DIY Photo Light Box – a finish fifty project

Did you ever wonder how people get those beautiful endless finishes in their photos? White and bright shots of their products?  This is how (or, at least it is an inexpensive diy substitute). By taking photos inside a box that diffuses natural light from all sides, you can remove shadows and give a white, magazine-like finish to your photos.

I first learned how to make a light box from Alessandra Cave, a beautiful photographer, from whom I took a great class at the Makerie, a lovely retreat in Boulder, CO.  I built the first light box for my jewelry tutorials, 24 Days of Glam. Taking photos using the box seriously elevated the level of and look of this this blog as a whole.

My old light box had died a slow death in Boulder and was not worth moving. Making a new one landed on my Finish Fifty list the minute we walked in the door of our new house. I kept putting off building it, though. I tried to take photos every which way in an attempt to get good shots without it–a frustrating proposition.

The box is inexpensive to make. It’s simply a cardboard box, white paperboard and some tissue paper. My excuses piled up–I don’t have the right size box (um, hello, I just moved) or I couldn’t find the tissue paper, (again, with the move). But truly, the light box is so simple and fast to make and the impact on photo quality is SO enormous, I have no idea why I waited. So, here is project 3 from my Finish Fifty list along with a full tutorial.  You can see complete Finish Fifty projects here.

Have fun with this!

DIY Photo Light Box Tutorial:

Materials:
Cardboard box
Tissue paper
Craft knife
Packing tape
White posterboard (should be at least 30% longer than the box length)

Cut off the tops of the box.

Cut out a rectangle 1″ shy of sides on three of the four sides of the box.

Pop out the side

Box should look like this after all three sides are cut.
Piece together tissue paper with packing tape to a size large enough to cover one side of the box.
Attach tissue paper to each open side of the box with packing tape.

It should look like this after you cover all three sides.

Cut white poster board the width of the box.

Place the poster board in the box such that it curves inside the box.

Place object inside box at flat part of cardboard.  Place box in as much light as possible. Take photos.
 

Cropped with a little brightening and voila!

Here is another side-by-side to compare. Before:

After:
  1. Thanks for this DIY Anne! I can’t wait to make this!
    Nat

    • anne

      Yay! Great Nat. Let me know how it goes. xx

    • Great Design! I laughed out loud when I read this post. The font makes the a kind of look like an o. So I read “Thanks for this DIY Anne! I can’t wait to make this!

      …Not.”

      <3

    • Oh man, this little thread just made my night! Sheer hilarity. I would probably cry if someone left that comment on my site.
      But seriously, thanks so much for the tips, Anne! Unfortunately I’m left with some pretty low-budg looking pictures of my earlier work because they were gifts and thus, no longer available for reshoots. And even though I’ve since upgraded to the open window/full lighting shots, your light box technique will help take things to the next level. So thanks for helping me take my photog skills to 11 :)

    • anne

      Thanks for your comment Rheney. I’m so glad that I could help!

  2. Hi Anne,

    I cannot tell you how happy I am to have checked out your blog and Whitney @ Elm Street Life to find DIY’s on how to get better photographs. It is one thing I am trying to improve on my blog and with my work in progress project I am so incredibly grateful for your help. Love the blog! and thanks :D

    • anne

      Thanks Danielle. Make this light box! You will be amazed at how your photos look.

  3. What a great idea – it looks like it makes a huge difference. What kind of camera do you have, other than your iPhone that you’ve mentioned you use sometimes?

    • anne

      I use a Canon EOS Rebel. It is a very old camera body. But, my lens, which is a 50mm 1.8 fixed focal length, makes a huge difference in my photos as well.

  4. Cindy

    love <3 thank you!

  5. this is even easier than some I pinned a few days ago… I think I’m going to go put this together right now! Thanks :)

  6. Thank you so much for this tutorial! I have wanted to make one for a while but haven’t come across the right instructions. Now I have no excuse!

  7. I love how simple this is! Now if I could just find a spot above destructive hands…

  8. anne

    Yay! Thanks everyone! I’m glad you like this tutorial. It works so well – definitely take the time to do it!

  9. Camille

    This is literally a revelation to me. (But no, I will spare you the joke about seeing the light.) :}

  10. Anonymous

    Thanks for this great tutorial! I’ve seen some posts where they light from the sides – would you recommend that and if so do you know what kind of bulbs I can use to have the correct color/lighting?

    • anne

      I try at all times to take photo during the day when its sunny out. If you’re trying to do it at night, use at least three desk lamps with adjustable necks or clamp utility lights. Use at least 100W daylight bulbs. Orient a light through each window of the lightbox and take some test shots. Adjust the lighting as necessary. I still think they will come out better during the day in natural light, but sometimes you’ve got to work with what you’ve got! Let me know if you have any more questions.

  11. Allie

    I never knew this was so simple! I’m often photography jewelry and I often photograph it on my wooden table but this would definitely be ideal!! Definitely a very worthwhile project so thank you so much for sharing! xx

    Allie @ callmesassafras.wordpress.com

  12. Anonymous

    How do you handle flash in all that white? It seems there would be a lot of glare in the photo.

    • anne

      It’s best not to use a flash at all. When you use a light box, all of your light should come in externally, either with daylight or artificial light pointed at the box from the outside. No flash . . .

  13. Anna

    Genius! I will definitely be making one of these.

    Anna
    askannamoseley.com

  14. Love this tutorial! So do you use the light box with or without lamps? I made a light box this past summer, but it didn’t work right. I’m not sure what was wrong with it, but there was always a really harsh shadow from above. I had a lamp on each of the three sides, played around with their position, but the harsh shadow was still there. I don’t use it much anymore, but I would love to be able to take pictures at night.

    • anne

      I try at all times to take photo during the day when its sunny out. If you’re trying to do it at night, use at least three desk lamps with adjustable necks or clamp utility lights. Use at least 100W daylight bulbs. Orient a light through each window of the lightbox and take some test shots. Adjust the lighting as necessary. I still think they will come out better during the day in natural light, but sometimes you’ve got to work with what you’ve got! Let me know if you have any more questions.

  15. Holly

    What a great tutorial – thanks for sharing! :)

  16. So thrilled I spotted your light box tutorial pin on Pinterest!
    I’ve been meaning to make myself a light box, but hadn’t even gotten around to searching.
    Gonna make myself one ASAP. Thanks so much for this great tutorial!

  17. I have a light box that my husband purchased for me on eBay, however I hate moving it around the house…we use it in the basement for eBay photos, but I like to take my blog photos in natural light upstairs. I should make one of these – looks so easy – thanks!

  18. Omg! I’ve been looking for something like this for the longest. Thanks for sharing awesome tutorial.

  19. I only wish I could figure this out! It’s the lighting that messes me up!

    • anne

      I still think it’s better to do it during the day. It is tough to get the lighting just right. . .

  20. Making a bigger version of this this weekend to take pictures of my cakes!Thank you so much!

    • anne

      brilliant! I hope it works out well!

  21. This is great! I’ve been trying to improve my photos and this may be just the thing! And hey. . .I’m a blogger. . .I have boxes laying around for sure! The trick will be to keep the twins from treating it as a dollhouse.

    • anne

      yes, sometimes its hard to keep the kiddos away!

  22. Honestly the best idea I have ever seen. I was just about to hire someone to take photos for me because i didn’t have a Photo Light Box. Now I can save myself some money. EXCELLENT!!!!!!!!!!!!

  23. My daughters and I will definitely be doing this project. They love to take pictures and this just makes them pop.

  24. So cool..thank you for this tutorial. I’m going to make one of these so I can take better photos of my items in my etsy shop.

  25. Knew what it was in theory, but never saw the step by step. Thanks.

    • anne

      thanks john for those resources.

  26. Just made mine – cost £0.14, took 10 minutes and the results are fantastic! Thanks Anne!

    • anne

      your welcome graeme! So glad it worked out well.

  27. Totally gonna make this! This will be useful for my digital photography class and personal projects.

    • anne

      You’ll love it.

  28. Thank you so much! This is the most do-able lightbox project I’ve seen, and it’ll fit into my tiny studio!

  29. Thank you, thank you!! Just made this. Had everything on hand. It is awesome.

  30. Leanne

    I haven’t been motivated to photograph my jewelry because I didn’t have the right setup, thank you so much for the tutorial! I just made one and can’t wait to use it!

    • anne

      Yay! so glad Leanne and Laurie!

  31. Anonymous

    Thanks so much for this :)

  32. Thank you Anne for this BRILLIANT Tut! I lost my expensive Lightbox when we moved and have been bummed. I’m making this one asap!!
    PS: LOVE your blog!!

  33. Kathy

    This has made such a huge difference in the photos I add to my Etsy shop. It just makes them look more professional. You do still need to do some photo editing to make them pop but I love that I can capture the light and not have all the surrounding background competing with the product I’m trying to capture.

  34. I use wax paper…it’s more durable. And if you don’t want to spend a buck on a roll of wax paper, save a couple of bags cereal comes in! It’s even more durable than wax paper!

    • anne

      great idea. I’ll admit that I’ve yelled at the kids once or twice (and myself) for popping a hole in the side.

  35. We are hoping to make this really soon.

    What was the poster board size that you bought for this project?

    I have seen some white poster boards in the store, but I was thinking they might not be long enough for a dish pack box.

    The instructions and photos are great to follow along! I will make sure to give you credit on my blog when I finish the box. I think this will greatly improve my photos! Yeah!!!

    • anne

      Hi Judi, the box length is 28″ and the poster board is 40″. I got my poster board in an art store where they have larger pieces. I’m glad you like the diy! You’ll be amazed at what it does to your photos! Good luck!
      Anne

  36. Sam

    Thank you so much for this tutorial. My pictures are turning out great!

  37. Kt

    I’ve been putting off buying an actual photo light box for my new website because of the cost. Now I have no excuse to procrastinate and hot finish my website! Thanks for the extra push!

  38. Kelsey

    Just did this DIY and the pictures look amazing! Thank you so much!

  39. This is really great, and it is so well done so that every one catches it.
    thanks for this wonderful idea like to see more of them

  40. Oh my gosh- this is incredible and looks so easy to do! (Even for a non-DIY woman)
    Now to find a box… :)

  41. Oh I LOVE this idea – thank you so much!! I’ve been struggling taking photos of my soaps but thought a light box cost a fortune – LOVE DIY!!

  42. Jamie

    Perfect instructions! thanks

  43. Anonymous

    Perfect! Thank you!

  44. I finally made this last week and it turned out awesome! I ended up using tracing paper since I ran out of tissue paper and it worked great! I’m so excited to use it now. Thank you for this amazing tutorial!

  45. Wish I’d seen this before my husband spent the money on a “real” one. I have a question, though: What kind of lighting do you recommend using. My husband has a watch business and I’ve tried to take photos for him, but they aren’t that bright and if I use the flash, I get a shadow.

    • anne

      Don’t use a flash. I almost always use daylight to take my photos. But, if you are going to take photos at night, I use 100W daylight bulbs in gooseneck desk lamps. I orient the lights one on each side and one coming down from the top.

  46. Anonymous

    Small biz guy here…often put up photos of product for customers to peruse. But I’m soooo not a photographer. My pics come out way better now, and it’s made sales a lot easier (which rocks, cuz I’m not a sales guy, either….)

    So just one more thank you, but in this case your lightbox is helping me collect portraits. Of dead presidents :)

  47. Kristy

    Thanks for this Anne! So helpful! Now I can make my products look amazing.

  48. Hello there,I have just put a link to this fabby tutorial on a Blog friends page so she can come and have a look-I hope that was ok,great tutorial you made thank you :)
    Best wishes,Nessa xx

  49. Caila

    This is FANTASTIC, thank you!!

    • anne

      Stopped by to see. So glad it worked well for you!!

  50. Anonymous

    I made this today after a quick trip to the dollar store for some poster board and tissue paper. It worked like a charm! I ended up using a serrated kitchen knife to cut the holes from the sides, because I am lacking in a lot of “professional” tools, but I made it work with what I had, and it made my product photos look professional and beautiful. Thank you! :)

    • anne

      I am so glad it worked well for you. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment! Happy photographing!!

  51. Thank you so much for this tutorial! Made one, took the picture which look great as is! Can’t wait to upload and edit. This will make photographing my jewelry for my etsy shop so much easier, thank you!

    • anne

      great! I’m so glad it is working for you!

  52. Simple to watch it and difficult to create photography!

    • anne

      Yes, it is difficult. I think so much of it is practice, practice, practice!

  53. Jess

    OH my gosh, thank you so so much for this tutorial. I made it this morning and what a difference in my photos! Thank you thank you!

  54. Nikki C

    Looks great! I will have to find a box in a few minutes… haha.

  55. kReN

    Can you tell me the dimensions of the box? I can’t tell from the photo. Thanks!

    kren dot kurts at gmail dot com

  56. Jessi

    Found this so helpful! Thanks for sharing :)

  57. Thank you so much for sharing this tutorial! I’ve made two different sized light boxes to fit my needs, and I shared my how to post (including a link to this particular post of yours) over at my blog: thenostalgicnightingale.blogspot.com!

  58. anne

    Your welcome, Kimberly! I’m so glad you had a chance to make one!

  59. VH

    This is FANTASTIC. I run an Etsy shop & all of my photos of my items have always been so…. sadly common? Is that the best way to put it? I mean, you see my living room in the background. Or my crappy couch blanket. Or leftover coffee cups that have yet to be washed. This light box was PERFECT for my need to step it up in the photos department… just had a bunch of orders I shipped but I photographed the crap out of them before boxing up!

    I found it key to brighten/adjust contrast in Gimp (what I use to edit photos) after my shoot, however, as my home office does not get direct sunlight the way I’d hoped. Still, a huge improvement from my previous attempts!

    (And, in case anyone cares, my shop is here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/N3rdWool…. and an example of one of my SUPER CLASSY photos can be found here: http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3697/11121291365_aa54fc06aa_c.jpg)

    Long story short… THANK YOU.

    • anne

      Thanks so much for sharing! Yay.

  60. Best tutorial ever. I am making it tomorrow and I am so excited.

    • anne

      Thanks so much Stacie. Good luck to you!

  61. I made one last year and silly me always forget to use it – thanks for sharing!

    • anne

      Your welcome, Antoinette. Happy shooting!

  62. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  63. Thank you so much!! I just made this lightbox this morning (after putting it off for months:) ), and it turned out perfect! Thanks for the step by step instructions! Can’t wait to start taking pictures!

  64. anne

    Thanks so much for your comment Kiersten. Isn’t it funny how we can put something off for so long, then when you do it – it seems a breeze :). Have fun with it!
    Anne

  65. Thanks so much Anne. I will definitely try this. I find it hard taking pics with my 50mm 1.8 lens though. i always end up with mu 18-200 lens…any tips?

    • anne

      Your welcome Paru. I think it depends what you are taking photos of. Are you trying to use it in the light box?

  66. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  67. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  68. I just saw this and it is brilliant. I want to post quality pics of my product on my website, but the lighting and background never seemed to work. I will try this weekend. Thank you for this simple, brilliant idea!

    • anne

      Your welcome! Mine is so loved its time for me to make a new one!

  69. Hi, having read this awesome written piece I’m also pleased to fairly share my familiarity here with colleagues.

  70. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  71. weaves

    Just the best idea. Made one tonight for taking pics of my books for my website. Thanks!

    • anne

      Your welcome! I’m glad that you found the tute!

  72. Your articles and blogs are inspirational.

  73. id card

    Waooow!! Nice blog, this will be greatly helpful.

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  75. Heya i’m for the first time here. I came across this board and I find It really useful & it helped
    me out a lot. I hope to give something back and help others like you aided
    me.

    • Thanks so much! I’m so glad that it was helpful!

      • Julia

        I just found this, and how refreshing to find an expert tip tutorial that actually works…. Kudos to you Ann, and I’ve added you to my Pinterest … keep up the good work, and I love your site ! All the best…

        • Julia,
          Thanks so much! I appreciate your stopping by and leaving such a nice comment! Warmly, Anne

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  80. Hi!! THANKS SO MUCH FOR THE DIY!!! a quick question… do u put the box under natural light or what do you use to light it? THANKS SOOO MUCH FOR UR HELP!

    • I still like to use natural light but you can use artificial light. There are details about bulbs and types further up in the comment section.

  81. Thanks for your post! Made one this afternoon.. can’t wait to put it to good use! :)

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  84. Linds

    Excellent project!

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  89. Thanks for this excellent tutorial. I was able to make it quickly during my lunch break, and I already tested it out.
    -Sandra

  90. Bing

    This is so cool. Thanks for sharing. I really need to make one. for my blog :)

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  93. Coolio

    This is awesome! I love photography so this is the best thing ever!!!!!!
    Xoxo Tammy

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