A Step-By-Step Guide On How To Make A Lightbox

Crafts is a form of relaxation. From creating an indoor tent for your kids, lavender bags for your closet or a doorstop, one thing for sure. It’s fun! But sometimes it’s more than that! If you’re a budding photographer, you’re no doubt aware of the starting costs. A good camera alone is worth quite a lot of money, let alone the other accessories like alternative lenses or filters. Professional photographers use lightboxes to get the proper illumination for their products; the only problem is that a good-quality lightbox can also cost lots of money. But, a limited budget need can’t stop you from getting professional-quality product shots. How? That’s simple – a DIY lightbox

Photographer shooting orange motorcycle model in mini lightbox

If your Google search history includes the question – how to make a lightbox -, you’ve come to the right place. Our DIY tutorial won’t just give you the lowdown about the materials you’ll need, but there’s also a detailed step-by-step guide to help you make your very own lightbox at minimum cost. Read on to discover more!

Materials needed for a DIY lightbox

Just like every journey begins with a single step, every DIY project starts with a list of materials needed for its completion. The best part is this tutorial makes use of materials you’ll probably have lying around at home – which means you no longer have to look at the pricey lightbox.

You will need:

  • One medium-sized cardboard box (you can also keep a large box as a reserve for items that won’t fit into the medium lightbox).
  • A fabric of white colour such as muslin, fleece, or nylon (make sure to measure the cardboard box before buying the fabric as you’ll need enough to cover it all). If you cannot find the fabrics mentioned here, you can also utilise old white t-shirts.
  • Buy several fluorescent light bulbs (with cool white light) from the nearest hardware store. Don’t opt for ordinary light bulbs because they tend to emit a yellow glow that might affect your picture’s quality. Also, if you don’t have a lighting fixture, you can purchase clamp-on work lights with a 13 cm reflector dish. 
  • White Bristol board or White poster board with a matte finish (to line the box and create a background for the lightbox).
  • Parchment paper
  • Masking tape or packing tape to stick the fabric to the sides of the lightbox.
  • Craft cutter knife or knife cutter
  • Scissors
  • Triangle ruler
  • Spray adhesive (to stick the lining in the photo lightbox).

Step-by-step guide: How to make a lightbox

Now that we’ve covered the materials list, it’s time to get on with the actual tutorial. Here’s the guide we promised. 

Woman's hands using cardboard box for making a lightbox

Step 1

While it’s always best to start with a large box to make your first lightbox, lightbox if you think you won’t be able to accommodate a large-sized box for your current project – go with a medium-sized one. 

You’ll be able to locate one for free if you look at the local supermarkets and ask them for one. Otherwise, you can buy one from a storage business or online store. Once you have the box you need, you can start planning out the windows on each side. First, ensure the flaps that open the box face towards you. Next, measure about 5 cm at every edge on both sides of the box

After you’ve marked all four edges on both sides, use a pencil to draw lines to join each edge. This will result in a rectangular shape with a 5 cm gap from the edges. Repeat the process for the other side of the box and on the top of the box – in case you want your product illuminated from above

If you feel the window you’ve mapped out is too large, and you might run out of fabric to cover them – scale down the window size. For example, try marking an 8 cm gap instead of 5 cm.

Step 2

Take your craft cutter or knife cutter to cut along the lines you’ve drawn on both sides of the box. Be careful while using the cutter to ensure you don’t suffer any cuts, and once you’re done, carefully extract the cardboard cut out from the middle. 

Hands cutting carton for making a lightbox

If you’re not comfortable cutting free-hand, use the triangle ruler to help guide you while you’re cutting. You should have two equal-sized windows on both sides of the cardboard box by the time you’re done. 

Next, measure the edges of the sheet of the white Bristol board (or you can use white poster board sheets) to ensure they’ll fit perfectly inside the cardboard, from edge-to-edge. 

If the sheet needs trimming, mark the excess paper with the help of the ruler and a pencil and use the scissors to cut it away. Also, note that the length of the sheet of paper needs to be long enough to fit the cardboard box from top to bottom – to create a seamless white background

Once you’re certain the white poster board sheet is the correct length and width, use the spray adhesive or tape to stick the sheet (starting from the edge of the top to the edge of the bottom) inside the box. However, don’t fold or bend the paper at any point. Instead, allow the paper to curve at the bottom by angling it. 

Step 3

Now, it’s time to cover the windows on the sides of the box with the white fabric (to act as a diffuser). Start by sticking the material to the upper edge of the box with the help of the masking tape and continue until you’ve attached and secured the material on all four sides. 

Make sure the fabric doesn’t have any creases because this may interfere with the lighting. Once you’re done covering one window, repeat the process for the second window of the photo lightbox. If you cannot locate any white fabric, you can use parchment paper, wax paper, tracing paper, or even white tissue paper to cover the sides instead. 

Step 4

Your DIY photography project is now complete. All that remains is using your homemade lightbox to create the perfect product photos. However, before you start clicking away at your camera, be sure to place the lightbox on a perfectly flat surface, such as a table or desk. 

This will also help create the right environment for you to place your desk lamps or clamp-on lights (pointed at each of the lightbox windows for light). Finally, place whatever object you want to photograph inside of the box, but make sure to put it right in the middle to ensure it’s well illuminated from the light sources beyond the windows. 

Photographer shooting vintage alarm clock and pencils in lightbox

How to use your lightbox

You’re one step closer to your dream of product photography now that your lightbox is complete. But, before we sign off, here are a few pointers to help you get the best out of this experience. 

  • Using your DIY light tent means you’re going to have plenty of light flooding in from the windows of the box – that’s why it’s always best to ensure your camera’s flash is off before taking photos. 
  • If you want to branch out to food photography, try using a wide aperture (something like f/1.8) along with a selective blur to make the food look more appetising on print.
  • The photography tip to end all others – invest in a good-quality tripod because it allows for advantages like stability and longer shutter speeds – leading to clearer and sharper pictures. 
  • If you’re working in a room with plenty of natural light, you may want to utilise it instead of artificial light. If you’re aiming for a more dramatic feel, you can use the desk lamp or LED lights instead. 
  • Take the time to learn the art of photo editing because it can help turn a mediocre picture into a work of art. Photo editing programs like Lightroom or Photoshop allow users to play around with effects, vividness, white balance, exposure, etc. They also have presets that can help improve your shots. 
  • Don’t be afraid to get close to the front of the box to take a photo or try photographing objects at different angles. A close-up shot is a great way to highlight the details of your product without the background meddling in. Photographer taking photo of glass bottles in a lightbox

Photography is fast becoming a must-have skill in the age of social media. Besides that, product photography is a lot more prevalent than many think. That’s why we recommend all our readers to at least learn the basics of photography. From photography students to entrepreneurs – there’s no limit to what skills in the art of graphic arts can do for you. Plus, now that you’re aware of making your own photography lightbox, your path ahead should become all the easier.

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