First shot from light box no retouch or edit.

I am not a natural photographer, but over the past couple of years I have learned little by little. One of my favorite photography bloggers Strobist says it best, “Photography is literally writing with light.”

Writing with light indoors requires a good light environment and a lightbox was the answer! I could have bought one but I prefer to solve my dilemmas for as little monetary outlay as possible.  For less than $10, and with the help of my hubs, I made this fantastic gadget that creates light by default and makes it difficult to take a bad picture!

U Haul medium box

I started with the medium-sized box from U-Haul. The boxes are very sturdy and this one cost under $2.00.  It measures 18″ x 18″ x 16″. The U-Haul small box would also work but I want to shoot wine and other tall items and needed the extra height.

These boxes come flat so open it up and create the back of the box by folding in the four flaps and secure with tape on the outside.  On the opposite side cut off the top and bottom flaps leaving the two side flaps – see finished product.

Marking the box

Trace window cut lines 2″ wide on the top of the box and both sides.

cutting the windows 2

 Use a sharp utility knife to carefully cut out the windows.

Outer box with tissue

I used one piece of tissue paper  to cover each window. To make it easier to handle the tissue paper I taped down two sides and then trimmed the others to fit before securing.  I’ve read other tutorials that use muslin or tracing paper but the tissue paper is lightweight and easily and cheaply replaced.

Inside box 2

Voila!  Here is the inside of the box.

Interior box

Trimmed white poster board works great as an inexpensive backdrop. You could easily change the color of the poster board or arrange fabric, etc. on the floor of the box. I haven’t tried this yet but it may work to drape lightweight fabric from tucking behind the top of the poster board and securing with tape. Let me know if you have an idea for this!

Top Down with sides open

Top down view of finished box.

You need at least one light source. A camera flash works as long as you can remove it from the camera and have manual control.  You could use inexpensive desk lamps on either side of the box or a work light.  The sun makes for a great light source and you can position the box to take advantage of the changing light.  

On both fruit pictures I had the box on a chair in front of my long kitchen window.  On the other side I had an Ottlite natural light sewing lamp on the floor – the gooseneck on this lamp provides for easy positioning.  Try experimenting with  the lighting options you have on hand.

The best outcome of having this box is enjoying the process.  So often I would be frustrated having shot 20 pictures and none of them were great.

The photo below was taken with the box in front of the kitchen window with the Ottlite on the opposite side.  I hurriedly set the fruit in the box, grabbed the iPhone and snapped.  I’m amazed – it was 7:30 at night!

Is it a perfect picture? No, I have a long way to go to be a photographer.  But I think having the lightbox helps improve my raw photos enough to say that this pictures speak a thousand words of happiness.

Evening  fruit

This photo was taken in the same lighting position as the first fruit photo but it was 7:30 p.m.!

For more useful information on taking great photos check out Strobist – an informative and interesting blog!   Good luck and please share your own ideas!  



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36 Responses to DIY Photo Lightbox

  1. Great post! I’ve been meaning to make one of these forever. Thanks so much for sharing!


  2. Amy says:

    This is incredibly helpful! I am going to make one. Thank you!!

    • Denise @BeBetsy says:

      Thanks Amy! So happy it was helpful to you. Share a photo when you do. Best wishes ~ Sharon and Denise

  3. Winnie says:

    As I’m still struggling with taking photos, this is a very good post

  4. Kim says:

    Great trick! Thanks for the inspiration for my next project! I always struggle with the lighting!

    • Denise @BeBetsy says:

      Hi Kim! Thanks for stopping by and best of luck with the box – you’ll be amazed at the difference! Come back and show us pics!!

  5. Eileen says:

    Making a light box is one of those things that is on my to-do list. Thanks for reminding me to move it up a little higher on my list 🙂

    • Denise @BeBetsy says:

      Eileen, your pictures are so amazing you should be instructing me! Thanks for stopping by my friend.

  6. Denise,
    I’m visiting from Marvelous Mondays. Thanks for the instruction. Great info.

    • Denise @BeBetsy says:

      Welcome Annamaria! Thanks for coming by and we are glad you find this helpful. Let us know if you make your light box and post a pic in the comments! Good luck ~ D

  7. LydiaF says:

    Thanks for the tutorial. I need to do this, soon.

    • Denise @BeBetsy says:

      Hi Lydia! It takes less time than you think – it’s the getting started that’s the hardest! Best of luck ~ Denise
      Thanks for stopping by!

  8. This is GREAT!!! Thank you! Totally making this! Visiting from Wonderful Food Wednesday!

    • Denise @BeBetsy says:

      Hello Stacie! So glad that you came by. Let me know how it goes and certainly upload a pic when you finish.
      All the best ~ Denise

  9. Linda says:

    I made one of these also. It not only improves the pictures but let’s me make stuff at night. I don’t have to wait for daylight to take pictures. It’s great. Thanks for showing how. Linda

  10. TaMara says:

    Thanks for the step by step for making a light box. I definitely want to make one of these. Thanks for linking up over at Tales of a Pee Dee Mama.


    • Denise @BeBetsy says:

      Hi TaMara – let us know how it works out and please share a picture! Thanks for coming by! All the best ~ Sharon and Denise

  11. Amber says:

    Will pin this to my photography board! Thank you for sharing at Give Me The Goods!

  12. Amy says:

    Hi – You were before me at Best of the Weekend…I had already seen your post and pinned it! It is so helpful, since I have been struggling with getting good pictures, so thank you for the tutorial!

  13. Kristin says:

    Quite honestly I hadn’t even thought about having a light box because there just isn’t any budget, but now I’m completely motivated to make one for myself! thanks : )

    • Denise @BeBetsy says:

      Yay! So glad you found something useful. I have taken the box outside on a small table in the afternoon to get some natural light and it works great! Let us know how it goes and share a picture!
      All the best ~ Sharon and Denise

  14. Nancy W says:

    Thank you so much for this great post! This is just what I need to make! Thanks so much for sharing on the Home Acre Hop! – Nancy

    • Denise @BeBetsy says:

      Hey Nancy, so happy that you found it useful. It has helped me alot. I’m experimenting with various light sources including taking the box outside in the sun. Good luck and let us know how it goes!

  15. Zenda says:

    This is so helpful! Thanks for sharing it!

    • Denise @BeBetsy says:

      Hi Zenda, thanks for stopping by. Glad that you found this useful and hope it works out well for you! All the best ~ Denise

  16. I’m so glad you shared this at Thursdays Treasures. This will come in handy during the winter months when good daylight is scarce. I’m featuring you this week. Thanks again for sharing.

    • Denise @BeBetsy says:

      Hello Joan! Thanks for coming by and I’m glad you found it useful! WE ARE FEATURED? Honored. Thanks so much. That’s cool!!

  17. This is such a great tutorial!! Thank you so much for sharing at Best of the Weekend – we love having you join us! Pinning to our party board and hope you will party with us again this Friday. Hope the rest of your week is wonderful!

    • Denise @BeBetsy says:

      Hi Cindy! Thank you for your nice comments and Pin! We will be by on Friday! All the best ~Sharon and Denise

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