This week is a little different. Instead of explaining a technique or demonstrating a composition concept, we’re going make a lightbox. A lightbox is like a tiny little studio with soft lighting to help you photograph small things like earrings, coffee cups, model airplanes, and the like. Its uses are endless but having one of these is particularly useful for the talented crafter – especially if they want to take stellar photos of products for their Etsy store!
Following this guide (with a few small modifications), I put this lightbox together in an hour.
- Cardboard box (stolen from the grocery store)
- Scissors (I used kitchen shears)
- Tissue Paper (two packages)
- Tape (I used double sided tape but regular Scotch tape will work too)
- Lamp (I used our desk lamp which has a bendable arm but you can use any light source, even natural light, to make this work.)
Total cost: $3 for the tissue paper.
Cut up either three or four sides of your box (depending on which side you use for the back drop and bottom) to form nice rectangular holes. I cut up three sides and used the bottom of the box plus one side for the backdrop.
Attach tissue paper over each hole with tape (it’s easier to tape on the outside rather than the inside of the box) so that the tissue paper creates an translucent screen. Wrinkles don’t matter.
Layer two sheets of tissue paper to use as the backdrop. This time, wrinkles do matter. Wrinkles and creases will show up in your photos as slightly annoying shadows behind your image. To flatten out your tissue paper, try ironing it. Put your iron on low (polyester or synthetic settings should work) and iron that sucker flat! (I tried this and it worked very well.) When finished, staple the top corners of your tissue paper together so that they won’t separate when you hang it up.
Next, tape the tissue paper to the top back corner of your box so that it hangs down over the bottom where your items will sit, like a curtain. (The tutorial I followed said to use fabric for the backdrop, which probably would have been nicer and avoided the whole wrinkle issue, but I only had tissue paper, and that worked well enough.)
Position a light source in one of two places: either over the top screen or use two sources – one on each side of the box. The tissue paper will diffuse the light and soften it throughout the box.
Take pictures! I used both my phone (Galaxy Nexus 5mp camera) and my DSLR (Olympus E-5 12mp) to show you that if you don’t have a nice camera, you can still do this. (Side note: I imagine the phone photos would look a lot nicer with the iPhone 8mp camera.) I did fix these up a bit in Photoshop which I suggest you do as well. Follow this link for a quick Picture This tutorial on how to edit photos.
The cool thing about this lightbox is that anyone can do it! It’s cheap, it’s useful, and it turns out lovely photos! Would I do this again? Definitely. I think this project is immensely useful for the crafter out there who needs photos of their projects for marketing purposes. The photo editing took me about 15 minutes, so all up, 1 hour and 15 minutes for professional looking photos you can use for your business.