The inevitable first DIY for a novice, frugal photographer! A lightbox and reflectors. It’s also great for restoring film negatives.
What you need:
- a cardboard box (size of your choosing)
- white tissue paper (or cloth)
- aluminium foil
- white bristol board* (make sure there’s a matte side)
- 2-3 desk lamps*
- duct tape
- clear tape
- utility knife
Steps to success:
- Cut out the top and side faces of the box, leaving ~2″ of border. (The box I got from Costco was a little bit weird, so I’ll post schematics instead. My box was made for people to grab bags of frozen blueberries out of, so it had already had a U-shape cutout from the top and front faces) SAVE the rectangular cutouts for your reflectors.
- Cut out the front face of the box leaving only a 2″ border on the left and right edges. This border will help hold your backdrop/bristol board in place, and leaving no margins on the top+bottom will give you a little bit more shooting freedom.
- At this point, the structural integrity of the box is suckier than usual. Use duct tape to reinforce the edges that need it.
- Cover the side faces with tissue paper. Affix with clear tape, make sure it’s taut.
- Before attaching the tissue paper for the top face, cut a hole in the center (same diameter as your lens). This will allow for some birds-eye-view photographs. Cut out a small square of tissue paper and tape only one side down to cover the hole. This keeps the hole shut when you’re not using it (refer to schematic for step 6).
- Cut out your backdrop from the bristol board. The width should be the same as the width of your box, and the length should be a bit shorter than the sum of the box’s height and depth. Thank God for diagrams, right?
- Put your backdrop in (matte side up), and you’re done! This will require a bit of wiggling and care so as to not puncture your tissue papers. I guess alternatively you could put in the backdrop before you install the tissue papers…
- One more step though! The rectangles you cut out in steps 1 and 2, wrap them in aluminium foil, and tape the edges down on the back with clear tape. These will be your reflectors. I couldn’t decide between shiny or not shiny side, so I did one shiny, one not.
All done now! As you can see below, my Costco box made things kinda weird. I had to make a top face for mine out of the scrap cardboard. But since its removable, maybe it will give me some cool lighting options!
What’s left is lamp placement. I have been getting by with two lamps so far, one shining through each of the two sides.
- Box size: Bigger gives you more room, but it’s more difficult to find it a home. Also, although mine is a little small, I love that I can put it on top of counters, desks, etc. Way more comfortable than squatting on the floor!
- Tissue paper: They pop SO EASILY (especially since they’re pulled taut). While I was replacing one, I decided to cut a stack of them at the same time. I have maybe 20 replacement ones now. Handy.
- I haven’t tried using cloth, but I imagine that tissue paper will keep the box lighter. Maybe that’s not what you want, maybe it is.
That’s all for now!
If you make a lightbox of your own, show me photos! I’d love to see them. : )