Photographers and videographers know that LED lighting is the new standard for professional lighting. With the technology getting better and prices coming down, I decided it was time to dive into LED studio lights. I bought an affordable "lighting kit" consisting of three square light panels, each having 576 LED beads. While these are incredibly bright, they give off a focused light making images harsh and uncomfortable for people being photographed. To soften the light I wanted softboxes but could only find a few online. I'm not sure if they would even fit and would add more cost to my already stretched budget. After some thought (and wondering through a dollar store) I came up with the EASIEST DIY softbox ever!
Step 1: Materials Needed
You are going to need a SILVER Automotive Sunshade...the kind you use in your windshield. I bought the cheapest one at about $4.00 USD. The shade was enough to make softboxes for all three of my 9"x9" LED panels.
Next is tape. I used Gaffer Tape since I keep a roll on hand, but you can use Duct Tape or Fabric Tape. Just be sure it is flexible and at least 1" wide.
You will need some diffuser material. I used a $4.00 drapery sheer liner but you can use anything that is sheer and white. Plastic and fabric shower curtain liners work well as does bubble wrap.
Last on the list is a package of Small Binder Clips.
I used a scrap of cardboard, some clear packaging tape, and paint...but those are optional, as you will see later.
The only tools you need are scissors, an ink pen, and a measuring tape or ruler.
Step 2: Making the Sides
Start by measuring the inside of your LED Panel "barn doors". Mine measured 9". Set your barn doors at an angle that looks about right for a softbox and cut out the cardboard starting at that measurement and tapering out. Play with the depth as well until you get the size you like. Since I could get two pieces 16"x9" wide from my sun shade and 7" looked like the same proportions of softboxes I have used before, I made mine 9"x7"x16".
Lay out the sunshade and use your cardboard pattern to trace the sides onto the WHITE side of the sunshade. (the tape will cover any ink marks in the next step). Cut out four sides.
Step 3: Assembling the Box
Lay two sides together SILVER side down and match the short side to short side and long side to long side. Put books or some kind of weight on each to keep them together. Cut a piece of tape slightly longer than the sides being attached and tape the two pieces together. Trim the tape to fold over a little at both ends to keep it from peeling off later. Repeat this step until all four sides form a box.
Set the box in the light panel to test the fit.
Step 4: Create the Attachments
Adjust the barn doors to cradle the softbox in the position that is even on all sides and centered on the panel. Make a mark about 2" long where the barn door ends in about the center of the side. Do this on all four sides. Remove the softbox and make a cut along each of the lines.
Replace the softbox in the panel and use four Small Binder Clips to attach the box to the barn door from the outside as shown. That's it!
(Optional) While not necessary, I spray painted mine with two light coats of flat black. I think it looks more professional and I can turn the box inside out if I don't want to use the silver side.
Step 5: Making and Attaching the Diffuser
If you are using diffusing material such as plastic, paper, or bubble wrap, just cut a piece out about four inches bigger than the outside dimensions of your softbox. Since my softbox is 16"x16", I cut my material 20"x20".
If you are using fabric that will come unraveled, you can sew the edges or do it like I did below.
Lay out your fabric and measure it to find the final size. Lay some clear package tape along the center of the edge (in my case, 20" all around) and cut down the center of the tape. Leave the tape on the fabric and it won't unravel, yet be flexible enough to fold.
Attach the diffuser material with small binder clips.
(Option) If you choose, you can attach the diffuser with Velcro, but since you may want to layer materials or use different types and colors of diffusers, the binder clips are fast and effective.
Step 6: Some Final Shots
The entire softbox folds flat and weights almost nothing. At about $5.00 each, you can save your money for addition batteries!
You can see, in the above pictures, the difference between the bare lighting and the softbox lighting. Not only are the shadows and highlights softer, it is way more comfortable to have shining in your subject's eyes.
Thanks for reading my first Instructable! This is entered in the Photography Contest so if you find this useful, please give me a vote! Thanks!