Introduction: Hamper Light Box

We had a simple need. When you run a theatre company, it is best to know what you have in your props and costume inventory. Clothing can be registered on a spreadsheet, photographed on mannequins or actors. But smaller items need special attention.

So we built a lightbox. From an IKEA hamper.

This lightbox is portable, inexpensive, and when you're not using it for photography ... well ... who doesn't need a laundry hamper?

What will you need for this Hamper Light Box?

Well, there's the hamper. This is the SKUBB from IKEA. It is described as a "Laundry Bag with Stand," and it comes in two colors. Seeing as this is meant to be a light box, go with White.

In addition, you're going to need a medium-sized safety pin, a 1.25" binder clip, a small desk lamp ... and your choice of either a sheet of poster board (white, 24" x 36") or a piece of drawing paper (white, 22" x 30").

Oh, and a tripod.

For the camera, of course, because photography is the point, after all. (My tripod is a Proline by Dolica, but any tripod will do.)

To review:
- hamper (SKUBB from IKEA)
- medium-sized safety pin
- 1.25" binder clip
- small desk lamp
- sheet of poster board (white, 24" x 36") or piece of drawing paper (white, 22" x 30")
- tripod

Step 1: Prepare the Hamper

The SKUBB hamper is collapsible. As such, it comes flat in a plastic bag. But as with all things IKEA, ten seconds alone with the SKUBB is enough to realize that you have two wire-braced reinforcements attached to the base of the hamper. These unfold and are secured by velcro flaps. Now we have a box, so we'll refer to it as such.

Turn the box on the side. At this point, it looks more like a light box, but we're not done.

The box has a weighted fabric lid that will now be on either the left or right side of the box's opening. We could let this hang open, but why not be tidy? So roll the lid around its weight.

Roll the lid tight and secure it to the side of the opening with your binder clip.

You'll only need the one.

Step 2: The Divider Is in the Way

What is this thing?

There is a divider here. It makes the box (or hamper) all the more convenient by providing two compartments for your befouled linens. But for our purposes, this divider is a nuisance. And look at that unsightly tag.

Yes, you could dive into the box and go at it with a handy X-Acto knife or Leatherman tool, but let's not dash the SKUBB's dreams of fulfilling its household destiny.

Using your safety pin, secure the divider to the "roof" of the box.

There. No harm, no foul, and the divider is out of our way.

Step 3: Your Box Needs a Floor

Get your drawing paper. Or your poster board. (I took the drawing paper route.)

Place the paper on the bottom of your box, curving up the right side -- though in the illustration, you see my initial "half pipe" execution. Depending on the weight you selected, your thicker-than-usual drawing paper might be more or less cooperative. I found my $1.49 30" x 22" slab of cotton bond particularly friendly.

Step 4: Light It Up

Introduce the desk lamp to your box. This is where you have all kinds of free reign. My desk lamp may not be like your desk lamp. I would recommend a smaller desk lamp, as we don't want to burn a hole through our box or give your photography subject a suntan.

Place the desk lamp next to the box, aimed at the left wall. Don't place it too close, again because of that pesky burning possibility -- remote as this possibility might be.

Step 5: Aim and Fire

Place the tripod in front of the box, attach your camera and turn on the desk lamp.

Now you have a Hamper Light Box.

It's good for toys.

... or keys.

... or most anything.

It's not perfect, but it works.