DIY Light Box Tutorial

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The kids are out of school and I have been planning our activities for weeks. More like, I have been planning work activities that do not require a lot of attention because the kids will be getting most of my attention.

One of my blog checklist items is and has been to build a Light Box. What is a light box? Well, it’s a box that you can use to turn amateur photos into professional ones with a little light control. As I take more and more photos with my smart phone, I am learning that it is *ALL* about the lighting! When you are not in a situation with enough natural sunlight, a DIY Light Box is going to be your next best option.

I am by nature a frugal person. As you can see on my savings blog, Scissor Saving Sarah that I try to save a buck whenever possible. Building a DIY Light Box was no exception. I wanted something that was budget friendly and cheap, so if the kids or dogs got to it there would be no hard feelings.

Light Box


Here are the materials (and costs) I used for my DIY Light Box :

  • 3 pieces of large foam board from The Dollar Tree – $1 each
  • 1 roll of clear packing tape – $3 at Wal-Mart
  • 3 desktop lights with clips – $5.99 each at Wal-Mart
  • 1 package of multi-colored construction paper – $1 at The Dollar Tree
  • Scotch Tape – $1 at The Dollar Tree
  • Scissors
  • Sharp Knife
  • Cutting Board
  • White gift tissue paper – package of 25 sheets for $1 at The Dollar Tree
  • A yardstick

I put together my DIY Light Box in about 1 hour on a Saturday afternoon. Most of the photos on my blogs are taken from either my Galaxy Note 3 smart phone or my Canon Power Shot camera. I have an abundance of resources for professional photos that have already been taken, but there is something about putting a watermark on my own photo that makes me feel good! The lighting is not the greatest when I am up late night taking pictures for posts so I needed something to offset my dilemma. If taking grainy, blurry, under-exposed photos were something that were profitable then I ‘d be rich! Sadly, the requests to actually SEE my work have out-weighed the fan favorite night shots that I have been taking in the past.


So, here we go…..

Lay out all of your materials out on a clean flat surface. I used my kitchen table and made out just fine on work space.

Here are the remaining instructions in order to get the foam board cut in to the right pieces of material

  1. Measure 2 foam boards from end to end by their width. Mine measured about 29.5 inches each.
  2. Mark the middle of your measurement. This will be the place where you cut them in half.
  3. Using a yardstick, draw a straight line down the middle of each foam board that you just measured.
  4. Take scissors or place your foam board on top of a cutting board and cut down the middle going in a straight line. My sharp knife did much better at this task! The scissors were not the best as you are cutting a long straight line on semi non-flexible foam board.
  5. You should now have 4 smaller pieces of foam board if you followed the steps above that measure close to 14.7 inches in width (each). These pieces will later construct the 2 sides, back wall and bottom of your DIY Light Box.
  6. Take the 3rd whole piece of foam board and also cut it in half width wise.
  7. Take one of the halves (measured at 14.7 inches wide) and measure again & cut in half (making it about 7 inches wide).
  8. Take one of the smaller halves (the 7 inch piece) from step #7 and set aside. This will become the roof and provide a bit of stability of your DIY Light Box.

 Now to construct your DIY Light Box –

  1. Take 2 pieces of foam board from the materials step #4 (see above) above and lay on top of each other. You diylightboxwill want to measure about 3 inches from the outside in on all sides to create a “rectangular window”. Once measured, make sure the cutting board is under your foam board and cut out the rectangle with a sharp knife.
  2. You now have 2 pieces of foam board that have windows in the middle of them. Take the 3rd piece of foam board and grab your clear packing tape. Lay the solid half of foam board down on your flat surface. Take pieces of tape and create an open-faced box where you have two side windows and a solid back piece. Following my instructions above, you will want to make your DIY Light Box tall rather than wide to have it all measure up correctly.
  3. Now you have an open-faced box with a window on the left and right sides. Grab your tissue paper and tape a piece to the outsides of each window. These tissue sides are the whole reason for building a DIY Light Box. They let enough light in and you can manipulate the light & shadows by shining light through the tissue paper.
  4. Take the last of the foam board from the materials step #4 (see above) and tape to the “bottom” of your open-faced box. It does not matter which end you pick as the other end will have a shorter piece of foam board taped to it soon….
  5. Now you have a nice open-faced window with two sides that have tissue paper applied, a solid back and a floor on your DIY Light Box.

Almost done! Take one of the smallest pieces of foam board from the materials step # 8 (see above) and tape it widths wise to the top of your constructed light box. IMPORTANT NOTE: This piece is considerably smaller than the top of your light box for a reason. I left about a 4 inch gap in the back of my light box to allow a light to shine down from directly above. Where you position this is up to you, if you even choose to put it on top at all. It will make the entire structure a bit more sturdy.

Now you are done! The only thing left is to put a light on the outside of each “tissue window” to create a soft light exposure and reduce the shadow of the object you are photographing. This may take a few times to get the shadowing just right. Don’t forget that you have that open gap space in the top to shine a light down in to!

You have just mastered the art of constructing your very own DIY Light Box! The inside of your DIY Light Box is already white from the foam board and will provide a clean backdrop for photos. If you want color in your background, use Scotch tape and tape a piece of colored paper to the back wall of your DIY Light Box. I taped mine so that it bowed down to create a “floor” for my photos too. This creates a seamless backdrop and makes an image appear to “float” in your photo!

Here is a before/after shot with my DIY Light Box…..

pinwheellightbox

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