Going Cheap: Making A Light Box

Mrs. Rev has been very handy when it comes to making photography stuffs instead of spending mula on accessories/equipment.  We’ve made a few different contraptions to help filter and soften the light from our built-in flashes but her latest find was a light box.  The Strobist always has money saving and photography tips and my pal located the light box info there.  And I was so jealous of hers:

Light Box - Set Up

Mrs. Rev and I got together Saturday to 1) shop for supplies at Hobby Lobby 2) make a light box for moi and 3) eat.  My kind of day.  I thought we’d photograph our way through the process to show you how easy it is.  I took some photos, she took some photos, so this was definitely a joint effort.

Making a Light Box

What you need to get started is:

  • a good size box (think of the size of things you want to photograph in it)
  • vellum paper/transparent paper/tissue paper – something that allows light through.  We found a vellum type poster board @ Hobby Lobby.  Cost almost $4 a sheet but it’s sturdier than tissue paper and that’s good because my BDD is a bull in a china shop.
  • clear tape
  • a ruler
  • a pencil
  • a box knife
  • and scissors or the cool little doodad Mrs. Rev had

Oh, and if you’re as lucky as I am, a partner in crime an instructor.

Mrs. Rev

To get started, you need to decide how the box will sit – I did mine vertical like Mrs. Rev’s.  So you’ll need to remove the top and left and right sides but leave a frame to attach the vellum.  We used the width of the ruler to draw the frame.

Making a Light Box

After the frames are outlined, take out your box knife and very, very careful cut along the lines.  I found the most successful way is to score it – score the line about three or four times.  That way you’re not applying too much pressure to crunch up your box and you’re less likely to slip and have an accident.

Making a Light Box

See how careful I am?  Cutting away from the body and making sure I can see my left hand.  And Mrs. Rev’s hands.  I’ve seen people at work slice through their fingers lickety split with these types of knives so please be careful.  I don’t think you want blood on your light box.  Or a trip to the ER for stitches.  That kind of takes away all of the fun.

See Ma, no blood!

Making a Light Box

Repeat on all three sides and then voila! you have a box with big holes in it!  I went ahead and removed the top flap too – that would get super annoying super fast.

Making a Light Box

Mrs. Rev wanted to put her face in it.  Pretty girl!

Making a Light Box

Next you measure the sides of your box and cut the vellum paper to fit the outside.  Mrs. Rev had this cool little doodad that she referred to as a “wrapping paper cutter” that just zipped on down the page.  Very cool.

Making a Light Box

Then you slap these suckers on the outside of your missing box walls and tape them in place.  I say tape it.  Tape it good.  Nothing like a little 80s music to get the blood flowing in the morning.

Making a Light Box

And then you got yourself a home made light box that cost less than $10 to make.  And you recycled a box.  Or you recycled a friend’s box.  Look at that, we’re being green too.

Making a Light Box

This is a test… and it works.  Sweet heysoos, I have a light box! This is going to come in handy for the Weekly Photo Challenge!

Making a Light Box

The only thing left to do is select some colored poster board to have as backdrops.  Measure the width of your box and then take your cool little doodad that zips along ( or lame scissors) and trim down the poster boards.

Making a Light Box

I chose a variety of colors like Mrs. Rev to switch it up.  And The Strobist recommends playing with your white balance to get different effects too.  There is so much natural light in this room that I didn’t need artificial light.  But back at home, I have two desks lamps ready to set up on either side.

Making a Light Box

I had to try it out:

Making a Light Box

This shot is SOOC (straight out of camera) on the gray backdrop and natural light lit the box.  I’m impressed that something so easy and cheap to make has such a good result.  The only thing that bugs me is that in shiny objects,  you see your reflection.  I’ll get over that though because I saved mula.  Which is good.  Yep, definitley good.

To learn more about Brooke and see her recent work, visit her new site at brookemurphyphoto.com. Follow Brooke on Facebook or Twitter.

September 28, 2009 - 11:25 am

katie - That is fantastic! Now will you build one for me and ship it to Atlanta? Thanks. :)

September 28, 2009 - 12:22 pm

denise:) - Brilliant!!!

September 28, 2009 - 3:24 pm

lisahudson - I am going to my garage to find an empty box. Right now! Love this!!!


September 29, 2009 - 9:58 am

Wendi - This is genius. The next good sized box that comes into the office is going home with me so I can build one too.

October 8, 2009 - 9:01 am

DIY Lightbox « Bon Appetit Hon - […] latest DIY project was inspired by this post on Shutterboo.  I took one look at her homemade lightbox and knew I had to have one.  Sure, I could go online […]

October 8, 2009 - 10:23 am

Emily - MARVELOUS! And where was I when the brains were handed out? All the photography classes in the world didn’t teach me this DUH!

November 7, 2009 - 11:50 am

Things [I Love] In A Light Box « shutterboo - […] [I Love] In A Light Box After I put together my totally awesome light box, I realized I only had one lamp.  I thought I had two.  I have no idea where the other one is but […]

November 13, 2009 - 4:52 pm

Weekly Photo Challenge Catch-up: Time « Amy+Dave=937 - […] I had the day off today and decided to make a light box.  I always wondered how people got pictures like this.  Now I know the secret.  Michael’s […]

January 5, 2010 - 9:38 am

It’s Cold – Make Some Soup « shutterboo - […] light box is so frickin useful.  Make one those while you’re at it […]

January 11, 2010 - 10:20 am

Macro Matches « shutterboo - […] really liked the photos of the unlit matches.  I used my handy homemade light box with a black backdrop.  Lined up my matches.  Positioned my lamps in a way I liked outside the […]

January 12, 2010 - 4:58 pm

chefyourself - See what happens when I lurk around your stuff when I’m at work?! I find awesomes stuffs! I’mma make me one’em here boxes!
Thanks, lovey!

PS: Toilet is kicking me booty…snif

January 12, 2010 - 5:16 pm

shutterboo - Isn’t it cool! And… if you make it big enough… you can “plate” your food and light box it! I did that with my potato soup picture.
And don’t worry… it’s just a challenge. ;)

January 20, 2010 - 7:27 am

davecandoit - Wow, that’s very cool.

January 31, 2010 - 1:45 pm

chefyourself - I’ve been using the box to take the plated pictures and I think it has improved them a lot. Thanks!

February 21, 2010 - 2:09 pm

Eggatha - I finally got around to making this! I followed your directions to a T. I even was thinking “Tape it, tape it good” while I was doing it. :)

Thanks for posting this!

February 22, 2010 - 12:02 pm

shutterboo - Oh goody! I think you’ll have fun with it. And you can make it collapsible if need the space. win-win.

March 16, 2010 - 8:16 am

A [Different] Flickr Challenge « shutterboo - […] that light box is […]

July 14, 2010 - 9:11 am

shutterboo » Blog Archive » Week 47: Fruit - […] light box, how I love thee.  I tried several different set ups with my limes and tequila.  I had a […]

January 26, 2011 - 8:56 am

shutterboo » Blog Archive » Week 4: Colorful - […] your colorful fingernails, dummy.”  I had to bust out Plan B.  Which happened to include my self-made light box (thanks to Mrs. […]

March 28, 2011 - 6:05 pm

Feeling purple [WPC# 13 - purple] « the dSLR newbie - […] Not too long ago I successfully created this self-made light box off of a super tutorial from our fearless photo challenge leader. […]

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