Upon popular demand I took some time today to put together the LightBox tutorial I’ve been promising for a couple weeks now. I have been using my lightbox for various different projects over the last month and have found it extremely useful for getting creative macro and product shots. This is the same Box I used to create a number of my previous Daily Exposures, which we will discuss in a second. When building mine I tried to keep flexibility in mind to prevent from limiting myself in the future, and Ill explain all of this in the tut.
So what is a LightBox, Light Tent, Macro Tent? Ive heard it called many different things but they all do the same thing, creating a seamless back drop with diffused lighting to create beautiful product and macro photography. Its much like the product over at ezcube.com which can range anywhere from 50 bucks on up to even a couple hundred for some of the top name products. The beautiful thing about making your own is you probably have most the materials laying around at home. Even if you had to purchase everything it wouldn’t cost you much more than $15 which includes the lighting.
So as they say… “Lets make a LightBox!”… what thats not a saying.. well it should be!
What your going to need:
- Cardboard box (Mine is 17in x 13in, with a depth of 13in) – Free from local market
- White Poster Paper – 50 cents from dollar store
- Tissue Paper for diffusion material (A white trash bag should work as well) – $1 from dollar store
- 2 or more Clamp Lights – $6 a piece at Walmart
- 2 or more Daylight bulbs (Be eco friendly! Use CFL!) – 2.50 at Walmart
- Bull Clips (I think the more technical name is The heavy duty paper clip clamp thingy mabobs) – 50 cents at dollar store
- Scissors (Preferably Cutco Shears.. because they are badass!) – you should have scissors, but if you want some awesome Cutco shears get ahold of me and we will get you hooked up 😉
- Sharpie for marking cut lines – pencil will work just as well
- Ruler – Steal one from your kids!
- Box cutter or knife – If all else fails you could probably chew threw the box, it actually has the same taste as most tv dinners!
- Tape (packaging or masking)
- Optional: Clear Poster Sheet (Will explain later) – 3 bucks at the local craft store
When it comes to what size box you need, its completely up to what you have in mind for shooting. I’ve gotten away with the size I initially chose but there has been times where I wished I had a bigger box (Future project). Just remember the bigger the box you go the more lighting you will need.
Were going to be cutting out the right side, left side and top of the box. You don’t need to worry about the back or bottom being they will be covered by the paper. I measured 2in from each side to give good support to the tissue paper when we get to that step. Use the Sharpie to draw your lines and the box cutter to cut the sections out. (Caution: If you under the age of 16 please have an adult help you with this part! I dont need any missing fingers coming back on me)
Next Measure and cut your poster paper to fit inside your box. Be sure to cut up the vertical side to give you the longest possible sheet.
Cut your tissue paper to size so you can tape it to the two sides Right and Left. Don’t do the top just yet, this is where some of the flexibility comes in 🙂 Be careful when pulling your tissue paper tight as it kind of rips easily, if you are using a plastic bag you wont have this problem.
One thing I find adds a level of flexibility when it comes to the backgrounds I can use with this box, is adding a slit in the back and using a bull clip to hold the paper in place rather than actually taping the paper to the inside like Ive seen others do. This also allows me to add and remove the clear sheet which I will discuss more later in the tut. The slit only needs to be a couple inches wide and runs right along the middle of the back crease on the top of the box.
After Clipping your white sheet in add your lights to the side panels of the box. Normally I have these Clipped to something to hold them steady but for these pics I simply had them leaning on the sides of the box.
Turn the room lights out and the Clamp lights on and make any adjustments to your lighting. (Where I have them placed they have slight hot spots and if I had them clamped on something it would be a much more even light fall across the box)
You could also place tissue paper over the top hole and add an additional lamp to further shape your lighting. I don’t however tape the tissue paper to the top, leaving myself the option of shooting straight down on my subjects.
You don’t need to use clamp lights, I just find they are very convenient for many of my experimental projects. You could just use lamps you have around the house, however you will still want to use Daylight bulbs to avoid any color casting that other bulbs will give (unless your going for that look).
Also as far as adding the clear sheet, I do so for many reasons. First it gives a great reflection for product photography (See example photo below), Second it allows me to work with food, water and anything else that would ruin the poster paper if it were placed directly on top of it. I’ve cut my sheet to the same size as my white poster sheet and clamps in with the same bull clamp that the poster sheet is held by.
You can also change out your white backdrop for other colors. Thats the beauty of using the clip, you have complete flexibility. In fact if you add multiple clips you could even use fabrics (Like imitation kuala fur, or my favorite faux llama hide) for other interesting back drops.
I havent really processed this photo but you can check out some of my recent posts using the light box:
Flatware Simplicity – Shot from the top looking straight down.
Kiwi Slices – Shot with a macro lens, slightly off center from the front.
So there you have it, an inexpensive solution to your macro and product photography needs. The bigger the box the bigger the item so your only limited by the size of box your able to find.
I cant wait to hear your thoughts and see your results! Post links or the pics right in the comments section and share your creative expressions with the rest of the world… well the small bit of the world that actually looks through my crazy blog.