Commercial light boxes aren't too expensive. If you're going to lay down $500 to $1,000 for a good camera, then $50 for a light box won't be a problem. But they don't get very good reviews, and they don't really look like they are worth the $50. What you're after is basically just diffused light on a white background.
Since we all have light sources, and we all have diffusers in the form of printer paper, I set out to cobble together my own setup before I gave in and spent the money on something off-the-shelf. Somewhere I read an article about making your own light box from a plain cardboard box, so I decided to start with that design.
- Large cardboard box
- Small stack of printer paper
- Small roll of tape
- Box cutter or pocket knife
- Macro Filter (goes on end of lens)
- Light Box
- Desk or standing lamps
Building the Light Box
Most of the work is in modifying the cardboard box. First, cut off all the flaps with a pocket knife. Make sure it is nice and sharp and the flaps should come off with little effort. Since I collect and blog about pocket knives, this wasn't a problem. You'll want to take the box and put it on a table or workbench with the opening facing you. This is how the box will be oriented while you take pictures with it.
Next, cut three small windows in the top and sides of the box using the same pocket knife or box cutter. The windows should be smaller than a piece of printer paper because the paper will cover the windows and act as a diffuser, giving your light box some nice, soft, light. At this point your cardboard box is done.
Now it's time to add the diffusers. Take 2 sheets of paper and tape them over the two side windows you just carved. They will just hang freely. Next, put a sheet over the top window. Using the top can be a little tricky because you either have to have the lamp standing over it or find a lamp bigger than the window so it won't try to fall through the top. Other solutions would be a small pane of glass or securely taping the paper so it could hold up a small lamp. I just used an old aquarium lamp I found from digging through the garage.
Once the diffusers are attached, break out a couple lamps and a tripod and you're ready to go!
Below is the result of the picture I was taking above. This setup is giving me professional quality results for a total cost of zero dollars.