Ever wondered how those great product shots you see in catalogues or online stores are photographed? We have the answer. They are usually photographed inside a light box. This diffuses light, avoids bad reflections and softens hard shadows. It gives the product even lighting and makes it stand out from the background.
But professional studio light boxes are expensive. They’re also not always the correct size or shape for the products you intend to photograph.
In this article we will show you three different ways you can use to build your own DIY light box. You’ll be using inexpensive repurposed materials and still get great looking images.
So, if you want to try your hand at product photography, photograph items to sell online or maybe just catalogue your collections, roll up your sleeves and let’s get started on these great DIY project.
1. Ultra Cheap DIY Light Box with Available Light
This one will take about 15 minutes of your time and a few materials you probably already have around the house.
You will need:
- 1 Medium card box
- 2 Sheets of baking or wax paper
- 2 Sheets of aluminium foil
- 1 White sheet of paper
- Ruler, x-acto knife, glue
Start with your cardboard box. See which side would work the best as the front of your light box.
Now, cut that side of the box in the middle.
Leave two open flaps that will work as barn doors on the front side of the light box. These will control the light that reaches the inside of the box.
Measure the sides of the box. Then cut wax paper to match their size.
Cut two openings on the sides of the box leaving one flap to the back of the box. Then glue the wax paper to the edges of the openings.
Measure the flaps on the back of the box and cut aluminium foil to match their size.
Place a white sheet of paper inside the box to be used as a background. Compose your product and position the flaps of the box to reflect the most of the natural light you might have in the room.
Now you’re ready to shoot.
This image was photographed with f/22, half a second shutter speed and 400 ISO.
Good overall lighting and colour temperature. Not bad at all for a trash-bound card box, some wax paper, aluminium foil and some fiddling with available light.
2. Compact Led Light Box
Although taking advantage of available light might give you good results, these are not controllable or correctly repeatable due to the nature of this type of lighting.
If you want to be able to control your results, this next project is the right one for you. It uses simple LED lighting as a way get steady and controllable exposure and colour temperature.
You will need:
- 1 3mm Perspex sheet
- 1 5V led bar
- 2 Small Velcro strips
- X-acto knife
Cut this shape on a white 3mm Perspex sheet. The dotted lines are folding marks and not cuts.
The size of your DIY light box will be as big as the scale of your template. As a reference, you can use the centre square to calculate the size of one of the sides of the light box.
You could use white cardboard instead of Perspex. But it won’t as durable or resistant.
Now fold your box, overlapping the triangle shaped flaps. Keep them in place with adhesive tape, or Velcro strips. With the latter, you’ll be able to collapse it for transportation and reassemble again easily.
The 5V led strip should be glued to the small flap on the top front of the box.
These led strips are pretty inexpensive and come with a micro USB connection that allows it to be plugged to a portable power bank with a simple cable, making this the ultimate “on the go” light box that can be used anywhere without the need of a power outlet.
Now, just use a white sheet of paper as background. Prepare your product and you are ready to shoot your image.
This image was photographed with f/22, 1/4 of a second shutter speed and 400 ISO.
Straight out of the camera and with a good overall exposure. The light is not as natural looking as the previous image though.
The colour temperature is probably a little off too. This is due to the blueish colour cast of the LED. But you can easily correct that with a more precise in-camera white balance or in post production.
3. White Box Flash Diffuser
If LED light is not the light for you, there is still one last project you can try.
This is really simple. You won’t even need to have DIY skills.
All you need is:
- 1 Plastic translucent white storage box
- 1 Sheet of white paper
- 2 Speedlights
- 1 Speedlight transmitter
Set your box on its side with the opening facing to the front.
Place a white sheet of paper inside the box. This will be the background.
Now arrange your product.
Test your speedlights’ exposure and positioning relatively to the subject.
Synchronise the transmitter with the speedlights and the camera. And you are ready to shoot.
I photographed this image with f/22, 1/60 of a second shutter speed and 200 ISO.
A pretty amazing image straight out of the camera.
The overall light is well diffused and placed on the right spots.
The background appears lit and shadowless. This is a huge plus if you need to isolate images from the background. It saves you hours of work creating cut-outs in post-production.
The white balance seem to be spot on. I used the flash preset in the camera colour temperature options.
The metal reflections are also great without glare or specular light hot spots. This is sometimes hard to accomplish with this type of materials.
A little ingenuity can get you far.
Even if you have all the money in the world or just want to stay away from DIY solutions, in the photography world sometimes you have to adapt and create your own tools to get the results you want.
The important thing is the image, not the tools you used to get it.
A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:
Thank you for reading...
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