Samantha Ling (lingtm) wrote,
Samantha Ling

DIY Photography Lightbox

Diy LightBox from the front

I was photographing some things with my little Canon point and shoot camera and realized that there was a lot of glare on the products and the lighting wasn’t that great. So I decided that I needed a light box. I started looking online for one and discovered that there have been a lot of DIY lightboxes that look like they work really well. Of course, I had to make my own and it cost me all of six dollars. I have to say, it works pretty well for my needs. Here’s the box that I made.


Here are the supplies that you’ll need:

  • 1 Box (not pictured)
  • 1 Matte Posterboard (not pictured)
  • 1 yard muslin
  • scissors
  • box cutter
  • duct tape
  • ruler
  • cutting mat (optional)

The only thing that I need to buy was the muslin and the poster board. I had everything else because I’m crafty.

The instructions I had said I’d need about 2 yards of white muslin, but honestly, one yard will suffice for the box I had.

You can get the muslin at Joann’s for $1.99.  Look for the bleached white muslin 36″. And if you manage to get a 50% coupon off, you could probably buy the muslin for $0.99. I bought 2 yards at the regular price, so I paid $4 for all of it. (I’d already used my coupon for something else!). So if you’ve already got most of the supplies, you could make this box for an addition $3 or so.

The other thing that I had to buy was white poster board. You remember that poster board you used in middle school to create posters for school projects? It’s like a dollar. There’s a shiny side and a matte side, make sure you use the matte side.

The box that I used was a large flat rate post office box. It was a good size for what I needed and it hadn’t been dented to oblivion. Many of the boxes that I receive have been dropped, thrown about or crushed (UPS, I’m looking at you!). So make sure to pick one that’s relatively sturdy still and isn’t all mangled because you’ll be cutting holes and if it’s flimsy, it will be floppy. I made a previous box with a more mangled box as practice and it was a little sad and limp.

Lightbox from the side

So what I did was I taped the bottom shut and I taped the top flaps open to make the box longer and more of a square. (I apologize for not having photos of this, I didn’t think to take photos when I was making it.) Then I cut the holes on both sides and the top. I used the cutting mat, the ruler and the box cutter to make sure that the cuts were straight. There’s about an inch on all sides. Then I taped the duct tape over the box. I didn’t bother cutting exact squares for these holes, I just ripped it into one big strip and just taped it on, snipped off excess.

I’ve seen instructions for muslin, for tissue, for frosted window vinyl, but I think the cheapest and sturdiest solution is the muslin. I knew I’d poke holes in tissue by accident. Cut the poster board to size and slide it into the box. Don’t fold it, but let it have a little slope so there isn’t a line when you take a photo. Now just light the box by putting lights on the side and on the top (which I already had).

You can get clip on lights fairly cheaply now because of back to school and some daylight bulbs if you don’t already have lights. That would probably run you another $30-50. A clamp on light cost $6.97 and a 4-pack of 100W daylight bulbs cost $10.97 at Home Depot, but you need to have something to clamp the lights to like the edge of a small table. It can get a big awkward because of the way the lights are.

If you’re lucky, Target will have a sale after back to school is over and you can get these gooseneck lights for less than $10. Or if you have enough lamps in your house, take the lamp shades off and use daylight bulbs. I suppose if you don’t already have lights, you may just want to buy a cheap light box kit, but I like being able to control the type of lights and intensity of the light I want to use.

Here’s an example of something I took a photo of with my point and shoot that’s like five years old. You really don’t need a high end camera to take decent pictures.

Photo in my new lightbox with an old point and shoot!

Here are a few examples of how different people made their light boxes, with tissue, with the bottom cut out, made with sturdier foam board (this option would have cost me about $30 to buy all the foam), with tri-fold display boards (also a slightly pricier option), plastic see through storage box (box is about $15 at Target), with plastic pvc pipes ( didn’t have anything to cut them with!), with window screens as a frame, with a shower curtain instead of muslin. If you google DIY light box, you’ll get a plethora of other how-to’s and youtube videos.

I’ve got a few Ling Likes and Ling Laments posts in the planning and they involve products, so this light box will come in handy for photographing those. I actually enjoyed making this box and it was economical too! Hope you enjoyed it.

Originally published at Samantha Ling. You can comment here or there.

Tags: diy, light box, photography

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