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How to Build Your Own Light Box for Dirt Cheap

While light boxes, essentially lighted compartments with a white interior or made of translucent cloth, already exist on the market, they can also be made at home. You can create your own version of these highly useful tools with a cardboard box and available items in fairly short order.

Choose Your Box

Choose a box based on the size of the object you want to take pictures of. Small objects can use a shoe box, but larger objects may need a moving box or even an appliance box. You can buy one or reuse an existing one. Just make sure it has the width and height to allow for a backdrop at various distances without photographing the edges of the box’s interior.

Working Materials

You’ll need a sheer interfacing fabric or white muslin, enough to create two diffusion sheets, each the size of a box side. You’ll also need poster board, at least as wide as the side of the box and also about one and a half times as long as the height, bright white with no creases and perfectly clean. Other materials include scissors, a box cutter, a marker pen, tape and two desk work lamps with 100-watt fluorescent bulbs.

Create the Box

  1. Seal the box bottom with tape.
  2. Place a single diffusion sheet, cut to size, over one box side. Make pen marks well inside the corners to designate a hole area small enough to be covered by the sheet. Repeat on the opposite side.
  3. Cut the holes you need; be sure to leave plenty of room to keep the strength of the box side and to have lots of room to tape the edges.
  4. Tape a diffusion sheet over the outside of each hole. Double-sided tape or packing tape are both good choices for attaching. Be sure to prevent any wrinkles as they will cause shadows.
  5. Place the box on an uncut side with the sheets facing outwards.
  6. Cut the poster board to width and tape this to the inside top edge at the back, letting the poster board hang down in an even curve, free of creases, marks or debris.
  7. Place a lamp on either side to light the interior.

If you need a lighting solution on the spot or want to avoid the unnecessary expense of a premade version, making your own light box is a quick and easy project made from off-the-shelf items or available materials. Best of all, when you’re done, you have a fun tool that can be used in dozens of different ways.

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