Our makerspace produces a lot of projects that need photographing - for Instructables, our own website, Etsy stores, or elsewhere. We have a couple of small light boxes donated by members but for bigger projects we had nothing suitable. A few people had developed their own 'stop gap' solutions but nothing really worked. In the end we found a simple solution just using a few bits and bobs that we already had hanging around!
First, we needed a flat base. That tabletop looks flat, but it's not! We had an old business sign that turned up in a load of reclaimed acrylic - it made a nice flat base, that, being white, will help to reflect light upwards.
Next, we found an old flipchart pad that had been donated to us. We don't actually have a flipchart, and the paper is not good enough quality to use for artwork or making. But it is white enough and reflective enough to be use to us here! Because it was a little wrinkled, we ironed it before use.
Next, we used a panel of packing foam to provide a curved back for our photo area, then taped some of the flipboard paper to it. The curve means that we avoid the shadow that we would have from a hard edge and corners.
Sheets of paper can be added and removed as needed for larger and smaller items to provide a working area without a seam. A daylight LED work lamp provides additional daylight-spectrum light to help counter lower light levels.
Doesn't look like anything special, right? But look at the difference in these pictures! The first was taken using our new photography area, and while it is not perfect, (it is shown completely unedited) it will require only minor tweaks in Pixlr or other simple software. Whereas the second photo, using our old stop gap using the same camera, also completely unedited, is dull, lifeless... not terrible, but not doing justice to our project at all! The mallet project was front-page featured here on Instructables. If I had used the second photo, I doubt the project would have got a feature at all.
I hope this has helped you to take better photos using only simple bits and bobs you have on hand!