A light box is something I've been meaning to construct for some time now. I get so frustrated when trying to take photos of things that I make in the winter time because of the lack of natural light. Everything looks dark and blah.
After a conversation today with miss Jen the Beantown Baker about techniques to improve her delicious food photography I decided to take on the challenge of creating an affordable, collapsible light box for people who may be short on space as well as cash. The problem I found with many of the affordable foam core light boxes is that every time you want to take it down you risk having the tape rip the walls apart. That in combination with the potentially frustrating assembly as one fumbles with the foam core like a house of cards lead me to the idea of a dove-tail like joint for the box.
This light box design cost about $4 for the foam core and another $1 for the poster board that I use to create a seamless background. It's quick and easy to assemble, tear down, and store away. I still need to find brighter lighting, I used two dim desk lamps to test, but it definitely has potential!
First I cut the foam core into 20"X20" panels. I then labeled each panel according to it's location on the box to keep myself from getting confused.
After I labeled my 4 sides I measured a 1" thick margin where each joint connected. Then I laid out the panels according to where they connected to the 'back' panel. Imagine the sides and top folding up at each joint and you can visualize how the box will connect.
With the joints touching I measured out 3" notches and drew my line across both panels to ensure that everything would fit together nicely. For someone who is less than precise when it comes to measuring, this is a great technique to ensure a good fit. I then shaded in the notches that I wanted to cut out with my exacto knife. I did this to keep from cutting out the wrong notch accidentally.
By tilting your panel up you can see where the notches fit into each other. The white ones, or tabs will fit into the shaded ones, the ones I cut out.
Once you cut out the shaded boxes to create your notches, you should be able to easily assemble the light box.
Here's the light box assembled. This will create 3 nice white surfaces to bounce light off of to create a nice even light source for product photography. The final step is adding a strip of poster board to create a seamless backdrop for the product. Since the light box is 20" wide with a 1" margin on each side I needed to cut my poster board to be 18" wide.
Again, I did not want to use tape which could tear the box and the poster board, so I cut notches into the poster that fit into the tabs on the 'back' panel. I set the poster's notches into the 'back' panels, then laid the 'top' panel on top of it to hold it in place. It worked out great.
Here are the 2 dim desk lamps I used to test the setup. I'd recommend getting a couple of those silver dome lamps with daylight bulbs to give brighter, better light. Here's a comparison of the light box set up vs. the flash on my camera.
(For tips on making this shot more appealing see updated post on lighting and color)
As you can see, the flash blows out the subject when you try to get close to it and creates a harsh shadow. It also flattens the image because the light source is only coming from one location straight on. The light box feels nice and soft and helps show off the contours of the subject by providing light from multiple angles.
Once I finished with the light box you simply pulled it apart and all of the panels lay nice and flat so that you can store it easily til the next use!
For other takes on the light box hack, check out:
Steph's light box which is made out of an old box, cloth, and poster board. This one diffuses light instead of bouncing it off the walls
Sara's mini photo studio which is made out of pvc pipe, white sheets, and poster board.
both turned out GREAT! Nice job ladies. :D