Wednesday, May 10, 2017

How to make a lightbox for small photography (for about 9 bucks!)

Because I do most of my blog photography at night, my lighting rig usually consists of a couple of table lamps, a dark room and a sheet. You can certainly get some nice dramatic lighting this way, but sometimes you just need even all-over illumination without all the bullshit. Enter: my super cheap and bright light box!


A copper wire LED light unit. (this one is battery powered, but I went with a plug-in one for my light box) You can either spend $15 on a 10-foot strand at the store, or you can go on ebay and find them as cheap as 6 bucks! I got this one--it's 30 feet long, has an included AC adaptor, and cost me 9 dollars with free shipping.  I went with bright white instead of soft white, to avoid any unwanted yellow cast on your subject.

Waaaahh, I'm'a in a giant nightmare carpet world

-A box. This one was free from the post office!
-White paper/cardstock/whatever
-One larger piece of white paper for the bottom/curved backdrop (posterboard would work well, but I had some big printer paper)

First, tape your white paper on the sides, back and top of your box interior. This has two functions:

-The white will reflect light onto your subject better

-You won't get an orange cast from the plain brown messing up the colors in your photo. Reflected light is a killer sometimes! I've got a room with green walls, and anything I photo in there comes out green.

Now, tape your longer sheet of paper to the back wall of the box and let it curve down and out of the box. You now have a nice white void for your subject to sit in!

Here's the obnoxious part. Tape the LED light strand all about on the side walls and ceiling of your box. As you can see here I went with a series of spirals, snaking any remaining wire out of the box. Let's give it a try!

It may be ugly, but it's bright.

Here's Wario straight out of the camera and onto my computer. I didn't set my white balance to compensate for the lightbox! Do a search for how to do this if you don't know how to--otherwise you'll likely get green or blue tones in your photo. But look at the perfectly featureless background and even lighting!

Here he is with some touchups. My photoshop game is pretty weak though. Make sure to adjust your white balance for the lights you're working with!

Ruh-roh, I've found a problem with my plan. Shiny things get a hellacious glare, but the fix is simple! Just take some tissue, paper towel square, even another sheet of white paper and tape it up over the LEDs on each wall. Instant light diffusion--check it out.

I didn't do a very thorough job putting up the tissue but you get the idea, right?

Why stop there, though? Cut off the bottom of the box and put a piece of black glass (or whatever you want) underneath it and you've got a new setup! Use some non-reflective black fabric or colored paper for a new backdrop if you want, too. Easy to customize.

If you don't have any pro equipment I hope this helps you with your own blogging!