It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to acquire the perfect shot of something you want to sell online or if you just want to practice your photography: good lighting is essential. You may go out and purchase pricey lighting set up or attempt to work with natural sunlight, but nothing will be quite as simple to buy and put to use as a handmade photography lightbox that you have constructed yourself.
By attaching some diffusing panels to the inside of a cardboard box and using some inexpensive lamps in the right way, you can construct a lightbox that will give you amazing images in only one day.
Part 1: Making the Box
Find a cardboard box that is big enough to hold the thing you wish to shoot and use it. You should look for the largest box that you can locate because this will enable you to snap photographs of virtually everything that you need to document. To obtain the ideal cardboard box, you might inquire at local stores, hunt for a box that you are no longer using, or investigate the possibility of acquiring one from a storage organization.
If you want a lightbox that will endure for a longer period, you should select a box that is made of a stronger material. It would also work if you had a huge box made of wood or opaque plastic in its construction. To cut the lighting panels on the side of the case, though, you won’t be able to use a box cutter; rather, you’ll need something more powerful, like a saw.
Stick the flaps together on one side using tape. To produce a flat bottom for your cardboard box, you will need to invert it and fold down the flaps. Make use of packing tape, duct tape, or something else of a similar nature to secure the flaps of the box and protect it from moving around. Put some tape over the flaps on the inside of the box as well, so that they won’t get in the way of your job while you’re doing it.
Some boxes will already have tabs of cardboard holding one side of the box together when they are purchased. Even though this should be plenty to keep the box solid as you work, it is a good idea to tape the edges of the box together as well. This will give the box an even greater degree of stability.
Take measurements for windows on both the top and bottom of your box. Turn your box on its side so that the open flaps can face you as you work. On one side of the box, measure and mark a spot that is approximately 2 inches (5.1 cm) away from either edge using a ruler. To connect these locations, use a pencil to draw a straight line along the sides of the box. This will result in the creation of a rectangle with space around the edges of it. On the other hand, repeat the process.
The piece of cloth, parchment paper, or tissue paper that you will use to cover the window will need to be cut to this size. If you have an unusually large box, you may want to reduce the size of the window to ensure that you will be able to cover the entire thing with a single piece of cloth or paper.
You may also draw a window on the top of your box, which will let you light whatever it is you’re photographing from above. This option is available to you if you choose to use it.
Your box will need to have its windows cut out. You can cut along the lines that you have marked with either a box cutter or a pair of very sharp scissors. Continue going around each line until you can take a piece of cardboard from the middle, leaving you with a tiny window at the end of the process. To create another window, perform the same steps on the opposite side.
Holding a ruler next to the pencil lines and cutting along them will ensure that the lines are as straight as possible. The functioning of the box will not be impacted in any way by this change. Nevertheless, it will improve its appearance.
Remove any excess paper from a sheet of white poster board and trim it to the same width as the box. Over the top of the box, affix a sheet of thick white paper or a piece of white poster board. With the use of your scissors or a box cutter, remove any excess edges so that they may be stored within your box without taking up too much space. It is recommended that the poster board be the same width as the top side of the box and approximately twice as long as the top side.
When used for this purpose, a white poster board is an ideal choice because it is smooth and does not easily fold when placed inside the box. You should be able to pick it up at your neighborhood craft store for a reasonable price. If you are unable to locate it, any large piece of solid white paper or card that has a matte finish should suffice in its place.
When you photograph an item on white poster board, it will appear as though it is floating in nothingness, giving the shot the appearance of an “infinity” effect. By trying out a lot of different colors, you can make a lot of interesting things happen.
The fact that the material you select has a matte surface should be prioritized above all other considerations. Anything too shiny will make the light bounce off of it, which will defeat the purpose of using a lightbox.
Apply tape along the top edge of the lightbox’s interior and adhere it to the posterboard there. Put a strip of packing tape or duct tape over the top edge of your poster board, and then attach it. Press the tape into the inside of your cardboard box, making sure that it does not come into contact with anything else, and do your best to get it as close to the top of the back side as you can. Use another piece of tape to hold the opposite end of the poster board to the bottom of the box.
To the greatest extent feasible, steer clear of folding or creasing the poster board. You should make an effort to bend it in such a way that the back bottom corner has a very tiny curl to it.
You don’t need to worry about covering the entire box as long as you have a part that is large enough for you to be able to snap a picture without any of the uncovered cardboard being visible.
Make window coverings by cutting two rectangular pieces out of white cloth or tissue paper. This will have the effect of diffusing the light that shines into the lightbox, which will result in more even illumination throughout the entire picture. You will need to cut several pieces of white fabric, tissue paper, or another material that is comparable to be approximately one inch (2.5 centimeters) larger on each side than the windows that you have created.
As a guide for this process, you might make use of the piece of cardboard that was cut out of the box earlier when you were building the windows. After positioning it in the desired location on the fabric or tissue paper, cut around it, making sure to leave enough room on each side to attach it to the box.
This can be accomplished with a piece of smooth white fabric, tissue paper, parchment paper, or anything else of a similar nature. Your material of choice only needs to be non-reflective, and it should allow some of the light to pass through it while blocking out the rest.
Fix the fabric or tissue paper in place with some tape or glue. You can either use a piece of tape or some hot glue to secure the material over one of the windows, beginning at the top edge of the material that you’ve chosen. Allow it to hang loosely over the window, and then secure the other sides with more tape or glue. Repeat this process for each of the windows that you’ve cut out until all of the openings are sealed.
Part 2: How to Make Use of the Lightbox
Position the object you wish to shoot in the exact center of your lightbox. Place your finished lightbox on a large flat surface, leaving enough space around it for lights to be placed on each side. Place the object that you need to shoot in the exact middle of the white surface that is on your lightbox.
If you need assistance positioning the object within the lightbox, use the viewfinder or screen on your camera. You’ll need to move the item as well as the camera around until you can get a clean photo that doesn’t show any of the exposed cardboard.
If you can’t get the object or your camera positioned just perfectly, you can always crop the photo to remove anything that you don’t want to be shown. This is a good option to have in case you can’t get either of those things to work. Even if you don’t need to do any other photo editing, a simple crop could save you a lot of time that you would have spent carefully putting the image in the right place.
On either side of the lightbox, you should position a lamp. Your lightbox will function most effectively when used in conjunction with lamps that offer directional illumination rather than ambient lighting. Locate a sufficient number of desk lamps or other directed lights proportional to the number of windows on the lightbox. Turn on the lamps after positioning them in such a way that their light will shine directly through the windows that you have cut.
Always maintain a distance of at least 5 inches (13 cm) between your lights and the windows. This will prevent the material that is covering the windows from becoming overly heated.
When you first turn on your lights, there should be no significant difference in the distance between them and the lightbox. If you want to make the lighting effects inside the room more intriguing, try shifting different ones further away from or closer to the windows.
If you want the best results, you should use light bulbs that provide a cool white light. Using other types of light bulbs could give your pictures a yellowish cast.
Online or at local homeware or office stationery store, you should be able to locate inexpensive desk lamps or lamps that can clip onto furniture for a few dollars each. These types of lamps are typically sold in packs of two or three.
If you don’t have access to a nice lamp, you may always use a window that faces north (which lets in indirect light) and position the lightbox such that it faces the window. This will allow the light to reflect off of the white paper.
Have some fun tinkering with the settings on your camera. It is not often that you will be taking images of something that is so evenly and brightly lit, so your initial pictures may turn out to be either excessively bright or the completely incorrect color! Make adjustments to the shutter speed, ISO, and white balance settings on your camera until you achieve a satisfactory result.
If you are taking pictures with a camera on your smartphone or with a camera that has an automatic mode, you should not have to make any adjustments to the settings at all.
If your photos come out looking too yellow or too blue, it’s probably because the white balance settings on your camera are off. Try adjusting the exposure by making adjustments to the ISO, shutter speed, or aperture of your camera if the photographs you took are either too dark or too bright. Continue trying different things until you have a picture that’s just right!
Imagine this for a moment. It’s time to take the picture once you’ve positioned your subject appropriately and adjusted your camera settings to perfection. Hold the camera still while you move it around, such that the only object in the photo is the white background, and then take some pictures!
Make use of the cardboard flaps that have been left open so that you can block any light that is coming directly from the bulbs into the camera. Any light that enters the room from sources other than the windows has the potential to produce a lens flare and diminish the efficacy of a photography lightbox.