Lightbox Success

I live in Washington state. If there’s one thing you should know about my lovely green state, it’s the fact that it’s in the Pacific Northwest in the upper left hand corner of the United States. And if there’s anything you should already know about this geographical location, it’s the fact that we have no daylight from November through February. Or, at least, that there’s a minimal window of daylight to work with; From 5:30 am until 4:30 pm most days we get a glimpse of the sun. From about 11 am until about 3 pm is prime for photography lighting in the winter months.

I just can’t work within that schedule, so I looked up how to make my own light box. Here’s a list of my ingredients…

  • 2 Tidy Cats kitty litter boxes
  • duct tape
  • tin foil
  • tracing paper (but you can use wax paper or parchment)
  • kraft paper (some people use poster board)
  • box knife
  • sharpie (for marking where I want the cut outs)

I needed a box that could fit easily on my cutting table, but be easily movable and the Tidy Cat boxes seemed to be the right depth and height, just not the right width. So, my idea was to cut open a side on each one, overlap them and tape it all together. Then I needed openings on the sides with light diffuser panels for the light to come in but not be too harsh. Tracing paper taped over large cut outs worked very well. Then I needed something to reflect light down onto the item being photographed. That’s where the tin foil comes in. I just taped a piece to the inside top of the box, shiny side down. Last thing, a backdrop. My signature colors are kraft paper brown, teal, creamy white and charcoal gray. What better neutral background to use than kraft paper?

Isn’t it awesome!? And doesn’t it take great photos…

I couldn’t have made it without my wonderful 14 year old son, Robert. I put him to the task with some simple instructions and he managed the project like a pro. He did all the cutting and assembling. I just added the backdrop and the tin foil. I’m sure you want to hire him to make yours now, right? lol.

For lighting, I have a sun lamp, a 300 watt flood light and a 75 watt focus clip light. The above pic was taken with the flood light on the right and the clip light on the left. I barely had to touch this photo in Camera Raw. Did I say I love my lightbox? Because I do.

Oh and before I go, I wanted to mention that this project cost $0. Yup, nothing. Everything I already had. BTW the backside of that kraft paper looks like hell, it was just going to be thrown away. So, no money was spent in the making of this box.

Have a great day!


4 thoughts on “Lightbox Success

  1. Wow, great picture! I live in Minnesota, so I hear you on the whole “crummy lighting for photos” in the winter. I’m not a photographer by any means, but am learning *rapidly* since I started selling on Etsy.

    My question for you is this: what are the dimensions of your finished box? I do wedding veils and hats/fascinators (amongst other things), so I really do need to be able to use a head form in my pictures. I am debating about whether a cardboard construction like that would be sturdy enough in a big enough size to accommodate a head form.

    Any help you can offer will be very, very appreciated. At any rate, that is a gorgeous shot!

    Laurie in Mpls.

    1. My box would NOT work with a head form. It’s 22.5″ wide and 13.5″ tall. It suits my needs currently, but could be a bit taller.

      I think the key is to get a nice thick cardboard box. Like one that a TV would come in. Then the integrity wouldn’t be compromised by the holes you cut in the sides. I chose the Tidy Cat boxes because of their size and availability, but realized when cutting the holes that the thickness of the boxes really helped. There’s always the option of doubling up the sides of the box that need it most then cutting the holes, which would require two boxes of similar size. You’d just glue a piece to the inside, then cut – or match them up, then cut, then tape them together.

      The sturdiness will depend on the thickness of the cardboard and how you brace it. You can even use flat dowels cut to length to strengthen a thin box. I’m just thinking of the cheapest ways possible to still get a reasonable light box. The pvc pipe and fabric route will run you upwards to $30, whereas my version cost me next to nothing – tape and 2x sheets of tracing paper.

      1. Thanks so much for the reply! I am looking to make one on the “cheap and relatively easy” route as well, so your observations are very helpful. The structural integrity of something large enough to hold my head was a question, as well as cutting away enough of the sides of it to actually work.

        Off to find a reasonably sized box!

  2. That’s such an awesome idea!, and the photos come out great!. Maybe if I get one of my x-mas gifts that I’ve been dropping hints like theres no tomorrow about to the hubby (I wnt a new digi camera) I’ll have to try it out. :)

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