Product Photo Hacks: The 15-minute Light Box

Besides clever copy (and gushing mentions by an industry influencer), an online maker's best friend is fabulous product photos. We solopreneurs have to wear about a bazillion hats: visionary, designer, manufacturer, strategizer, marketer, etc. I'm luckier than most as I went to art school back in the day, so know a little something about basic photographic composition and lighting (as well as how to wield an X-acto knife). 

But I relied on natural light for much of my photography - picture quality was dependent on weather/season/time of day. I needed consistency for clean product shots, which meant investing in a light box.

Lightboxes range from $20. to $100.+ online, depending on size/complexity. But I needed mine by, like literally, the next day, and didn't feel like paying expedited shipping. Fortunately, I happened upon several tutorials on how to make one. 

After getting the basic idea from different sources, I knew I could cobble together one fairly easily. And in fact, I did put one together in about 15 minutes, with materials I had on hand. So, my out-of-pocket cost

Your costs will depend on what you have around, but here's the basics. Feel free to improvise - that's what I did:


- Cardboard box (I used a 12"x12"X12" but hey, knock yourself out if you want to go bigger).
- Light diffusing material (I used wax paper - tissue paper or sheer fabric works, too)
- white poster board
- X-acto knife (or box cutter or scissors), straight edge (metal ruler), and cutting board (or extra cardboard to cut on - not necessary if using scissors)
- clear packing tape


Step 1: 
Lay your box flat by removing any tape from the bottom/top sides. Slip the cutting surface inside (to protect the panels you're not yet working on) and cut out a panel from the side, leaving about 1.5" from all edges.

Repeat on two adjacent sides:


Tape the bottom panels together so that your lightbox stays upright. Keeping the front panels on allows you to shield your camera from possible flare from your light sources, though some DIY videos took those off. Up to you.

Step 2:
Cut a length of white poster board to line the inside of the box (since I had a 12" wide box, I cut my poster board about 11.5" wide to fit easily). 

Keep the length as long and the paper as clean as possible - you'll next tape the top edge of the poster board to the top, back edge of the box - the idea is to have a smooth, "infinity" horizon (no line) for your product shots.

Step 3: 
You'll now add on your diffusing material to the top and side panels. I used wax paper - some people use white tissue paper, others sheer fabric - whatever you choose, make sure your selection allows "softened" light through. Use your clear packing tape to attach each panel to the outside of the box.

Step 4:
Now add light - using higher wattage daylight (cool) bulbs are best. Some people recommended using inexpensive, clamp-on lights - I just used adjustable desk and floor lamps (plus a camera flash for the front lighting) - again, what I had on hand. I would get some higher wattage daylight bulbs for my next shoot, but we made it work.

There's a boat load of detailed product photo lighting tips on the internet - I'm not going to get into all of that here, as I tend to mess around until I get a shot that works for me.

Here's one of the product shots we did this afternoon, my latest version of BADASS QUEEN soap, with our cool new lightbox:

Hope that you found this helpful. Let me know in the comments below if you made your own lightbox using some of these tips, and how it worked for you.


 - SL


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