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Self-Illuminating Photography Lightbox

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Picture of Self-Illuminating Photography Lightbox
I was getting sick of not being able to take good photos of my projects, having to light them with a desk lamp and always getting my messy desk in the background.  Then I saw the photos for the Scrub robot instructable and decided I needed a lightbox to get that diffuse white lighting and "infinite" background.

I currently have the Cambridge Great Internet Migratory Box of Electronic Junk, from which I salvaged a 12V white CCFL that I think was the light in a scanner, so decided to make this lightbox self-illuminating to remove the need to point lights at the outside or mess around with slave flashes.  The whole thing is self-contained and only needs a 12V power source to light itself.
 
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Step 1: Materials Needed

  • A large cardboard box- mine held a duvet and measures roughly 18" x 15" x 12"
  • A cardboard box long enough to hold your CCFL. I used a shoebox
  • Enough white paper to cover four sides of your large box
  • Permanent marker
  • Something for a diffuser material, eg. paper or a white plastic bag.
  • A white CCFL and inverter
Tools: scissors or a craft knife, tape, glue gun, soldering iron.

The large box will be our lighting stage, open at the front.  The shoebox will house the CCFL above a window in the top of the "stage" box, with a diffuser separating the two to provide soft light into the stage.
Light_Lab3 years ago
I have been using my Light Kennels (http://www.instructables.com/id/Plastic-Light-Tent-The-Light-Kennel/) indoors quite a lot. I have tried all sorts of light sources with varying success. I really like the idea of using a CCFL for a photo light and I have been collecting broken LCD's for a about a year. Unfortunately it has always been the inverter that has burned out. Do you have any tips on how to get a working CCFL set up. ------------I had a go in PSP balancing your test image to make it a bit lighter see attached. I like the soft shadows, the window like highlights and the halo glow...I gotta get me a CCFL!
CCFLtest.jpg
PKM (author)  Light_Lab3 years ago
I don't have any tips for fixing inverters, as I've never done it, but I hear they often suffer from failed capacitors (probably a combination of being cheaply made and high voltage AC stressing the caps). Look for capacitors that bulge or appear to be leaking brownish goo, desolder them and replace them with ones of the same type and capacity is the only advice I have.

For post-processing photos, I tend to use a "curves" effect on my photos to lighten it just enough that the entire background becomes white but the shadow under the object remains- that's what I did for the cable and padlock images above.  This is my teapot lid with the levels adjusted and a slight (~10%) oversaturation:
teapotlid_inthematrix.png
Light_Lab PKM3 years ago
Thanks a lot that little tip about the caps was an eye opener. Originally I put the failures down to burned out windings on the custom transformers so I didn't even contemplate fixing them. I just checked out a faulty inverter and noticed 5 of the electro caps are convex on the top. Unfortunately following the burn on the board also makes 4 IC's, a choke, a resistor and a power transistor suspect as well (I guess secondary damage). Still all these parts are fairly low cost I might have a go at replacing them. ........................BTW Curves are good but you can also drop the background out by tweaking the highlight setting in a dynamic HMS filter followed by a touch of smart masking. That way you don't desat the subject. Personally I like a bit of background but those who control my paycheck often ask for these ethereal effects too.
CCFLtest2.jpg
Kryptonite3 years ago
That's awesome, I love what you have done with it in terms of the end result! 5/5*
PKM (author)  Kryptonite3 years ago
Thanks! Looking at the pictures on step 5 they do actually look a bit dark/washed out, might have to level them a bit. That's what I get for writing a photography Instructable in the dark.
Kryptonite PKM3 years ago
Yeah, sometimes it is hard to find the time.
Nice Instructable! I made a light box a few months ago out of PVC and it works pretty well. I'll have to try this one. Here is one of the better photos that I got with the PVC light box....(lighting isn't perfect)
100_1974-1.jpg
kcls3 years ago
Nice Job!
This looks easy enough - I think I need to make one!
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