How To Make A Light box

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Last week, we built a light box!

Ok, I’ll be honest. Eric built the light box and I took the step by step pictures…

Light boxes have been all over the food blog world and while I loved the idea of them, I could never see myself building and storing one in the house. I get really intimidated by ‘do-it-yourself’ projects that involve anything outside of my domain (the kitchen).

This is where my DIY husband comes into play.

Eric and I started talking about light boxes one night, after looking at Ashley’s tutorial, and Eric convinced me that he could make one for me in under 2 hours. It was almost a dare. To himself.

I think he was secretly looking for a project that did not involve installing new door handles, but that is another story. I’m not a girl to pass up an offer, so off we were to Home Depot to gather a few supplies!

However, I feared that bad, bad things were looming ahead. [Never admit this out loud to your DIY husband.]

What You’ll Need:

  • A large cardboard box (medium might work too if you need it smaller!)
  • Duct Tape
  • White tissue paper or white fabric (we used a tablecloth cut up)
  • X-Acto knife (I laughed SO hard when I found out how to spell this word!!)
  • 3 Daylight bulbs — 100 watt
  • 3 utility lamps w/ clamp bottoms (we used 10 inch)
  • Fabric or paper for backdrop
  • 3-outlet extension cord
  • SKETCHIE! (for your entertainment)
  • Possibly other things I’m forgetting

 

Using this awesome how-to from Ashley, we gathered our supplies and were on our way!

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Grab a large box.

Buy a large box if all your boxes are beat up from a recent move.

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Wheeeee. Now I know why Sketchie loves these things…

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Secure bottom with duct tape.

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Tempt kitty cat with box until he cannot take it any longer.

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Sketchie STAY.

Sketchie SIT.

Add a ruler to the mix and watch kitty cat swat ruler.

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BAD KITTY.

When kitty cat can no longer resist, watch him enter the box and sniff corner when you aren’t ‘looking’.

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What is he smelling? Or is he spying on Eric through the hole?

Now, is the least fun part of the entire process (to watch). Eric tells me it is also the least fun part to do…

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You must measure and cut the edges of 3 sides of the box to create 3 rectangles. (Sorry that just made no sense at all). Cut 3 rectangles (better?).

Eric left a 2 inch border.

Allow kitty cat to inspect your work to assure quality control.

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Keep going…(Sketchie is getting BORED…we’re losing him! Is he asleep standing up?)

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Sketchie says, ‘Unfortunately this does not look level. #fail’

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You now have 3 rectangles cut out- right side, top, and left side. Taped bottom remains intact (this is your background).

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Sketchie does not enjoy boxes with holes. Can you see the heartbreak in his face?

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We win.

Cut off the box ‘flaps’…

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Grab something white to drape over the 3 rectangles. We used a white tablecloth, but I hear you can use tissue paper too. Whatever you use, make sure it will diffuse the light entering the box. This will prevent harsh shadows and direct light.

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When the tablecloth came out, Sketchie started to have fun again!

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He loves to hide under things and jump out at us. (I’m not sure he knew that I could see him through the hole.)

Tape edges to secure.

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Oops, I cut off his head.

Eric is doing a great job!! Cheers, applause, make him a tea, massage his back.

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Almost there…

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You can do it!

Eric cut a bit of fabric off the top rear of the box…if that makes any sense. Didn’t think so.

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Then he cut a SLIT into the rear (are we still talking about a light box?) with the idea that we could ‘drop down’ different backgrounds into the slit.

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I really have no idea what I’m talking about at this point. Just go with it.

I dropped down some pink Bristol board through the slit to test it out. It worked pretty well.

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Eric attached 10 inch work lights to chairs…one for the right, one for the left, and one above. You need a total of 3 work lights with clamps. We bought ours at Home Depot for $20, but I assume you can find them cheaper elsewhere. I’m pretty sure we got ripped off! Impulse buy.

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Thanks for the great tutorial Ashley!

Here are some of the first shots I took with the box…

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The pink background is a bit much, but this illustrates that light boxes are great for ‘product photography’; in other words, shots of single items that you want to stand out.

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The next day, guess who I found sleeping in his warming hut? He tried to tell me he was on a tropical beach.

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It actually worked out, because Sketchie got his very first ‘professional’ headshots!

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The heat from the lamps made him veeeeery sleepy.

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I’m a model, ya know what I mean. And I do my little turn on the cat walk…

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So, what do I think of the light box?

Well, first of all, I think Eric did a fantastic job! It is very professional and sturdy. He made the entire thing in about 1 hour and 45 minutes too.

Swoon.

As for the pictures, I find that my pictures are definitely better than normal night time shots.

Here is a comparison of two non-edited photographs:

A) Normal nighttime ‘yellow’ lighting on the stove top:

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B) Light Box shot:

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The difference is huge!

The light box shot looks more like natural light, whereas the first shot is very yellow and not pleasing to the eye.

I shoot in RAW format and I use Adobe Lightroom to edit my photos, so I wanted to show you what I can do to help improve the look of a bad photo with basic photo editing.

A) Night time yellow photograph, EDITED = I increased the exposure, brightness, clarity, and decreased the temperature (less yellow) to produce this:

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[I also usually white balance my photos, but I did not do this for these two.]

Side by side:

Before                                                                                   After

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B) Light Box Shot = EDITED. I had to increase the temperature (yellow tone) because the light box creates a very blue, washed out tone.

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Side by side:

Before                                                                                 After

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Which one is better- when edited?

In my opinion, you can barely tell the difference when looking at a night time edited photo versus a light box edited photo. Is this normal or am I not maximizing the light box’s potential? What photo do you guys prefer?

All in all, I am glad that I have the light box to play around with. I think it is great for product photography (or cats!) and it is really fun to experiment with different backgrounds and props. The cost was not as cheap as we thought it would be- it was around $70 CAD for everything we purchased, but it was still not crazy expensive for such a professional result.

After shooting with the light box over the past week, I do not think that the light box can compare to natural daylight. In my opinion, nothing beats natural light and I will always chose natural light over the light box if I have the choice! With that being said, it is a good option for night time photography.

The biggest drawback of the light box is how much space it takes up. Right now we are housing it in our unused dining room, but I really am not sure how long I will keep it there.

CLEAR. AS. MUD. ?

So there you have it, my initial review of the homemade light box. I’m sure my thoughts will change as I play around with it more and learn some news tricks. I’m not sure if I am using it correctly or maximizing its potential, so feel free to chime in.

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{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

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Angela February 8, 2017

First of all, Angela, great name! ;) I want to say how much I enjoyed reading your comments through each of the above steps, they made me LOL! Sketchie is such a gorgeous, cute kitty! Great light box, too! All the best with it. I love your recipes and made the Crispy Quinoa Cakes (with a few modifications) a few days ago, and they came out great! Your recipe for almond milk is first (and only) one I’ve tried when starting to make my own; that was the first time I came across your site, actually. Also, I cannot wait to download your app, which looks incredible!!! Congratulations, that’s so exciting!!

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Eric October 14, 2016

I recently found your site and am already a fan!I wanted to reach out to you and see if you would be willing to test out some of my glass etching craft supplies for free for feedback. Can you let me know if you are interested by email? Shipping of the supplies will be free as well. Urgently, waiting for your reply. Thanks Eric

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Ava December 28, 2014

Just to make things more safe, I suggest this: When measuring the rectangles for the windows, take a sharpie and draw the lines on, then cut them. I kept worrying about the ruler slipping and someone cutting off a digit.

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Jay Worling September 24, 2014

Thanks for this awesome tutorial…I am so excited because I have “The Perfect Box” for this project…how weird is it that I am looking forward to cutting up a cardboard box …?

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Julia April 23, 2014

Awesomest instruction ever. Since I have a cat, too, I can already see her doing the exact same stuff as Sketchy. Thanks for sharing and for making me laugh so much :)

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Phi @ The Sweetphi Blog April 9, 2014

OMG I JUST came across this and am totally going to try this, thank you for the amazing tutorial!!

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Lorraine March 9, 2014

Your cat is beautiful!! Bengal right? :)

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Chrissie of LipstickVillain February 1, 2014

Omg thankyou so much for this! I’ve been searching on how to make a decent product background. That cat is beautiful btw!

xo
Chrissie

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Bridget January 8, 2014

This is super helpful!! Thanks for the tutorial — I’ve been trying to improve my food photography!

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JJ December 15, 2013

Hi, congratulations on the light box. Looks very well made.
OT: What breed of cat is this? I’ve never seen a cat with such a coat before. It looks a bit like an ocelot.
Cheers,
jj

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Angela (Oh She Glows) December 15, 2013

He’s a Bengal :)

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Catherin November 14, 2013

Thank you for the lovely instructional with pictures. Sketchie is adorable!

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Laura November 3, 2013

Awesome job! I made an attempt to make a box after reading your post. I thought I would try tissue paper…not a good idea with Anna, my curious cat. She quickly occupied the box and then within a minute punched through the tissue paper sides! I’ll try again when I can have a helper keep her occupied!
Now I’m reading your recipes and getting very hungry! Need to do some shopping to make a breakfast parfait! Thanks so much!

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melissa October 26, 2013

I totally LOL`d through this whole thing, especially at the ”bored mouse”. oMg
great article, my fav light box tut yet, and your cat is gorgeous

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Shellie Roy October 2, 2013

Oh wow- And I only have one hubby!! Crazy typo!! Haha. Who could handle more than one??

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Shellie Roy October 2, 2013

Do you get paid to blog?? If so then I guess you do write-for money!! You’re great!

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Shellie Roy October 2, 2013

Hi! I am new to your blog. I must say this is the absolute most entertaining tutorial I have EVER read!! I had 4 kitty’s until 3 days ago. We are pretty sure an owl stole our baby right off our front walk way!!! (Teenager really). So sad. I’m in shock. His name was Beans and was the sweetest most loving cat ever. He was also had the most EXTREMELY unbelievably expressive photogenic face on earth. Much like Sketchie, he is beautiful!! I have another baby named Lolly who also loves to jump out and scare me. She is quite the comedian! She is super chunky and looks like she swallowed a balloon!! She especially likes to “hide” behind something like a skinny twig in the yard thinking I can’t see her. Too too funny! Anyway, I really loved what you wrote and your pics. I’m gonna have my handy hubby’s make a box for me!! Ill be thinking of you when we do it! Thanks so much for brightening my day! You should be a writer-for money! (Esp Loved the bored mouse)!!!!!!

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Meagan September 2, 2013

This is so helpful! Thank you!! :)

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Meagan September 2, 2013

Actually, now many watts are your lamps?

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Keri August 31, 2013

I’ve cloth material but I can’t seem to get it to stay smooth enough when I tape it down. Was there a trick to it, like you helping hold it while he taped it?

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Angela (Oh She Glows) September 1, 2013

Yes I helped him hold it while he taped. Hope you can find an extra set of hands! :)

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lisa June 21, 2013

Hi Angela,

Thanks for this interesting post. I am following your recipes for several months already and would like to thank you for the great food and the amazing pictures. I always find good recipes and mouthwatering pictures. I was wondering which camera do you use to make your food photography? I am not a professional at all, but curious how you make such fine shots.
Lisa

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Angela (Oh She Glows) June 23, 2013

Hi Lisa, You can find my camera info on my FAQ page. thanks!

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Kit June 20, 2013

Thank you so much for this great tutorial! This is the best one I’ve read yet. I think I can do it. And by the way, your cat, Sketchie, is simply beautiful!
Best,
Kit at Mill Bank Farms

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Ewelina June 5, 2013

Hi Angela! I love this tutorial!! What are some photo editing programs that you would recommend?

Thanks

xx

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Angela (Oh She Glows) June 5, 2013

Hi Ewelina, Thank you! I use Lightroom to edit my photos (I honestly don’t do much at all to them) and I use Photoshop to add text if necessary.

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Julia April 14, 2013

I just love this post! This is the most fun lightbox tutorial I’ve ever seen anywhere. Those kitty pictures made me giggle! Your entire family is beyond adorable. Thanks so much :)

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Angela (Oh She Glows) April 14, 2013

Thank you Julia!

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howard April 3, 2013

What kind of cat is that? I like its coat

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Amber April 2, 2013

Phyrra @ Phyrra.net directed me here for a light box tutorial and besides saying thanks for the great instructions I have to say I am DYING over how adorable your cat is!!!!!!

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Kasey Potts March 27, 2013

Is that a Bengal kitty?!? I have 2 at home and they are CONSTANTLY jumping in, out and on any box that come in the house! Great tutorial!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) March 28, 2013

haha yes he is a Bengal…sounds just like your two!! He LOVES boxes…in fact, we rarely part with them because he gets so much enjoyment from them! hah

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Emme February 21, 2013

Thanks for this, it’s EXACTLY what I was looking for! My step-by-step pics would look exactly like yours except I have TWO cats. The more the merrier! Now off to buy a Home Depot box and a bottle of wine….

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Kristi January 23, 2013

Thanks for the tutorial! I’m going to give this a shot for my Etsy items since it’s always dark when I get home (boo winter!) so my photos are bleh. And seriously, I am in love with your cat… he is way too cute!!

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Chanelle January 7, 2013

I prefer the edited light box photo. Maybe if you swapped out the bulbs to a more yellow (plain old lightbulb), you’d get more natural light in the box. That, or drape another colored cloth over the box for different tones?

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Paul December 1, 2012

thank you so much! My GF has been bugging me to do this and you made it look easy! Wish me luck!

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oshinn November 19, 2012

thank you so much for this tutorial! i can’t wait to build one of my own!

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kitty October 20, 2012

That cat is awesome looking!

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Cindy Unruh October 3, 2012

Thanks so much for the very-easy-to-follow instructions! Pictures just make it so much easier, kind of like not reading the instructions for sewing, just looking at the photos. And, as a cat (and dog) lover, I have to say Sketchie is one of the most beautiful cats I’ve ever seen!

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gigi September 16, 2012

Awesome step-by-step! I finally feel like I can do it!! THANKS SO MUCH!

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