A lightbox is basically a well-lit spot for taking photographs. I've been putting off building one for ages because I didn't have the right tools (Exacto knife, tracing paper for the windows, fancy lights), but yesterday I picked up the perfect new light at Ikea, so while J was assembling our new cabinet last night (more on that later), I built a lightbox using materials I had around the house. And while the cabinet took him more than two hours, I had this lightbox finished in thirty minutes flat.
- Cardboard box (the size depends on what you will be photographing)
- Knife (I used a kitchen knife)
- White paper
- Three halogen lights (more on this in Step Three)
Cut out a square of cardboard from three sides of the box. Determine which side will be the bottom. You will not be cutting any cardboard from the bottom. Cut a square out of the top and each side.
I used a basic kitchen knife for this and it was very easy. There is no need to measure or try to make straight lines - just freehand cut. Make sure to cut off the flaps (from where the box originally opened) as well (see last photo in this series). I apologize for all the dark photos - I build this box at night and clearly my house lacks great lighting.
Cut white paper (I used paper right from the printer) to fit over the three holes you just cut. Tape down the sides so the paper completely covers the cut squares. Also arrange a piece of paper inside of the box to give the white backdrop (see the fourth photo in this series). Mine stayed in place without tape, but you may need to tape it in.
Arrange three lights so each one is pointing at one of the cut sides. I already had one (the little one on the left), but I bought the large one at Ikea yesterday for $10. I am going to go back and get another one this week, because I need a third light source (for the right side). The Ikea light came with a halogen bulb and is available in Ikea stores, although I can't find an exact match online. Similar lights are available by clicking here.
My light from Ikea (it is hugely tall).
Here are some pictures I took immediately after building it (of random things that I had on hand):
It is ideal to set your lightbox and lights up somewhere where they can stay permanently, because it isn't too fun to pull the pieces out and set them up each time you want to take pictures. That said, with all the lights, this does take up a fairly large footprint. I decided to set mine up on a folding table in the corner of the dining room, because we don't use that room much (although as you can see from this pictures, I had it set up on the floor where I was building it, which is definitely not an ideal location).
You can play around with different backdrops and arranging the lights different for unique effects. Of course, it is important to remember that natural light is ideal and makes for the best photographs, but for taking pictures at night (as many of us do, since we work during the sunny hours), this makes for nice shots.
Remember: this is for an quick and dirty lightbox - not a nice, fancy one, but in my opinion, the pictures are pretty good. If you need a lightbox and want something quick and easy, this is for you. I am in no way an expert (at photography or lightbox-building), but this method worked well for me.