Create your own Inexpensive Photography Light Box using a cardboard box and less than $5.
I don’t pretend to be a professional photographer. In all honesty, I’m far from it. Since I started blogging, my food photos have just been okay. You could see what I made, but the photo didn’t jump out at you and have you saying, “Yummmm, I want to eat THAT!” It was time to do better. My pictures needed to depict just how delicious the food really was. After a little research, I decided I needed a photography light box. Only problem, I made a small, and I mean small, budget. So I set out on a little DIY project and created this light box with $5 and a few things I had around the house.
Great pictures begin with great light.
When taking photographs, natural light is best. But sometimes, you can’t get natural light when you need it. In our house, there is only one south-facing window that gets great filtered, natural light. Unfortunately, it’s not always convenient to photograph when the light is good. A photography light box will solve that dilemma. It eliminates strong shadows and glare from my kitchen lighting and creates a dramatic, eye appealing photograph. It takes my photos from “yup, it’s a burger” to “OMG, that looks delicious! I want to try THAT burger!”
You don’t have to be a food blogger to make great use of a photo light box. Do you ever list items on Craigslist or Ebay? When you peruse listings, which listings do you click on? The ones with great photos, right? You can create high quality photos with a light box. You’ll get more people clicking your listing and that helps sell items more quickly.
1. Cardboard box – You can use any size box. Take into consideration what you’re wanting to photograph. I choose a large box, honestly, because that’s what I had lying around. If you don’t have a box, you don’t have to buy one. Try the office. Paper ream boxes are sturdy and are great for this. Also, check with local stores that sell products. They are usually happy to give you their boxes, as they just throw them out anyway. Note: thicker boxes are better. Free
2. Fabric or paper – To diffuse your light, you will want fabric or paper to cover the outside of your light box. A light, non-sheer fabric would be best. Tissue paper is another low-cost option. I used a white sheet that I picked up at the thrift store. I cut it up to just cover the top and sides of my box. $1.79
3. Poster board – Solid color poster board creates the backdrop for your photos. Use the heavier weight poster board, if you can find it. I bought 2 sheets of black ($.69 each) and 2 sheets of white ($.50 each) from Dollar Tree. Note: I’m LOVING the black background. You really only need 1 sheet of poster board for the background. It should cover the bottom of your box and slope up at least 3/4 the height of your back wall. You don’t want to see cardboard in your photos. With kids in my house, I bought extra backgrounds. It’s best to be safe than sorry. Right? $2.40
4. Lighting – This is the most important part of your box. It’s what provides the light in your DIY light box. If you don’t already have 2 lights to use, this will be your most expensive part of this project. I used a desk lamp with a flexible neck and a clip on shop light. Both lamps contain a standard 60 watt light bulb. In the future, I’m planning to get natural daylight bulbs. The current bulbs have a yellow tint and I’ve read that the daylight bulbs have a bluer spectrum. Free
5. Tools – Ruler or tape measure, straight edge, marker, tape, scissors, knife or box cutter. You are going to need these tools to measure, cut and secure your light box. You should have them around the house. Free
Creating Your Light Box – Directions
1. Take your box and map out how you’re going to cut it – Take your ruler or tape measure and measure 2″ from the side of the box. Mark several points as you go around each side with your marker. You’ll start to see the rectangle or square you’ll be cutting away. Go around 3 sides of your box, leaving the top and bottom side alone. Use the straight edge or a ruler to connect the dots and form the rectangles or squares you’ll be cutting away.
2. Cut open your box – Tape the front of the box closed. This will help stabilize your box as you cut it. Using a knife or box cutter, cut away the squares or rectangles you drew out in the previous step. Once you’ve cut out your 3 sides, cut off the top of the top. You’ll end up with a solid bottom, 3 sides with cut out rectangles or squares, and 1 solid side.
3. Create your background – Measure the width of your box opening. Using scissors or a box cutter, cut the poster board to fit. Secure the poster board to the cardboard with tape or a clip. (Note: my box was larger than the poster boards, so I just layered the paper. It doesn’t show in my photos.)
4. Cover your box with fabric – Cut a large piece of fabric to cover the holes in your box. A large strip, the depth of your box is easiest. You can secure the fabric to box with tape. Note: I wanted a removable cover, so I didn’t secure the fabric. I cut the fabric so I could tuck it under the box.
Ready to Shot
To use your light box, set it up on a table or other horizontal surface. Place your lights above or on the side, depending on the lighting effort you desire. Now, just grab your camera and start snapping away.
Here are a few of the food photos I’ve taken with this inexpensive photography light box.
If you want more help with your photography, try these books affiliate links*). I’ve read them and they have helped me understand what makes a good picture and how to do it myself.