DIY Lightbox for Expert Photos that Wow! Step-by-Step Tutorial (2023)

Lately I’ve been drooling over some gorgeous photography I’ve seen online. I’m talking about the sort of photography that has good lighting, asmooth background, and soft, almost imperceptible shadows. My photos are hit or miss depending on the lighting. Some research into professional photography revealed that the secret to these types of photos is a lightbox!

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You can buy light boxeson Amazon, but it looks simple enough to make. So of course I decided I wanted to make a DIY Lightbox. You know how I love to make things! So I made a lightboxand I tookthis photo with it — what do you think?

This photo of Tinker Bell in a lightbox is a vast improvement over what I was able to photograph before. The light is brightyet diffused. It looks like something you’d see in a magazine! Would you believe I made my lightbox to do this from just $9 in supplies from the dollar store? Let me show you how to make a DIY Lightbox so you, too, can photograph all the beautiful things you make!

DIY LightboxMaterials

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Note: You can make a lightbox from an old cardboard box if you wish (here’s a Lighting sources), but I think the white foam core looks more professional, is sturdier, AND reflects more light onto mysubject. Just my two cents. Use what works for you!

Parchment paper vs wax paper: I recommend you use parchment paper as it has a higher burn temperature (450°F) than wax paper, thus it’s safer. Your lights should not get anywhere near that hot!

DIY Lightbox Step-By-Step Tutorial

Step 1:Cut out windows in three sheets of the foam core. The windows should be about 1″ narrower than the width of your parchmentpaper. For example, my parchmentpaper is 12″ so I cut out my windows at 11″ high. This will allow us to overlap parchmentpaper over the edge of the windows later.

Step 2:Roll out the parchmentpaper to fit each of the three windows you cut in step 1. Carefully tape all four sides of the parchment paper to the foam core, avoiding wrinkling the parchment paper. You need only one layer of parchment paper per window.


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Step 3: Take one sheet of foam core and cut it in half lengthwise. This means you’ll end up with two pieces, each 10″ x 30″.

Step 4:Tape one of the half-size pieces you made in step 3 to one of your windows. You want to tape the long sides together so the total size is 30″ x 30″. Important: Tape only one side of the foam core, not both. This is the TOP of your light box.

Step 5: Tape the other half-size piece you made in step 3 to a new piece of foam core. Tape both sides for stability. The finished size is 30″ x 30″. This is the BOTTOM of your light box.

Step 6: Now tape the walls to the bottom of your lightbox. You want two windows walls on either side, and a new piece of foam core (no window) on the back. Important: The two side wall panels go on top of the bottom panel, as shown below.

Tape each side (windowed) wall on top of the bottom panel, as shown.

One side (windowed) wall and the back wall taped to the bottom.

All walls taped to the bottom!

Step 7: Tape the top on, putting the extra bit we added toward the back. Important: Make sure the side with tape (where you joined the two pieces of the top panel together) is on the top. The tape acts as a hinge, allowing you to open and close the to for better access.

Greg demonstrates how the top piece hinges before we tape it to the lightbox.

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Step 8: Now just position two lights on either side of your lightbox, put in a large piece of paper to act as a backdrop, and snap away.

The finished lightbox!

DIY Lightbox Lights

We re-used lights we already had in our workshop, and you probably have something that will work. The key is to keep the lights the same tone — you don’t want one bright white light and one soft white light. If you need to get lights, here’s what we have

Clamp Lamp Light w/ 5.5-Inch ReflectorDIY Lightbox for Expert Photos that Wow! Step-by-Step Tutorial (11) –about $12 each

Utilitech Daylight CFLsDIY Lightbox for Expert Photos that Wow! Step-by-Step Tutorial (12)– about $15 for a 4-pack

We think the “Natural Daylight” tone works best for the lightbox, and it’s what we recommend. If you’re wondering about the wattage, the CFL light bulbs we linked only draw 23 watts, so they can be used in the portable work light.

DIY Lightbox Results

Here are several images taken with and without the lightbox so you can see the huge difference it makes!

No lightbox — notice the poor lighting and dark shadows

In the lightbox, but without the side lights turned on (just regular overhead room light) — shadows are better, but lighting is still poor

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Still in the lightbox with lights turned on!

In the lightbox with a red background.

The background is just posterboard I picked up for 79 cents each. You could have an array of colors, or even create/paint your own backdrops.

My DIY Lightbox Works for Flat Lay Photography!

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll note that there’s an extra piece of foam core we haven’t used yet. I used this extra piece to make a custom panel that holds my camera in place directly over the lightbox.I did this so I can start taking better quality flat layphotos. Flat lay is when you take the photo from directly overhead, and it’s a fun way to show off smaller items. Here’s an example of a flat lay photo I took in my new lightbox:

The tools of my trade, flat lay style!

And with such a nice white background, I can even use Photoshop to make it perfectly white. I think I prefer the more natural look above, but now I have the choice.

Fashion flat white background!

To make the custom mount over my lightbox, I used that extra piece of foam core and cut a hole for my lens to fit through.

Cutting out a hole for my camera lens

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Next I added two sides so it could fit right over my lightbox (with the top panel folded back), like this:

DIY Lightbox with an extra panel on top so I can set my camera in it.

DIY Lightbox with my camera mounted on the top. Note how I built up a support for my camera on one side with foam core. This support allows the camera to suspend in the right orientation, rather than pointing off at an angle.

DIY Lightbox for Expert Photos that Wow! Step-by-Step Tutorial (22)

Tip: If your camera is heavy like mine, you may want to reinforce the corners of your lightbox. Just add a couple of extra squares of foam core to the inside corners and tape them down (see photo above).

Which Camera to Use With Your DIY Lightbox

You may have noticed I have a good camera (I’m in love with myPanasonic LUMIX DMC-FZ1000DIY Lightbox for Expert Photos that Wow! Step-by-Step Tutorial (23)), but this lightbox works with a smartphone cameras, too. Here’s a photo I took with my iPhone 5.

Tinker Bell in the Lightbox, taken with the iPhone and completely unretouched or filtered!

I am thrilled with my DIY Lightbox, and I hope you make one, too! If you make one, I’d LOVE to see a photo of it (or a photo of something inside it). Please let me know if you have any questions!


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DIY Lightbox for Expert Photos that Wow! Step-by-Step Tutorial (26)

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