Introduction: Soft-Box Photography Light

About: Bare Conductive makes creative electronic tools for any designer, engineer or aspiring maker.
I decided to make some soft-box lights for our photography setup in our studio. 

The aim of a soft-box light is to create an even and diffuse light source, is is simply an enclosure around a bulb comprising of reflective side and back walls and a diffusing material at the front of the light.

For my soft-box lights I used some energy efficient dimmable daylight bulbs so that they do not get too hot but output a good amount of light, but also so they can be dimmed to adjust the light levels. 

Step 1: Materials Required

The materials for the whole project are, 

- 4 x Energy Efficient (Compact Fluorescent) Daylight Dimmable 20W Lightbulbs
- 4 x Light fittings for the bulbs, as i'm in the UK i am using BC (Bayonet) Fittings
- Mains Electrical Cable
- Mains Plug
- Dimmer Switch
- Backing box for dimmer switch
- Small bit of wood, size is up to you, it needs to be big enough to fit the light fittings on it 
- Flat Screen TV wall Mount
- Card Board
- Tin Foil
- Tracing Paper
- Screws 
- Sticky cable tie mounts
- Rubber bands
- Tape
- Double Sided Tape

Various Tools

- Screwdriver
- Drill
- Snips
- Wire Strippers
- Knife
- Screws
- Saw

Step 2: Wiring the Light Fittings

I'm using 4 light fittings to get a good amount of light, but you could just use one if you wanted. 

If you're using more than one fitting, make sure to wire them in parallel so they daisy chain together.  In order to do this you will have to wire in two wires together into 3 of the fittings. 

The fittings I am using have a mounting 'skirt' which needed trimming so that when they are attached to the wooden board they sit flat. 

Before you screw them to the board it is a good idea to check they are all connected together using a Multimeter. 

Step 3: Attach Fittings to Board

Before you screw the fittings onto the boards, drill a hole through the board and thread the end of the cable through. 

On the back of the board is where I decided to put the dimmer switch, so drill a hole through the backing box as well and thread the cable through before attaching to the board. 

Step 4: Wiring the Dimmer Switch

For the Dimmer switch I am using I need to wire the Live wire only into it.  If you have another type of dimmer check the manufactures instruction. 

Strip a section of cable, being careful not to cut the through to copper. 

Cut the Live wire (in this case the brown) and strip the two ends. 

Wire the end that will go to the plug into 'C' and the end that goes to the lights into 'L1' 
Screw the dimmer onto the backing box with the screws provided. 

You will then need to drill another hole into backing box for the cable to exit. 

Step 5: Wiring the Plug

Lastly wire up your plug, and test that the lights work.  If they don't work you'll have to unscrew everything to find the fault, so it is a good idea to check with  multimeter before wiring them up (DO NOT use the multimeter when the plug is plugged into the mains) 

Also I am specifically using dimmable Energy Saving bulbs as regular energy saving bulbs are not dimmable.  

Step 6: Mounting the Light

I found a cheap TV screen mount for about £8 which makes a good flexible mounting solution. 

The  other end of the mount i screwed to some wood.  This is where it's up to you as to how to mount it as it depends on how your photo setup is.  For our purposes, I screwed a batten to the wall, and made a frame to extend it out. 

Step 7: Making Reflectors

Once your happy with your light it's time to make some reflectors. 

For this you'll need, 
- Cardboard
- Tin Foil
- Double Sided Tape
- Knife
- Tape
- Rubber bands
- Cable tie mounting pads

Cut 4 trapezium (trapezoid) shapes, the small end should be the same width as your light fitting footprint.  I made the size of mine 130mm at the bottom, 300mm at the top and 300mm in length. 

Step 8: Assemble Reflectors

Stick some double sided tape onto one side of each Trapezium, and then apply tin foil to each side. 

Stick some clear sticky tape over the top and bottom of each piece, this will help protect the edges.

Tape each side together until it has assembled into a square, making sure the tin foil is on the inside. 

Step 9: Attaching the Reflector to Your Light

Stick some sticky back cable tie mounts to three sides of the outside of your reflectors. 

Thread some rubber bands through the mounts and tie knots in the bands so they don't fall out. 

Screw some screws to the back board of your light, the same side as the dimmer. 

This will allow you to attach your reflector onto your light but will be removable in case you want to make a variety of different sized reflectors. 

Step 10: Finished Reflector

Now you have an reflector that can be used to focus your light, you can make a variety of different sizes ones, for differnt shooting environments. 

Next you need to make the diffusers which will create an even light source. 

Step 11: Making Diffuser

A diffuser is just a frosted translucent layer, you can just sue tracing paper or layout paper.  The thicker the paper the more light it blocks. 

I found that 90gsm tracing paper worked quite well. 

The opening of my diffuser is 300mm so i cut a piece of tracing paper larger it could be 400mm square and folded over each of the four sides to create a 300x300mm square. 

Unfold the paper and pinch the corners together to create a tray and tape flat, you could just use a flat piece of paper but this gives a good flap to tape onto the sides of your reflector. 

Step 12: Finished Lights

No you just need to attach your diffuser to your reflectors, just slide it over the end and if needed tape the sides 

So far i have made two lights, we also have a 1.5m roll of paper to create a smooth white backdrop.  The dimmer switch allows us to control the light levels although mostly they are just on full brightness.

The mounts allow us to move the lights around in multiple dimensions.  Its not perfect but it is a dramatic improvement and will hopefully improve our studio photography. 

Appologies for the quality of photographs for this tutorial, ironically i was making a photography light so the light for these photos was not great as i only had one light.