If you ever have a need to photograph a product or even just a still life composition, you need a lightbox.
Why, you ask?
Because without one, that silly little pop-up flash will do its thing – and you know it has a mind of its own, even on the nicer DSLRs. You’ll end up with uneven lighting, tons of glare and worst of all – shadows. A lightbox solves almost all those problems (because sometimes you just can’t get rid of glare). You’ll also get incredibly even lighting all around.
A store-bought light kit can run you at least $150. The one I’m going to show you today cost me about $30.
So how do you make this ingenious, complicated, very professional contraption?
First, decide how big you want it to be. Mine is 2 feet square and about 3 feet deep – or, roughly the size of those half-sheets of foamcore sold in the school supply section.
- white foamcore, 5 pieces (4 for the sides, one smaller to seal in the back)
- white duct or electrical tape
- straight edge
- x-acto knife
- 4 small clip lamps (mine were the cheapest Lowe’s had to offer)
- 4 full spectrum lightbulbs
- 1 power strip
Have all your stuff together? Now you’re ready for the easiest project ever (apologies in advance for not taking scintillating pictures of myself cutting and taping the foamcore).
1. You are going to make a cube that is open on one end. Start by cutting the sides: 4 identical pieces of foamcore. Again, your size will depend on what you’ve picked, but mine were roughly 24″ x 36″. Next cut one end piece that will seal the far end of your box.
2. Tape everything together, starting with the sides and ending with the endpiece. The white tape is important because it won’t cast any strange shadows once you light everything up.
3. Assemble your clip lamps and clip them to the sides of the box (see picture). Each lamp should point to its opposite corner – so, the top right lamp will point to the bottom left inside corner.
4. You’re pretty much done! I did make one tiny addition to my box:
Not the vintage salt shakers, but that cut out in the top. You can see it waving at you up there. This allows me to shoot down into the box, instead of just from the front. It’s perfect for anything flat. Just cut it barely larger than your lens, and you are good to go!
This photo also happens to illustrate something of vital importance. No matter what kind of bulbs you buy, even the “white” ones, you have to white balance your camera (assuming you are shooting digital). If you don’t, everything will be yellowy. If you do, you get this:
See how nice and bright the Humpty’s are after the white balancing?
Now, go forth and create lightboxes!