Introduction: Do It Yourself Photography Light Box for Under $40

Picture of Do It Yourself Photography Light Box for Under $40

How to build a light box for doing still life and product type photography out of every day materials.

Step 1: Gather Materials

Picture of Gather Materials
With the growth of, I decided I really needed a light box to take product photography. Of course you can buy a light box, but that’s no where near as fun as building one, and also not as cheap!

With that in mind, I got a mental picture of how I could create such a project, detailed out the items in my need and I headed down to Wal-Mart and picked up about $35 in supplies, all of which are detailed below:

  • (5) White Foam Core Board
  • (1) Roll of Carpet Tape - Two Sided
  • (1) Roll of Packing Tape
  • (3) Yards of Thin White Fabric - nearly sheer
  • Box Cutter
  • Scissors
  • (3) Pieces of Poster Board

Step 2: Building the Frame

Picture of Building the Frame

Once we have done the shopping, we need to make a template for our cuts. Take one of the pieces of foam core, measure a 2″ rim around it, and cut it out. I cut mine with rounded edges for a little support.

Four of these pieces will make up the frame of the light box, we will simply connect them with packing tape. One of the pieces will need to be split in the middle so that we can make the top fit. I also cut some little extensions to make it fill out.

Once you start connecting the pieces they will look something like this:

Step 3: Attaching the Fabric

Picture of Attaching the Fabric

After you get all of these in place, it’s time to start attaching the fabric. I used carpet tape to do this. Then I sealed the edges with Packing Tape.

You will probably need someone to help you attach the fabric, it needs to be pulled very tight so it doesn’t sag anywhere. You will tack it into place with the two sided carpet tape and then just go over the edges completely with the clear packing tape. Once you have done all four sides of it, you will be nearly done.

Step 4: Curving the Back

Picture of Curving the Back

In the picture of the complete box you will notice there is a space of the floor that isn’t filled. Starting there, and curving to the top, you will attach 3 pieces of poster board to create the curved back.

Once that’s in place, cover the top to the bottom, following the curve with the fabric so you have a seamless bottom. Once you are finished with that, you are done! You can see my box in the photo.

Step 5: Test It Out!

Picture of Test It Out!

I used three photography lights, but you can use shop lights, 500 watt ones should work perfectly well. Remember to adjust your white balance for the kind of lights you are using. Here is what my first test shot looked like!


mmock1 (author)2011-12-13

First of all, the design looked do-able for me. I'm not a photography student, but I needed a better way to take pictures of our products. I'm almost done, but I got confused on the instructions. It looks like the cloth is pulled tight on the outside of the frame, but you answered the question of "inside or outside" with "definitely on the inside or you will get shadows from the structure". So, I struggled to put the fabric on the inside after constructing the frame and well, it isn't tight. I'm going to try and use it as is, or if it's that bad, I'll tear it down and start over. It might have been easier to stretch the cloth before putting the frame together. So really, is it - outside or inside? Next question: Why did I need to cut out the back, if I was just going to put poster boards to create a curved back? And finally: I can see the seam of the poster boards overlapping each other through the white cloth. Can I use a heavier cloth to create the backdrop? And can I use black? Any suggestions are helpful!

craftyv (author)2011-02-13

LOL. Did you mean strip not srip ?

craftyv (author)2011-02-13

I'm building one right now, great. I hope you wern't using that cutter on your beautiful dining table.

cwebsterlusk (author)2011-01-31

Is the fabric on the inside, or on the outside? I don't know if it will make a difference but I don't want to take any chances! lol

philoking (author)cwebsterlusk2011-01-31

you definitely want the fabric on the inside or you will get shadows from the structure.

cwebsterlusk (author)philoking2011-01-31

Thats what I thought. Much appreciated!

jakovn (author)2010-10-24

Cool, but you can buy a new one for half a price

The Ideanator (author)jakovn2010-12-26

Where? Inquiring minds want to know!

torlin (author)2010-10-23

kewl job
but i prefer using pvc pipes, pvc connectors, and ripstop nylon

jgmaciasf (author)2010-10-21

Amazing dude. I will deffinitely build this. I'm currently studying architecture and this would be amazingly helpful with the photos of my models. Thanks a lot!

mawi (author)2010-04-02

interesting, need to be tried at home. Thanks a lot.

mjclementz (author)2009-08-27

As an alternative to the sheer fabric, I used tissue paper. It seems to be diffusing the light just as well, and is a lot cheaper/easier to come by. JUST BE CAREFUL when using hot floodlights as it can go up in flames if you're not being attentive and leave them on all that long.

reviyve (author)2009-03-18

thanks for the instruction. i always have trouble taking good photos for my website.
i saw another similar post that's the same concept but made with a box and some paper. i think i'll try that way first.


denzani (author)2009-01-04

Nice! i'm going to try this at home.Thanks

Derin (author)2008-10-06

this is a very nice project but i will probably do it with paper and cardboard and use the flash as a light

deegee3 (author)2008-07-24

I've really like this instructable. I've e-mailed it to myself so that I can work on it this weekend. Thanks for taking the time to do this and post it for us. It looks great. Deb

philoking (author)2007-10-17

I think mine is better, is it going to bring the site down to have an extra instructable? Why slam someone that is just trying to help?

jaydeechick (author)philoking2008-07-15

I know this instructable has been up for 9 months now, but I just wanted to show you some support. I like your light box. It's exactly what I need for a project, and it looks more professional than some of the other light boxes!! I would much prefer to rock up with one of these to do photos for a client, than one of the other cardboard box versions. As far as the two blokes who bagged you out... Drewdegrutyer has posted 2 (two) instructables, and trust me they're just GREAT (insert tonnes of sarcasm) and VelvetElvis hasn't even bothered posting an instructable!!! I really wouldn't be bothered by what they say. At least you've had a go and created a great, useful instructable. I love that there is more than one way to do things on this site. It's people like you who create options and new ideas. Thanks a million. I'm off now to make me a light box Jaydee :D

VelvetElvis (author)2007-10-17

Your duplicate detection skills would be better directed to the seemingly hundreds of K'nex weapon Instructables.

lololol. nice

ArmChairQB (author)VelvetElvis2007-11-07

Good Idea a K'nex weapon Light Box

royalestel (author)2007-11-08

Thanks for posting your way of making a light box. Options are always great!

butterflyqt314 (author)2007-11-05

Very nice. I am going to try and make this one to photograph my products. Thank you.

justus4 (author)2007-10-18

thanks for listing this project. Is there a way at could be collapsable for easy storage?

CameronSS (author)2007-10-17

Plus yours? I don't think that I made a light box Instructable...
This one uses foam core to make a custom box, while your two show how to modify an existing box. The one I linked to does not have built-in light diffusers. That makes a total of three previous versions, hardly "so many times before."

Instructables encourages variation on the same projects. Multiple projects means multiple methods.

alex_weber (author)2007-10-17

Actually I think, there is nothing wrong with doing things again. Maybe adding a new twist or new materials. It's always good if you can choose from different implementations.
I did just a very very simple one, it consists only of a single piece of paper. Ok, it's not really enterprise grade ;)

CameronSS (author)2007-10-17

Do you have any examples? this is the only other light box I can find, and it is very different.

About This Instructable




Bio: all you could want to know is on my website, it's a tech blog.
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