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Make A Photo Light Box / Light Tent Cheap

Make A Photo Light Box / Light Tent Cheap

26,195 views Since it was Spewed out 13 years, 1 month ago at 2:40 am

There’s already plenty of home made light tent tutorials out there. Why not add another one? How’s this one different? Well for one it’s very cheap in both cost as well as quality. However cheap in quality in terms of the light box doesn’t necessarily mean cheap quality photographs will result from it.

Although you definitely won’t achieve the same type of photographic quality from this as you would a purchased professional setup, you certainly won’t be paying as much.

The only materials required to make this box is an empty cardboard box, white paper, tape, and a cutting knife. If used as a guide I’m sure a better and bigger box could be made.

The box I used is one which was designed to hold 8 1/2 x 11 documents so that was perfect for the sizes of white paper I had. I used 8 1/2 x 11 white paper (with a brightness of 97 and weight of 47 lbs for anyone curious).

Find A Box First you’ll want to find yourself a cardboard box that will be suitable for this project. I’m mainly going to be using this to take macro shots of small items and objects. After obtaining the box you’ll want to cut the flaps off of it first.

Mark the cut out area Next thing is to mark out the area to cut out on the sides of the box. Since this box was made to carry documents it was already close to the size I wanted. I marked off approximately an inch in from each side and roughly marked out the section. After doing so, I cut out the inside leaving a frame.

Trace cut out on other side I just used the cut out piece to mark the opposite side. Again you’ll want to cut this portion out and leave a frame. The frame is to essentially shine your light through and we’ll be using 8 1/2 x 11 paper to diffuse that light.

Sides cut out So with the sides of the box cut out along with the top flaps, you should have something similar to this in front of you. As you can see there’s approximately a 1 inch “frame” left as a result of cutting out the middle.

Mark top of box The next thing is to make a cut out for the top of the box. In this case I’m actually going to be using the box laying on its side. So in this case the “top” is actually the longer side of the box. Anyways I marked out this section with an approximate 1 inch border as well. Obviously since this side is larger a single piece of 8 1/2 x 11 piece of paper will not be sufficient enough to cover the opening. Either two will need to be used or you can leave it open.

All sides cut outThis is how it should now look at this point with the three sides cut out. Now you can also see what I mean by putting the box on it’s side and using the longer side as the top and bottom of the box. Depending on how you are photographing objects you may wish to diffuse the light coming through the top of the box and photograph in the front of the box. Or diffuse light from the front as well and photograph coming in the top of the box.

Line with paperNext is the process of whiting out the interior surfaces. Unless your box happens to be crisp white on the inside. You may also grey out or black out the inside as well depending on how you want it. If you have the time or scraps it’s a good idea to make all surfaces white. You’ll notice the side walls/frames I did not touch. Also for the back wall it’s a good idea to curve the paper from the bottom surface to the back wall. This will provide a solid white background with no seams. Also since the paper is not long enough I joined them with invisible tape and under normal lighting conditions the seems are not visible.

The set upSo this is the general set up. You’ll probably have a third light coming in the front or the top of the box. You’ll want to diffuse accordingly. In the spirit of being extremely cheap and thrifty I’m also using a couple of 500w halogen worklamps which cost about $9 each. The bulbs aren’t anything special and as a result do not provide the full spectrum of light as the more expensive “true natural” type of bulbs available.

BeforeSo here’s the result of using the light box to photograph a close up of a still object. You’ll have to excuse me as I forgot to set the proper white balance. This exaggerated the effect of having yellowish halogen bulbs as well.

After Nothing a little post-processing in photoshop can’t fix. All in all it took about 10 minutes to make this cheap little box for use. Definitely makes it handy to photograph decent shots for use for eBay auctions or perhaps if you sell products this could be handy as well. You’ll have to excuse the dust on the glasses. The shot is pretty crisp, it’s just the lenses are dusty on the glasses.

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14 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. What a brilliantly simple idea! Here I was going to go through all the trouble of making a frame out of PVC pipe and staring me in the face was my answer all along. Thank you!

  2. I was contemplating the same as well. Although PVC piping is cheap, it certainly takes more time to construct and in my case was overkill for my needs. Not to mention storage is an issue (for me). Glad you like it.

  3. GravatarNan

    What a talent idea! I am a photograph fan from China! I also want to make the same light box by myself.But now I want to konw whether I could use the CCFL lights.I konw the CCFL light is approach the nature light.Thanks very much!

  4. I’ve always struggled with taking photos and I poorly constructed a light box trying to take the short cut. Now, I have to begin again! I will take this advice as it’s easier than others I saw requiring you to cut the bottom of the box out as well.

  5. thanks for this! helpful. 🙂

  6. Thank you for your idea! I will so construct 🙂

  7. GravatarRyan Moore

    Great tutorial. Is there any limit to how big you can construct a light tent before its not effective? For example we’re looking to shoot our own product photography which is mainly stuffed animals. They include a blanket which we like to spread out to show size, but that adds a few feet each way. Basically would it be worth constructing a 3’x4’x6′ light tent or should we just make a backdrop and get some lights? Our shooting room has flourescent bulbs in it so not ideal. Thanks!

  8. Depending on how big the box gets you may need some stronger lights, but I suppose there really isn’t. Given your dimensions though sounds like you might benefit from a proper lighting setup and just go with a backdrop.

  9. Thanks..I will make my Photo Light Box today! Will see how it works..

  1. Poise - Mar 18th, 2007

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