Light Studio for Photographers (Tabletop)


Introduction: Light Studio for Photographers (Tabletop)

About: Junior in the school of film and photography at MSU in Bozeman, MT.

This instructable shows you the easy, inexpensive, and quick way to create a light box that can get you the same photographic results as a 150 dollar light box. The only difference is that this one can ultimately be built for under 10 dollars. For those of you out there that don't mind spending a few extra bucks or for some reason hate recycling, you can spend up to 30, but hey, its still cheap and way less than those "official" light box rip offs.

Step 1: Get Materials

Refer to the image for materials.

Keep in mind what you may plan to shoot pictures of, for it will be a good factor in deciding how big you want your box to be. Since were laying poster board in the box, I would recommend that you keep the boxes' dimensions within the width of the poster board. The two colors of poster board I would recommend getting are white and black, but of course its also good to experiment and I find that blue and red also make good backgrounds. But, use any colors you wish. The color of the poster board sets the "mood" for the picture i.e. black background would be for like sleek watches or high dollar items, where as white may be for something like a vase with flowers, or something "light" and "airy"

Step 2: Prep the Box

The first thing you will need to do is get the box ready so you can apply the screen windows (vinyl shower curtain in my case)

You only assemble the bottom of the box, leave the top of the box flaps open, but make sure the bottom is taped shut. Try to tape the flaps together very closely to avoid a lot of light to get through.

Now lay the box on its side and assuming your box is square the side that is now facing up is your new top. This is how the box will be oriented from now on, whenever you take photographs.

Make sure the open end is towards you and cut the top and bottom flaps off of the box, but make sure you leave the left and right flaps.

Now (I used a carpenters square but I assume most people don't have a 3 foot square laying around, basically all you need is a straight edge. Get your marker and trace straight lines parallel to all edges creating a square shape on each side of the box, left, right, top and bottom. Make sure to leave about 2 inches of space between your lines and the edge of the box. If you have a larger box, I would go with 3 or more inches. Use your judgment on this one. Now if it helps, keep using your straight edge (whatever you may have used) and use it to aid you in using the utility knife to cut the squares out of each side of the box. Be sure to leave the former bottom now currently the back of the box taped up. Don't cut the back of the box that you taped up.

The picture should clear any questions you may have up. Areas in gray are the sections of the box that are to be eliminated.

Step 3: Cut and Apply Light Diffusing Material to Box Windows

This step involves cutting your material, in my case a vinyl shower curtain to fit the open spaces on the sides of the box.

Get your measuring tape or w/e you have and measure the square spaces in the sides of your box to get an idea of how big to cut your squares of material. Going past the edge is key here, in case you may not have realized that. So if your square space is 18 inches by 18 inches then you want your square piece of material to be 20 or 21 inches.

The look of the box isn't important, so going over the edge and doing a crappy tape job isn't the end of the world. You can still make it look neat if you tape the material on from the inside of the box. You could also glue it if that floats your boat. The 2 or more inches of space you left at the edges is where you will attach the light diffusing material to, whether you do it from the inside of the box or outside of the box. As you can see I just taped mine on the outside with duct tape. Look at the image notes.

The bottom of the box does not need covered with the light diffusing material, leave the a hole. The poster board will be covering the bottom anyway.

Note: Try to keep your material tight or "stretched" so to speak so its not all saggy or droopy in effort not to cause serious shadows or detectable light distortion....creases aren't a big deal as you can see my shower curtain has creases in it and I have found no effects in my photos.

Step 4: Buying Poster Board and Lights

Now your box is basically done. All that we need now are light sources and backdrops. You can use anything as a backdrop if you are one of those creative types and can make it work. I find that poster board works very well. The thing to make sure is that the intersection of the bottom and back of box is underneath the curved portion of your backdrop. This is crucial in order to create a photo without having a crease revealed, and rather makes an illusion of having an infinite nothingness behind your subject.

The more gradual the curve of the backdrop, the less immediate gradient of shadow. It just takes some experimenting, but you will find that it works fine the first time you try it.

You can use lamps that you already have or buy new ones from Walmart or something.

Refer to the image notes for more information.

Step 5: Setting Up Lighting

Now that you have everything done you are ready to take some photos. The only thing you may want to do now is learn more about lighting and still life photography. Arranging the lights and angles can drastically change the effects or mood of your photos, along with other various factors. There are other articles and tutorials that go in depth about still life photography and studio shooting that you can look into, I figured you would get more professional advice by searching Google than me mushing a few things here and there in with this instructable.

I hope you enjoyed this instructable, it was my first one. Please let me know if you have any suggestions, or any questions that I may have left unclear.

Just email me and include instructable or something along those lines in the subject so I can differentiate from spam and your emails.

Also, I only briefly proofread my sentences please let me know if something does not make sense or needs revised.

Thank you,

- T



  • Clocks Contest

    Clocks Contest
  • Creative Misuse Contest

    Creative Misuse Contest
  • Oil Contest

    Oil Contest

21 Discussions

Haven't made it yet, but the instructions seem very straight forward. Thanks!

Thank you for your assistance! Came out great! Now I need a bigger lightbox to take a pictrue of the lightbox ;)

Excellent instructable. I like the idea of re purposing a box, as some of them can be folded without being damaged, so this is lightweight and portable. I would suggest to stick the diffusing material from the inside, or paint it white. This is to avoid weird lines on shiny round objects.

I would think wax paper would be way too fragile. I think baking parchment ( sold in same area as wax paper) would work better, as it's sturdier, but still pretty economical.

I am a jewelry designer/craftsman of custom made high end fine jewelry. I photograph each piece as soon as I complete it. I use a homemade light box consisting of 4 white painted dowels placed in drilled holes in a wooden base with a section of white ceiling tile on top the base. A white pillowcase is slipped over the dowels like a tent. A slit is cut in one side for the camera lens to be poked inside. I use colored construction paper or wallpaper scraps as a seamless background and a bent straight pin stuck through it into the ceiling tile to support the piece upright in the photo.

Awesome! I've been looking for instructions for one of these forever! Yours are the easiest and most effective!! Thanks!

Great instructions, I made one with stuff I had on hand, an old white plastic tablecloth works great too. I'm so glad I found this site, you saved me alot of money. Thanks!

Would wax paper work? Like the kind used for cooking, and if it's not big enough would you want to overlap or have seams?

This is fricking awesome. I already have pure white CFL lights made specifically for artists. They run cooler and use less energy. I'm going to make one of these light boxes later today. However, I'm not going to cut the bottom hole. I'm going to add a piece of cheap wood to give it some weight. I feel that if I cut the hole, the bottom might warp a bit and not give me a sturdy surface. If I use the double-thickness cardboard box, I could fasten the vinyl with pop rivets. Either way, thanks so much for the instructable.

loving this, I am an architecture student and need to photograph my models. I've never had even halfway decent results yet but this will help a lot. Now I just need a mmuch bigger version, which easily folds up and stores away..hmm

White Vinyl shower curtain was such a great tip! 1.90 at walmart! Thank you!

This looks ideal for me to create; certainly more affordable than the simple set-up on ebay that someone was selling for £122.00. Silly question time: I am red and green colour-blind and I bought what I thought was a white shower curtain but it is in fact light green. If I used this on my box would it give the item I am photographing a green tint? I wouldn't notice it but others would. I will post some of my pics when I try it out later. Thanks for such a nicely explained article

Yeah I made one of these with five small canvases that were £1 each from a cheapo shop, put a daylight bulb up top and this was great because there was light ccoming from the top but with soft shadows or none meaning all the stuff came out great.

Great Instructable I made Your design but with Foam instead of Poster Board and it works out great!

Very well put together Instructable! There are a few commas that might make reading easier, but there's nothing unclear or confusing here. Ironically, the only real error is your final sentence: "needs revised" needs revision.<br/>Also, <a rel="nofollow" href="">Strobist's macro box</a> has a different set of photos and even a YouTube clip of a light box, if anyone wanted to look at variations & c.<br/>

1 reply

This is really cool! Very, Very, Very well-made all-around! I hope you continue to make Inst. of such high quality to the table. -Brennn10