Transforming Lightbox




Introduction: Transforming Lightbox

After deciding to sell some articles on an online auction, I discovered that my camera takes horrible pictures. Not being a photographer, I had to do some searching before I figured out how the "pros" do it. The answer; Expensive Cameras, High-Energy Lights and Lightboxes!

Not able to afford any of these, I decided to see what I could do on my own. Please keep in mind that I am aware that this site does have Instructables for Lightboxes, however I had to put my own spin on it, and I am glad I did!

This is my very first Instructable, so please bear with me. Any positive criticism will be greatly appreciated.


(1) Roll of Freezer Paper, plastic coated. (Borrowed from the kitchen, thus free!)
(8) 1/2" PVC Elbow Joints (Home Depot), part A
(4) 1/2" PVC T-Joints (Home Depot), part B
(10) 2ft Pre-Cut PVC Sections (Home Depot) part C
(2) GE Floodlight Halogen 100's (Wal-Mart, 1 pictured) Part D
(2) Mainstays Clip-on Lamps (Wal-Mart, 1 pictured) Part E
(3) Ghostline White Poster Board (Wal-Mart, none pictured here)

Home Depot Total: ~$15.00
Wal-Mart Total: ~$26.00

Step 1: Step 1

Cut four (4) of the 2-ft PVC sections in half to create the eight (8) "halves". Cutting these the same length will make the project a bit more pleasing to the eye later!

Step 2: Step 2

Assembling the Large Box;

Using the T-Joints, create four 2ft sections of pipe and place the eight Elbow joints on the ends. The end product should look something like the third picture.

Step 3: Step 3

Attach 2 of the new 2ft sections from Step 2 together using the (part D) sections from the intro. Repeat this to get two new sections.

Step 4: Step 4

Using the last two 2ft pieces of PVC ("Part D"), join the two finished sections from Step 3. See pictures below...

I could have shown pictures of exactly how this went, but I believe that you should easily be able to tell how I made this.

Step 5: Transform It!

Instead of finishing the Large Box, I am going to show you, in detail, how I reassembled some of the parts into a Small Box for smaller subjects.

First, I removed all of the "halves" sections from the finished Large Box. I left the Elbow Joints ("Part A") ends on. Next, I created a smaller box using just the "halves" sections and Elbow Joints. Look closely at the pictures below for references.

Notice how my box isn't quite square? This is because I didn't cut one of the 2ft pipes exactly in half, leaving me with 2 different-sized "halves" to work with. This doesn't affect the function at all.

Step 6: Making a "Ramp"

One of the important parts of the lightbox is the ramp. This helps hide shadows and helps keep your eyes focused on the details of the subject.
I made my ramp by cutting one of the Ghostline Poster Boards. One reason I chose Ghostline is because (you can't see it here, sorry) it features a light gray 1/2-inch grid. That makes cutting it a lot easier.
This ramp took a while to get right. Cutting the width was easy, but I had to work on it to figure out the length.

Step 7: Wrap It Up!

Okay, this step actually turned out to be a lot more complicated than I had assumed. It looks easy enough, but I took lots of pictures to help you figure out what I did. Basically, I wrapped the Small Box with the Freezer Paper from the intro. Look at the pictures for details...

One note: When wrapping the box, be sure to keep the reflective plastic coating on the freezer wrap on the "inside" of the box. This will make for a much nicer effect later!

Step 8: Finishing Touches

Check each of the pictures below for the finishing touches.

I cut a small hole in the top of the box for some top-down shots, but didn't make it too large since I need the glare from the top section to help with reflective surfaces.

Once my box was finished, I placed it on the table and put both of the lamps on either side and turned them on.

Please note: Freezer paper is flammable, so do NOT let the lamps come in contact with the sides. Also note that these are very hot lamps, so I never leave them running when I am not around!

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    7 Discussions


    9 years ago on Introduction

    In My Defense: I chose PVC due to the fact that I would be swapping from the small to the large boxes quite frequently. As long as the pipes are left inside and protected from extreme temps, they will continue to function properly for years. I probably could have done the same thing with dowels or cardboard or a thousand other materials, but my first goal was a sustainable lightbox that could be taken down and reassembled easily and accommodate large or small objects accordingly.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    You can do this way easier and cheaper; just buy 5 foam core boards for $5, then buy a white poster board for 50¢. Then cut the boards so they fit into each other and hold together, then just lay the poster-board inside.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Shadow Ops: I love the idea of using foamcore; however how would you light it? I think the different designs that use fabric/paper/etc. are built so lights can be set up outside the box and create diffuse light.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    You aim two lights at the back upper two corners, from the opening at the front. This illuminates the whole box, leaving no shadows on your subject.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    This is a nice idea, but I would only use PVC if I was planning on taking the cube on location. and even then, I would most likely sew a form-fitting pillow case style cover and hide the seam with the ramp. for rigging up a quick rig, Shadow Ops has a great idea


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Home Depot Total: ~$15.00 Wal-Mart Total: ~$26.00 Total: $41 $20.95 $21.11 $28.71 But well. Doing it ourself have no price! Thanks for the great instructables.


    10 years ago on Introduction

      You could have saved money doing this, but it might not set up quite the same. 

     Walmart also has construction light lamps for like $3 plus the bulbs. They are large and great for photography and clip on things. I used to do them when I did headshots in highschool. I did a lot of photography and these lights worked well for me.

     Instead of PVC you could use wood. PVC can get a bit pricey. Thin pieces of wood glued/nailed together would be a cheaper option.