Introduction: How to Make a Light Box for Photography
To photograph small objects in all their glory, you need carefully controlled lighting. Lighting is critical for any photography. The term 'Photography' actually implies that it is an art of drawing images with light. With the proliferation of Digital Cameras and multi-mega pixel mobile phones, photography is at the reach of everyone.
But to get the maximum out of the subject in a high quality image, you need elaborate lighting accessories. The built-in flash of your camera lights up your subject in a straight harsh glare. Ideally you need a key light, background light and a fill-in light to showcase the features and for modeling.
Often I had to shoot freshly cut vegetables, cooked items and numerous other small implements for our Blog. A light box would have been ideal for this kind of photo session. It would have been easier to fashion one out of old cardboard boxes, but I decided to make one which can be reused many times and can be tossed in the shelf when not needed. It was decided that it uses its own lighting than to figure out a way to light the photo subject every time you brought out the camera.
What you will need:
1mm or 2 mm thick Aluminum L Channel = 360 cm
Cut into 30 cm length = 12
2 mm width 9mm length screws and matching nuts: 16
White Chart Paper: 3
Cut the Chart paper into 3x 32 cm size square sheet
Cut one sheet as 32 cm x 70cm size long rectangle
Blue Tack - Bostik - 1 Pack
3.3 V 300 mA White LED 6000 K : 4
12 V 1 A power supply: 1
This lightbox is made out of Aluminum L channels and a few bits of hardware lying around and I used some inexpensive white LED I bought earlier for another project. I used 4 LED drawing less than 300 mA from a 12 V supply for lighting the lightbox. I glued 2 on the front frame from inside and one each on the adjacent sides. As the chart paper is white, the light from white LEDs is reflected uniformly across inside the box. If correctly setup, your subject/object will be lit in a soft diffused light. See the stone studded jewelry I used as the test subject. But for a taller object, you may find a very faint shadow as can be seen from the Feng shui Crystal.
I have swapped out the visible white light LED with a string of UV (Ultra Violet) LED for some dramatic effects on some objects. You will be surprised at the kind of dramatic effects you can create with this light box and some inexpensive UV LEDs. You can check out UV Photography techniques here.
Step 1: Preparing the Aluminum Framework
Cutting the channels and drilling them can be a bit of a pain. But then you end up with a more stable and permanent lightbox that can survive dozens of photo sessions.
I bought the Aluminum channels from a hardware store cut into 3x 120 cm length for easy carting. I used an electric saw to cut them into 30 cm long pieces. You can use a hacksaw too as the Aluminum L channel is just about 1 or 2 mm thick.
Drill 2 mm hole after fixing each member of the channel to the corresponding right angled member. This is preferably done with each side as it helps to assemble them the right way. If the drilled holes don't align, it will become difficult to assemble the parts later. As soon as one section is done, join them together with the screw and nut.
I deliberately left out one section not bolted. I joined them only with Blue tack so that it can be taken apart when needed.
Step 2: Light Box Finishing Up
Once the Aluminum frame skeleton is done, you can fix the LED lights on the member facing you and on the adjacent 2 sides. Draw the wires feeding the LEDs away from the skeleton and it is a good idea to test the lights with the power supply.
It is time to 'cloth' the sides with the white chart paper. Take a look at the light box chart. First cut the chart paper sheet into 32 cm squares and using the Bluetack glue on both sides. Use one square sheet on the top. Now you have the frame clothed in the 2 sides and on the top.
Glue one edge of the long rectangle at the end of the top frame and draw the sheet in a curve and glue the other end at the bottom end of the frame facing you. Now you have all the sides covered except the one window facing you.
The long rectangle sheet is deliberately held in a curve so that there is no sharp edge casting a shadow in the background.
Turn on the LED light. Carefully place the object to be photographed in the center. Set up your camera on a tripod and you are done.
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