A lightbox, or light tent, is an invaluable tool to have handy because it can be used to shoot several different styles of photography. They’re the perfect solution to balanced lighting for your next commercial shoot, and can make shooting macros a breeze. Lightboxes are also good for toy photography, and shooting just about anything that’s small enough to fit inside it. Plus, they’re incredibly easy to build, making this a DIY project that’s doable for just about anyone.
Take a look below for step by step instructions on how to build one yourself. We’ll wrap things up with a few more examples of DIY lightboxes to give you some ideas to try out during your own build. Check it out:
What You’ll Need:
First, let me start by saying that lightboxes can be built using a lot of different materials–we’re truly only limited by our own creativity, so if you don’t happen to have any of the items on this list laying around, just put a little thought into it and you could probably come up with a worthy substitute.
- Cardboard box — It can be any size, but I recommend using a medium to large sized box. The size of the box will be the size of your finished lightbox, so make sure you don’t use a small box if you plan on photographing larger items.
- Utility knife
- White fabric for diffusion
- Long sheet of paper to use for seamless background, any color
The first thing we need to do is cut out three sides of the box. Use your ruler to measure about an 1 inch border around three of the sides. We’ll cover these sides with fabric, so you want the cut outs to be big to make a the diffusion surface area as large as possible.
Unfolding your box and laying it flat will make this step a little easier, but if you have more patience than me, you may be able to make the cut outs while the box is still “assembled”. If you do flatten your box for this step, you can reassemble it once you’re done making the cutouts. Be sure to tape up the seams nice and tight.
This is about what your box should look like at this point (just try to do a better job–or better tape–on your seams than I have here):
Cut your fabric into three sections that are large enough to cover the three cut outs we just made. Use glue or tape to secure the fabric pieces to the outside of the box. Make sure the fabric covers the entire opening and is nice and taut so it doesn’t sag, wrinkle, or droop.
The last step is to install the seamless background. It can be any color, pattern, or print you want it to be and can easily be swapped out for different colors if you like variety. The biggest thing is that the paper needs to be long enough to cover the backside and bottom of your new lightbox. Attaching two or more short pieces of paper to create a longer one doesn’t work well here because it takes the seamless out of seamless background–so find long sheets of paper!
To install the background, just tape the top of the background at the top of the backside on the inside of the lightbox. Don’t be tempted to fold or crease the background where the inside back wall of the lightbox bends into the floor–just let the background paper gently curve naturally.
That’s all there is to it! Pretty simple, right? Since you’re probably excited to use your new lightbox, go ahead and put something you want to photograph inside on the floor of the lightbox and pose it as you’d like. All that’s left to do now is add lights to the outside of the lightbox and shine them through the sides with diffusion fabric until your lighting is just how you want it. Grab your camera and start shooting!
As promised, here’s some inspiration for your DIY build. Like I mentioned before, lightboxes can be made in a many different ways out many different types of materials. If you come up with a clever variation of your own, be sure to share some pics of your build with us in the comments!