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If you need to photograph small items with a consistent light source, this is project is for you. With cheap materials and a couple of hours you will have a foldable light weight light box for camera or phone close-up photos.

I recommend that you read the whole instructable before you start.

Step 1: What You Need

You need the following:
  • Five pieces of white cardboard or similar. I used something I got at the hobby store. It is called Gator board. It has a foam core and paper on each side. It is firm and light. I think it is normally used for passe partout (paper frames) for art work. For my light box I used three pieces of the same (smaller) size for the walls and two slightly larger pieces for the top and bottom but you could just as well use the same size for all. The shortest side of the wall should not be shorter than the shortest focal distance of your camera/phone if you will be using the top hole for photos. A good size is about 30x40 cm (12x16 in).
  • A roll of bright white LED-strip. Use cool-white or white color temperature for best result. If you use warm-white strips you will probably need to adjust the white balance manually to avoid yellow pictures. Buy 5050 strips or brighter if you can. The brighter the better. Try searching for "5050 led 5m cool white" on ebay.
  • 12V power source
  • Tie-wraps
  • Plastic L-angle
  • Soldering equipment and material. I suggest you make sure you have red wires for +12v and black or blue for 0v

Step 2: Cut the Pieces

Before starting it is important to know the purpose of the plastic L-angle. The angle is used to direct light towards the walls at a 45 degree angle. This creates indirect/reflected light which means less shadows. You should plan where to place the strips before you decide on the length. Generally speaking longer strips are better because they give more light. I used four angles in my project but you can use more if you want.
  1. Cut the LED-strip into 8 pieces of desired length. I use 5050 LED strips which can be cut at 3-LED lengths. Each 3-LED length is 5 cm. I used 15 cm (9 LED) lengths.
  2. Cut the L-angle into four pieces of the same length as the strips or slightly longer.

Step 3: Prepare Mounts

  1. Solder wires onto the strips as seen in the pictures. If you look closely at a white LED strip it has four leads: +12, R, G and B. It looks exactly the same as a RGB strip but R, G and B are all white. Solder the black or blue wire over all three R, G and B leads (i. e. short them) and the red wire to +12. Make sure you have enough wire allow for the 90 degree angle between the L-angles. You can wire the strips in serial or parallell. It doesn't matter. Both ends of the strip are the same from an electrical standpoint.
  2. Remove tape backing from the LED strips and tape them onto the two outer sided of the L-angle as in picture

Step 4: Mount Strips on Top Piece

  1. Make holes for mounting of L-brackets. Plan it so the tie wraps that will come through the holes won't cover any LEDs
  2. Pull tie-wraps through the holes and tighten around the brackets as seen in the picture
  3. Cut a hole in the center using a scalpell knife or similar. The hole is for top photos.

Step 5: Attach Power Cable

  1. Make a hole in the top piece and pull a 12v power cable through. As you may notice from the picture I added a couple of extra downward facing strips for more luminance.
  2. Solder the cable onto the LED strips (red: 12v, black/blue 0v)
  3. Try it

Step 6: Join Walls

  1. Make holes in the walls close to the edge as seen in the picture
  2. Pull tie-wraps through but don't tighten too hard. There has to be enough room to fold the walls. If you want to be able to fold the walls flat, make sure the thick part of the tie-wrap is on opposite sides on the two joints.

Step 7: Final Step

  1. Place the top piece on top of the walls with lights facing downwards
  2. Attach power
  3. Start taking pictures! You can place your phone over the hole (see picture) or take pictures from the side. Use the bottom white cardboard or experiment with different materials and colours as backgrounds. The first picture is the maiden photo of a Lego Santa. Perhaps not the best motive but notice the lack of sharp shadows. The second example is from my daughters nail-art blog (newlypolished.com). The latter is the intended use of the light box.
Thanks for reading!

Please post comments, improvement ideas, etc below.
The term for the foam core board with paper on both sides is either called "Gator board" or "foam core board". Hope this helps.
Thanks, jon_chalk! I updated the instructable with the name.

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Bio: IT-professional by day, DIY hobbyist (among other things) on my free time. I always have one or more projects going on. Usually something to do ... More »
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