Create a DIY Lightbox for Product & Macro Photography for Under $10

Alright it’s time to roll up your sleeves, dig up some of those old crafting supplies and create an awesome mini photo studio for under $10.

The Strobist has a wonderful article on creating a DIY Light Tent that I thought was worth sharing with you here!

When I saw this article I thought, “Wow, $10? How is that possible?!” Especially considering that if you want to buy a lightbox online it will run you about $100.

But, actually, you can probably DIY this for less.

I’m going to assume that you have an old cardboard box in the garage somewhere and some white tissue paper laying around from a birthday last year. I know I do!

You can get this stuff at an office supply store or a local drug store, but I think it’s always more fun to scrounge in the closet, or in the garage.

So if you do have the above stuff, then only thing you will need to buy is two sheets of poster board – black and white. Total damage would be less than $2. Sweet!

Because this basically recreates the illusion of softened natural light, which means you can shoot your product photography in the harsh daylight, or with off camera flashes!


So the Strobist wrote his article to appeal specifically to photographers that are using speedlights, or off camera flashes.

But honestly, any bright lamp will do because it’s very easy to balance for tungsten light and get the color balance spot on.

So even work lamps from the Home Depot are great (just make sure that you are careful working with any kind of hot lights) and bright compact fluorescents work wonders or LEDs!

This is the secret is being able to have nice, soft, even light coming from either side or the top – or any combination of the three.

You’ll be using the black and white poster boards serve as light blockers (black), reflectors (white) or sweep backgrounds.

Now let’s make this baby

In his article, Strobist starts out with a 12″ x12″ x12″ box, but let your subject needs define your size.

If you are only photographing small earrings, for example, then maybe you want to build a smaller one.

However, if your subjects vary size wise, go larger and give yourself that nice range.

First, tape that original bottom of the box securely into place before making your cut.

This will help create structure for when you do make your cutes, otherwise you will be left with a twisty cardboard mess.

Next start by cutting windows out in three sides of the box and totally take out one side. (That last part is optional – see below for why.)

Leave two of the top flaps on for light control as shown, and remove the other two:

Examples of a DIY cardboard lightbox setup

Photo by the Strobist

He recommends using a razor to slice the boxes. Just a bit of advice: this is not a good project for when the kids are hovering around.

That last photo in his three-shot sequence shows the box with the tracing paper taped over the windows, which will act as your light diffusers!

You can choose to leave the “side” of the original box that will eventually form the bottom of your studio attached.

This will make it stronger, but it will mean that your ability to place the box down over an object (like a plant) outside will be limited.

So, now you’ll need at least one light source.

A flash works great, as long as you can manually control the output and get it off of the camera.

But, as mentioned, you could also use a bright lamp or work light.

Just be sure to balance your camera for tungsten and put the camera on a tripod to keep it still during the exposure.

For those of you who prefer shooting outside, this is the perfect tool for a sunny day!

It will diffuse that sunlight light and distribute it softly and evenly; to make the light come from whatever direction you need just rotate the box.

The way that he teaches you to build the box also gives you an amazing amount of control over the light!

For example, if you’re shooting outside during bright sunlight, you’ll have the ability to almost completely wrap your subject in beautiful softened light.

But if you use only one light, the tissue paper on the other sides acts as a fill!

If you need to kill the light on one side for a more moody look, slip a piece of black poster board in as a block

One of the best parts of the box is the seamless background look, even thought it’s just a strip of posterboard.

And if you want to change it up, you can add in colorful posterboard!

He goes into even more detail on how you can use remaining pieces of the box as “gobo’s” to create more control!

Read the rest of his tutorial here for more in-depth use information!

Photo by Strobist

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