Super Quick Light Box for Better Photos

December 30, 2013Allison Murray

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I very recently came into a bit of a situation. You see I had a very firm deadline and the weather decided not to cooperate. I had two posts that HAD to be turned in within 24 hours but the sun was nowhere to be found. Even with my windows open all of the way, I still had to have a lamp on to be able to see and not stub my toe. This was NOT good.

Since I was also in the process of packing up my office for a quickie remodel I grabbed one of my moving boxes and an unworn white undershirt and got after it.  The good news is, I was able to work up to midnight to get my projects done with no natural light whatsoever! And the cost was absolutely nothing since I used things already on hand.

For this project you will need:

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  • Large cardboard box
  • White fabric or tissue paper
  • Tape or staples
  • X-acto knife or box cutter
  • Lamps with natural light bulbs

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My box is 18 x 18 x 24. I’d really recommend going a bit bigger but this is what I had so it is what I used. You can purchase new moving boxes for around buck or two at big box stores like Walmart and hardware stores like Home Depot.

On one side cut out a large rectangular or square hole, depending on the size and shape of your box. You’ll need enough around the hole so that the box is still stable and able to stand alone so don’t go too thin.

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Flip over and cut a similar sized and shaped hole on the other side. If you have cats, now is a good time to make sure they haven’t made their way in.

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Cut your white tissue paper or fabric (again I used a new undershirt) to fit over your holes. Use tape or staples to affix to the box. I used staples and folded the prongs inward with a butter knife from the inside.

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Set up your box and place a piece of poster board inside to act as your background. If you curve the paper in the corner you’ll have no visible seams or edges in your photos. My 18×18 box meant that I had to trim my poster board to fit but I would have been happier to just toss a piece inside with no awkward trimming necessary.

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You can use any kind of directional lamps you have available. Desk lamps work really well and so do these metal lamps you can buy for about $6 at hardware stores. I used one on each side with 60 watt natural light bulb. I plan on swapping the bulbs for higher wattage ones for better lighting inside of the box next trip to the store.

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Set up your photos and snap away!

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And work on projects when weather isn’t exactly ideal for great natural light or well into the dark, evening hours!

My light box isn’t fancy but it gets the job done. I can change out different colors of poster board for different backgrounds but I’m such a big fan of isolated white photos that I doubt that will happen too often. It is nice to have the option, though!

When not in use you can take the box and fold it back up to store easily. I must say, if you have cats I’d recommend going fabric over tissue paper as Max (my cat craft assistant seen in the images above) thought he was in Varsity Blues or something and kept ripping through the paper and totally messing up my little photo shoots :)

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Comments (15)

  • Lisa

    December 30, 2013 at 12:26 PM

    You ROCK! This is totally a great trick. From the first photo I thought you’d built like a whole little light room, but then I saw it was a small cardboard box – even cooler. A good one to keep in mind, thanks!

    1. Allison

      January 10, 2014 at 11:22 AM

      Oh, gosh, I’m far too lazy to build the whole thing. Cardboard box, baby! :)

  • RedSetter

    December 30, 2013 at 1:41 PM

    Thanks for the tutorial and the laugh. I can never seem to get any decent light to take pics so may try the light box. The laugh part was the furry beast taking up residence bang smack in the middle of what you were doing. Everything I do is either pinched by a furry mugger or one of them drapes themselves elegantly across the project with a look of challenge. All good fun!

    1. Allison

      January 10, 2014 at 11:21 AM

      Our cats… can’t craft with them, can’t live without them :)

  • Annabel

    December 31, 2013 at 3:33 AM

    Nifty fix for a rainy day! Love that your cat keeps busting into the box – he sounds like a cutie!

    1. Allison

      January 10, 2014 at 11:19 AM

      Yep. That’s Max. A totally cutie but he insists on helping me craft. Couldn’t ask for a better cat craft assistant, really!

  • Bree

    January 1, 2014 at 5:52 PM

    Thank you for posting this! I have the darkest apartment ever and I can’t figure out how to make the light work for me. This is a much needed item for a newbie like me. Also I am glad I am not the only one who has a cat who wants to be in every project photo. Pinned.

  • Midsommarflicka

    January 4, 2014 at 5:00 PM

    Oh, I always wanted to make on of these! In fact, I already have a large cardbox on my attic, waiting to be cut, since… well. Last christmas. Last, as in 2012!
    Maybe, now as I’ve seen yours, it will finally get me motivated!!

    Love, Midsommarflicka

    1. Allison

      January 10, 2014 at 11:11 AM

      Yes. Do make one! It’s such a huge difference I can’t even say!

  • Micheline @theminiaturemoose.com

    January 13, 2014 at 7:51 AM

    Omgosh that kitty is so cute. Cats always lay on what you’re working on, it’s their M.O.

    This is my first time to your site and I’ll def be back! Beautiful!

    Micheline

    1. Allison

      January 13, 2014 at 4:05 PM

      Oh, thanks on so many accounts. I love that you think my kitty is cute and I love that you love my blog. Welcome :)

  • Jelli

    January 30, 2014 at 9:07 PM

    I love this idea! I could’ve definitely used it for a recent photo shoot. Thanks for sharing!

  • Lauren

    June 24, 2014 at 12:34 PM

    My cats also love to sit inside my light boxes! We’ve ruined one… now I store my new one up high where they can’t get at it. I’ve taken some pretty good pictures of them when they are sleeping in there, though!

  • Cathy

    August 21, 2014 at 7:49 PM

    This is an awesome idea! I was wondering though, what do you use for a stand for items that need a platform? Do you photograph them just sitting on the bottom of the box or do you put something in there to sit items on?

    Your cat is gorgeous! I have 6 of them and they come in all colors, so cat hair is a huge challenge for me in my photos…its all over whatever cloth/fabric I use and no matter the color of the fabric, I have a cat who’s hair will show up on it! I love my babies, but not when Im trying to shoot pics!

    Thanks again for posting :)

    1. Allison Murray

      August 21, 2014 at 9:55 PM

      Hey, Cathy! I actually don’t use a pedestal or anything and I set my items right onto the poster board. I hear you about cat hair and that’s why I’ve gotten rid of all of my cute fabric swatches and backgrounds. There’s nothing cute about cat hair all in the weave, after all :)

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