Introduction: Building a Super Cheap Light Box for Macro Photography.

I wanted to take some close up photographs of small objects, but I was unsatisfied with the original images. The lighting was poor and the colours seemed to be washed out. So I decided to build a light box out of miscellaneous items I had around the house. As a result, I now have a cheap light box to use for nearly any macro photography I may need in the future.

Step 1: Gather Your Materials.

You are going to need a few simple items and basic tools in order to build a light box.

Many of the items should be readily available in your own home or easily obtained.


  • A box: boxes of various sizes are easily obtained. A larger box requires more materials, but offers greater light diffusion.

  • An internal light source: I used the lamp assembly from a paper globe lamp, but most household lamps are similar if you remove decorative pieces. Alternatively, an external light source from above could be utilized if necessary.
  • Surfacing material: Cloth, paper, cardboard, or some other matte white surface will suffice. Avoid a glossy surface unless you are trying to obtain sharper lighting on the subject being photographed. This material can be skipped if the interior of the box is already the same or similar to the background material. Alternatively, different colours can be used to obtain different subject lighting.
  • Flexible background material: The background material should be the same or as similar of a colour to the surfacing material on the inside of the box. Select a matte colour in order to avoid odd reflections.
  • External lighting: Goose-neck desk lamps are well suited for this task as they are adjustable to find the best lighting for your subject.


  • Basics cutting tools, such as a hobby knife, scissors, utility knife, or a similar tool, will be necessary to make an opening for the internal light source. A basic adhesive will be required to attach the surfacing material to the inside of the box if the colour does not match the background material

Optional Items:

  • Subject mounting: A stand of some type can be used to raise the subject or to add a layer of interest to teh subject.

Step 2: Assembling Your Light Box.

  • Cut the surfacing material to fit the interior of the box. Complete coverage is not required if the background material will adequately cover the remainder. Use an adhesive to secure the material to the interior of the box. This step can be skipped in the interior of the box is already an adequate colour.
  • Use the internal light source to mark an access hole near the centre of the box.
  • Trim away material from the access hole for the interior light. Ensure that the surfacing material is removed as well. A snug fit will provide better retention than an oversized hole.
  • Secure the internal light source via any hardware with the light. Alternately, an adhesive tape of matching colour can be used so long as the light source does not generate enough heat to melt the adhesive.
  • Install the background material so that it retains a curve toward the back of the box. This creates an edgeless background for the subject.

Step 3: Enjoy Your Light Box/

Install a light bulb into the internal light source and position your external light source to create flattering lighting for your next macro photography project.