Photography is about capturing light.
Light bounces off your subject, through your lenses, and you freeze it there, so you can show other people your view of the world. Which is beautiful, but it's bloody hard if there's not enough light for your camera to pick up.
After my time-lapse photography a while back, which was a bit dark, and inspired by diyphotography.net, i decided to make a soft box to light my indoors photos better. As i'm a a bit of a Womble I've used reclaimed items, from skips, bins, and things that i couldn't bear to let friends throw away to make one.
Here's how i did it. Hopefully it'll provide you with some inspiration on how to make one for yourself.
Cost: Free to £50, depending on the materials you already have or can find.
Time: 3 hours build, once you have all your materials.
Step 1: What You Will Need.
For clarity here are the materials, tools and consumables knolled.
ONLY USE COMPACT FLUORESCENT LAMP BULBS FOR THIS BUILD. The Compact Fluorescent Bulb will not generate enough heat to damage the box, but a halogen or filament buld will get very hot and may cause a fire.
I obtained most of the materials from skips, dumpsters and bins. Keep an eye out as you travel about for bits of wood, electronics and all sorts of useful things. Skips outside building sites or large blocks of flats tend to have particularly good pickings. I have a cupboard of offcuts of various sizes which mean that i can build things for free whenever i get a good idea!
The tools used are all fairly basic and very common. If you do not own them yourself, they can easily be borrowed or bought second hand from sites such as ebay, gumtree or craigslist.
Buy screws from trade suppliers. The packs are a lot bigger and the screws are a lot cheaper. Avoid DIY chains such as B&Q for buying fasteners as they add a huge premium to the price. For the price of 30 screws from B&Q you can buy 200 from a trade supplier such as Screwfix.
Step 2: B
Cut a 25cm length of the 20 x 40mm batten, and a 30 x 70mm piece of 6mm ply. quickly use the sandpaper to remove splinters.
The batten is used for the lamp connection to the stand, which can also be clamped to chairs, doors, and anything else you like to get light in the right place for your photos. The pad of 6mm ply is there to screw on the inside of the box to back up the screw connection. the plastic of the fridge drawer is too thin to screw into on its own without breaking under load.
Hold the thin ply pad in position to and drill drill three 1mm holes through the wood and plastic. Screw three 30mm screws into the pad until the ends just poke out. use these to position the pad in place, then hold the batten in place and drive the screws into the batten to hold it in place.
Step 3: Mounting the Lamp
Using the same method as in the last step fix a 60mm length of batten off center on the 'bottom' of the box. This will be used to hold the lamp socket in place, so position the piece of wood with the lamp so the lamp is central. You can change the length of wood so that the lamp is at the right level in the box if required.
Use two cable ties to firmly fit the lamp to the batten. Cut the ends of the cable ties off flush with the cable latch of the cable tie, so no sharp end sticks out.
Drill four 3mm holes and mini cable tie the lamp cable in place on both the inside and outside of the box. This will keep the cable firmly in place and avoid any cable jerks on the lamp.
At this point you can cut ventilation holes in the top and bottom to allow airflow through to cool the lamp. (I did this after the lamp was built, as an important afterthought)
Step 4: Adding the Reflector
Line the box with aluminium foil. This will act as a reflector and fire more light out the front of the lamp.
Cut the foil to shape, and then use the hot glue gun to fix it in place.
Trim off the edges of the foil and duct tape them down.
Step 5: Adding the Diffuser Cloth
Adding the cloth diffuses the light, turning it from a harsh bright light to a softer diffuse light that's better for taking nice photos.
Offer up the cloth and cut it to size. Leave about 3cm all round the edge to give a good amount of area for the tape to grip onto.
Align the cloth and tape it down. Start with one edge (it doesn't matter which) and throughly tape it in place. Then tighten the cloth so that there are no creases and tape the other side down. Do the same on the two remaining sides. You should be left with a smooth covering of cloth held firmly in place by the duct tape.
I used duct tape rather than hot glue so that the cloth can be easily removed, replaced and the bulb replaced.
Step 6: Base
This base is designed so that the centre of gravity of the lamp is over the centre of the base, so the lamp will be stable.
Cut a piece of 12mm ply of the same base size as the lamp. As my 12mm ply was very warped I added three feet to allow it to stably stand. These were three squares of 20mm x 40mm batten screwed to the base with 15mm screws.
Then cut a length of batten. Mine was approximately 70 cm long, but cut one as long as you need (if it gets too long you will need a larger and heavier base to stably support it). Drill and screw through the base ply into the end of the batten. Take care to get it straight!
Step 7: Now Take Some Great Photos!
The light can now be clamped to the base using a G-clamp. This allows it to be easily repositioned yet be held very securely in place. the lamp can also be attached to other object using the clamps.
This lamp can be used anywhere you need extra light for taking photos or videos indoors. One lamp can be used for a strong light on one side, and a reflector (eg a white card or aluminium foil on a piece of cardboard) can be used to fill in the light on the other, or you could make a few of these for lighting from different angles. Gel filters can be taped over the front for different colour effects.
I hope this instructable has inspired you to get out there and make something similar.
Happy making, happy photographing and thanks for reading!