04 May 2010

My Homemade Light Box

Pin It!
I have posted on the subject of my shop photos a couple of times. Both times complaining about how I need to improve them and not really knowing how. I've brought up the idea of making a photo light box and hoping that was all I needed, but it was pointed out to me that is not all I need. But you gotta start somewhere.

I have done some research about making a light box of my own instead of buying one, because afterall I am a crafty gal. I found several websites showing how I can do this for less than $100.00. Well alright, that's what I'm talking about.

I found one website that had some interesting plans by Bill Huber and I decided to follow it, well pretty much follow it. Here is the link to that site so you can get more information and so I can give proper credit.

This is what I did.

3 5ft lengths of sch 40 PVC pipe, 1/2"
4 elbows, 1/2" slip type (read below for the long story about my elbows)
4 end caps, 1/2" slip type
4 tee pieces, 1/2" slip type
sand paper
2 #6 sheet metal screws
white fabric
white poster board
3 gooseneck lamps
daylight bulbs, 6500K 20 watt=75watt

So I went to Lowe's and grabbed the PVC pieces and screws and spent about $10. I got the lamps, bulbs, and poster board at WalMart. That came to about $50. The rest of the stuff I had already.

I get home from Lowe's and start measuring and cutting my PVC. I cut the legs at 20" long, that took up 1 and 1/3 of my pipe.

I cut the top frame. I cut 4 pieces, each 20" again another 1 and 1/3 of my pipe. I have 20" of pipe not used.

Now the fun starts. 'Cuz I'm crafty and all, lol. I pieced my top frame together just like it shows in the picture. My frame is square, with each side being 20" long. But when I needed to put my elbows on I discovered that I bought the wrong kind. I should have bought street elbows? What are those? Well, they are the kind with 1 part of the elbow that fits over pipe and the other part that fits into the pipe.

I did not want to go back to Lowe's, so I had to improvise, 'cuz I'm crafty. I took my frame apart. I took the 2 side pipes of my frame and cut a 2 1/2" piece off each end of each pipe.

You can see from this photo that I now have six 20" long pipes, two 17 1/2" pipes, four 2 1/2" pieces of pipe, four tees, four end caps and those four elbows.

Once all the pipe was cut I sanded each end to get rid of little burrs. Be careful when you handle the pipe because these cut edges can cut you, and that won't be any fun.

I just used whatever sandpaper I had on hand, but 80-100 grit is recommended.

So now I can put my frame together, albeit a little differently. You can see from the picture how it is assembled. Check here for how it should look if you bought the right kind of elbows. Pretty soon you'll be saying to yourself, if I have to keep going over to that other site I just as well stay there. But don't do that, you gotta support girl power!! I can do it.

 Do you see my little 2 1/2" pieces sticking out the sides? That's ok. Also, you may want to use some PVC cement to glue everything together. I opted to not use it, everything pretty much stayed together. I don't know about the drying time of this cement, so if you use it take that into consideration.

So because of the elbows, my perfect 20" cube photo box is now just a memory. This little mistake added an additional 1 1/2" to the depth of my box. No biggie!

Now attach the end caps to your legs and the elbows to the other end. If your pipe has writing on it you will want to turn pipe so that writing faces away from center of your box. If you bought the street elbows, you will need to put the elbow over the leg pipe and save the smaller part of the elbow to fit into frame. Attach legs to frame, use a carpenter's square to square up your box.

Flip your box over. If you didn't use PVC cement your box might be a little lopsided. Don't ask me how I know that, my box was perfect. Lol. This should not be a problem if your light box is going to remain stationery, like mine.

You can drill small starter holes in the back cross piece and screw in your sheet metal screws. I just used 2 screws. You can see in the picture here where I put my screws, you might need to click on the picture to enlarge it so you can see better.

The screws are to hang your poster board. You can get that ready now. And it is really handy to do it this way because you can change out your white poster board for different color backgrounds.

I measured the distance between the elbows crosswise and cut my poster board to that width. I punch holes in the top of the poster board to fit over the screws.

My size frame is larger than the standard poster board so I had to piece 2 together. I was concerned that this was going to be visible in my pictures but I thought I would give it a try. I made the seam up towards the top of my box and taped the 2 pieces together with masking tape. Then I covered the taped with a strip of poster board and hid the tape underneath. It remains to be seen, well actually I hope not.

I made my poster board extend to the front edge of my box. This made a nice slope. I taped it to my work surface in the front so it would stay put. Be careful when working with the poster board, you don't want creases in it, which can show up in photos I'm told.

Now take your white fabric and lay over the top and sides of your box. I just let mine hang there mostly, but I did pin it in front.

I have 3 lamps set up, one on each side and one over the top. I don't really know why yet, but that is another lesson.

The bulbs I chose are daylight bulbs with 6500K. The 6500K refers to the color temperature, this is a cool natural light from what I have read. This is what you want for taking pictures for your shop. I have also read that most digital cameras are designed to use with 6500K bulbs. And how fortuitous for me because that's all that WalMart had.

Here is my finished box. It is a little sloppy looking, I guess. I don't think that is going to matter though. I will experiment taking some pictures and post them next time.

I am so thankful for finding that tutorial. Now I need to find one to tell me how to use my camera to it's fullest potential and take some good pictures.

As always I welcome your feedback. Thanks!


  1. Oh my gosh! I think I found that same tutorial (and I also blogged complaining about how hard it is to take good photos). I made my own light box too, but yes - there's more to it than just the light box. First, I had skipped the part about daylight lamps (that was a hard lesson learned). But I'm still learning (and have a long way to go), and you can probably see the difference with the items in our shop! The newer listings have much better pics. =) So, congrats on your lightbox - now, it's time to practice!


  2. Oh, another thing - definitely play with the lighting and angles of bulbs. You mentioned you didn't know why the three lamps yet...The positioning of the lights will make a difference (another hard lesson learned and still learning!).

  3. Thanks Kim! I will take a good look at your shop and hopefully learn a few things. :)

  4. Oh gosh, I'm still learning myself. I need to spend more time practicing and playing with the lights a bit more. =) We'll learn together!

  5. I was just reading my beginning posts from 2008 and you were my first commenter.

    I decided to see if you are still blogging and here you are.

    I'm glad to have come here because I have been wanting a make a light box. Thanks for the tutorial.

    Now I need to check out more of your blog to see what you've been up to.


  6. Oh I remember your lovely blog very well, Flowerlady! I'm still here, but I don't do a lot of blogging.
    And unfortunately I don't have enough time to visit the many blogs I follow.
    Thanks so much for visiting!


Related Posts with Thumbnails