DIY Light Box for Product Photography

I’ve purchased a boat-load of gadgets, written many reviews, and sold several items on eBay over the years, and an important part of it all has been photographs of the items of interest. Up until now, I’ve simply taken pictures in any open space at home, but always had to accept compromises in lighting, background, etc.

When I received the Nokia E71, I decided it was time to improve the quality of the product photos I take. I had read about a DIY light box a short while ago and decided it would be worth the effort to construct one myself. Some advantages of a light box include more even lighting and the ability to control the backdrop.

I went out to the dollar store and got 5 pieces of 20″ x 30″ foam-core board for $5 and 1 piece of white bristle board for another dollar. Back home, I set out to assemble the contraption.

Assembling a light box

The idea is to create a white box with an opening at one end that you shine a few lights into, to create an even, shadow-free (or as much as possible) area to place the object. Normally, even with a bounce flash, shadows can appear where the light, bouncing down from above, can’t reach. The white bristle board is used to hide the interior connection points of the box, eliminating any edges that may appear in the photos.

With the help of some masking tape, it wasn’t long until I had something resembling the final product and with a box cutter, I removed the two protruding pieces from the short sides of the box. Finally, the bristle board was placed horizontally in the box and I was ready to add the lights.

Completed DIY light box

I wanted to be able to use the SB600 flash as a bounce flash so I needed another light source that produced light of a similar temperature. Normal incandescent light is a bit too yellow, so I went with a small compact fluorescent lamp. In retrospect, it’s probably a bit blue compared to the flash, but does an okay job anyways. In the very least, I have a pretty consistent lighting environment that allows me to set a custom white balance to compensate.

Camera, light setup with light box

So my setup is as shown, camera on a tripod with the onboard flash acting as the commander as well as a fill, the SB600 to the left, bounced off the top of the box, and the lamp on the right, again angled towards the top. The tripod is a bit tall for the box to sit on the ground, so I’ll have to look for something to put the box on. But regardless, the effect on the photos is astounding. What nice, even lighting (for the most part), and all for less than $10 and 15 minutes of effort. I’m pleased. Here’s a sample shot of the Nokia E71.

Nokia E71 light box sample photo

The light box is too big to bring with me, and disassembly + assembly on the go is simply out of the question. Still, it has served its purpose with the E71 and will for all the gadgets that are to come. šŸ™‚

Next steps include cutting a flap on the top of the box to allow top-down as opposed to angled shots. I’ll also have to find another lamp to even out the lighting a bit more.


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