white muslin and drape it over the top.

You could always cut the muslin to cover the three windows of the box, but we decided that we’ll be re-using ours to make a larger lightbox in the future. We unfolded it so that it wasn’t layered; but depending on the strength of your lights, it’s possible you’ll want it doubled-up.

7. Now measure the white posterboard and cut it to the width of the box.

Remember that the back of the posterboard will curve up the back of the stage so that there aren’t any sharp corners in the shot. Do NOT crease it.

There’s our star! The vintage and retro 1997 Nanook Beanie Baby. I can only imagine how much he’s worth nowadays. Oh yeah, anyways, the step–

8. Finally, put the black poster board at the top to block out any ambient lighting.

Portrait of blue-eyed Siberian husky Beanie Baby with a white foreground and blue background.

 

A close-up shot of Nanook in the lightbox.

Remember that the key of the fabric is to diffuse the light gently into the stage of the lightbox. The lights will be the most expensive part of the project, ours came out to about twenty bucks, while the rest was ten or so.

Let us know how your lightbox turned out! We plan to use ours for upcoming projects, so stay tuned.

2 COMMENTS

    • Absolutely! I think product photography has an important purpose, and this is a first step to creating a controlled environment to shoot in.

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