DIY Studio Photography Lightbox + Demo | Tabitha Park | Skillshare

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DIY Studio Photography Lightbox + Demo

teacher avatar Tabitha Park, Product & Food Photographer

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Materials You'll Need


    • 3.

      Construction Process


    • 4.

      Using your Lightbox Outside


    • 5.

      Lighting with Lamps and Customization


    • 6.

      Final Thoughts


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About This Class

This class takes you step-by-step through the construction and practical use of a simple studio lightbox.

  • Polish your product photography skills by creating a small, portable studio space
  • Learn how to utilize its features indoor and outdoor, day or night.
  • Customize your box to enhance your photographs for greater variety

Perfect for beginning photographers, professionals, and smart phone photographers. 

You will need:

  1. Cardboard Box (Medium size Home Depot box is my preference!)
  2. Tracing Paper, Parchment Paper, or Wax Paper (on a roll makes it easy!) 
  3. White or Black Posterboard
  4. Packing Tape
  5. Utility Knife / Box Cutter
  6. Scissors
  7. Ruler
  8. Marker / Pencil
  9. Recommended: 2 matching Desk Lamps for using your Lightbox indoors and at night

As requested, here's links for the box and tracing paper I used:
18"x 50" Tracing Paper Roll 
Home Depot Medium Moving Box

Meet Your Teacher

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Tabitha Park

Product & Food Photographer

Top Teacher

Hi! I'm Tabitha and I teach photography classes. I'm a lifestyle, product, and food photographer living in the Pacific Northwest with my husband, our 17 gorgeous chickens, and Smallcat! I love plants and coffee and naps. In my spare time I'm a reckless gardener (irl and in Stardew Valley), and unapologetic hobby starter. Currently hyperfixating on crochet, embroidery, and spoon carving!

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1. Introduction: Hi. Today, I'm going to show you how to make a lightbox, and then I'll show you how to use it. A lightbox is an awesome photography tool. It creates an environment with beautiful lighting that's really conducive to making good pictures. The light that goes in gets diffused and bounces around. It really smooths out your shadows, and it makes your subject pop. This thing is easy to store, it's super cheap to make. This is a cardboard box, and some tracing paper, and a piece of poster board, super easy. It's pretty customizable. It's flexible, you take this thing outside in the sun, you don't even need lamps. Why would you take it out in the sun if the sun's out? Yeah, if the sun's out and it's the middle of the day, you get really harsh shadows, the light is too bright, your pictures just look really flat and not very dimensional. This is a great tool for helping you with that. This tool is awesome for beginning photographers who are just figuring out how to do manual mode for the first time. It's great for seasoned professionals who just need a clean, crisp space to photograph things. Believe me, what you're seeing of my house is the cleanest part of my house, so I need the space that I can use to take really simple, really clean pictures of what I'm working on, and so enter the lightbox. This class is really fun, and if anything, you get a cool lightbox out of it. Hopefully, I can give you a little more insight than that. My name is Tabitha and I am a photographer professionally and for fun, and I think this class is going to be fun, so let's get started. 2. Materials You'll Need: For this project you're going to need a good-quality cardboard box. I highly recommend the medium-size box from Home Depot. I always get great results with it, it's nice and square. So when you're done, your box makes a good size cube. If you have a box already that you're thinking of using, just make sure it's really clean and in really good shape because you want it to be pretty sturdy. You're going to need a ruler. I use this mostly for drawing straight lines, not quite as much for measuring. You will need an exact dough knife. This is important because this is what we're using to cut out the windows, you're going to need a pair of scissors to cut your tracing paper. My tracing paper comes on a tube. This is the best way to use it in my opinion because it makes it really simple you just wrap it around all the way around the box, cut at once, tape it once and you're done. If you have tracing paper sheets, you can use those as well, just make sure that the paper doesn't overlap or gap if it's too small, if it's smaller than your panels. If you don't have tracing paper, you can use parchment paper which can be found in the baking aisle, or you can use wax paper and then you will need a poster board. This is just like the same poster board that you would use in third grade, my science project. This has a glossy side and a mat side. We like the mat side for pictures because it doesn't produce any weird glares. You will also need some box tape. We tape up the bottom of the box and then we also use it to tape our tracing paper to it. Keep in mind that tape is weird, it's like parchment paper, wax paper, tape doesn't stick to. So if you need to get some duct tape or something, or just staple it, just know that you might run into some issues with that. I haven't had any problems with the tracing paper, but just keep that in mind. You may have to fiddle with it a little bit. Then finally if you're planning on shooting inside or at night, you will need some lamps. I got this from Walmart for like six or eight bucks, it's nice because I can just clip it onto the table, I can adjust it and it's an LED so it doesn't get too hot. Get two of the same lamp because you want to make sure that the color's the same and the intensity is the same. So yeah, let's start cutting. 3. Construction Process: To start off, you're going to want to draw yourself a nice template. The way I did this was I set the ruler up against the edge of the box and then drew a straight line, set it up against the edge of this box or slightly in from the crease, and then drew a line. One thing to keep in mind when you're making your lines is just make sure you give yourself an inch, maybe a little bit more on the edges. If you get too thin, you're going to end up with this really thin strip of cardboard that's not going to be very sturdy for keeping your box rigid. So I just recommend giving yourself an inch or an inch and a half of space along each of the edges so you just have a window right in the middle. Three sides that are all connected, that have holes, go side, top and then the underside of top is side then the underside of this first side is bottom. So when we unfold it, it'll make sense. Bottom is opposite of top and then the sides are opposite of each other. Next, we need to put the bottom together. You want to open up your box, again, this should say bottom, side, top, side. We're just going to orient that. This is the bottom of my box so I will be folding, taping this side closed. Now we need to cut. It doesn't matter which side you start with, just be careful that when you are pulling, you don't accidentally go all the way off the edge because that is going to hurt your stability of the box basically. You can throw this away or you can save it and wrap it in tin foil and use it as a reflector. Anyway, we have one side down two to go. Don't cut toward yourself. That's never a good idea. Please don't be alarmed by my cutting skills. I really have done this before. Your cut lines don't have to be perfect and if you are concerned about the way that they look, you can just trim them up later. So here is what you should have. An extra step that I like to take that you don't have to take is removing the top flap. Be careful about this because this does cut into your stability. You want a really stable box, you could tape the lid panels up like this and then it helps keep it really strong but this flap I feel like gets in the way when I'm trying to take a picture. So fold it and then just cut it right off. You can use scissors. I'm going to try this terrifying knife again. At this point, this right here is your weakest spot so this is probably going to bend over time. Its fine, you can just tape a popsicle stick to the bottom and that should keep it rigid or honestly, it's not going to sag into your photo. It's just not going to look as pretty so just be aware. Anyway so this is what we have. We have our three open panels and then closed on the bottom and we cut the top flap off of the box so that we can see in a little better. Pre-measure your tracing paper so that it can go all the way around your box and tape on the bottom. Here is mine. The easiest way to get it centered is to drape it alongside just like this, so that it reaches both sides and can curl over, and then while you're holding it, tip the box so that you can see this side and then tape it down here and here, making sure that this is nice and tight so that your windows aren't wrinkly. If your tracing paper is a little bit too big for your panels, just make the overhang on the back of the box where you've taped it closed. Now I have the overhang. You can either cut it off or you can fold it and tape it down. Grab your poster board. To cut it down to size, I just like to lay it on top of the box and then draw a line, cut it straight. Slightly smaller because you want it to fit into the inside of the box and then we'll put tape on the top edge and lay it inside. Make sure that the side that's facing is matte and not the glossy side. Then as we tuck it into the box, you're going to tape it up in the back. Because my poster board wasn't super long, I left about three inches in the upper back so that I would have more space down here in the foreground to work with. If you have a really long piece of poster board, you don't have to worry about that, you could tape it all the way up to the corner. But likely you're never going to see that corner and so I would just do it this way. What I don't recommend is getting a poster board that's too short so that you're taping it halfway up the back and it barely makes it out the front. You need to make sure you give yourself a nice wide space. This is a pretty good compromise. That's it, our box is done. Now I can show you how to use it. 4. Using your Lightbox Outside: To use your box outside, pay attention to the position and the angle of the light. You don't want the light to stream through the box, through the opening. So just turn it and make sure that the sun shines through the panels, that's going to really help smooth out your shadows. Next, I'm showing you this is a piece of cardboard with tin foil tape to it, this is my reflector. I use this to bounce this light from the sun back onto my subject. If you find that your tin foil is a little bit too powerful, if it's shining too much light onto your subject, you can make a fill card which is a piece of cardboard with computer paper taped to it, super simple. Again, here is what it looks like when I use the reflector. Sometimes it takes a little bit of trial and error to get a good picture holding the reflector and holding the camera and getting it where you want. Assistance are nice, but you'll find a way to make it happen. 5. Lighting with Lamps and Customization: To use your box inside with artificial lights, you're going to want to set out on a table with your lamps pointing inside the box. I have these flip on lamps, so they just clip right onto the table, makes it nice and easy. The angle of the shadow can be changed by moving your lamp around. I definitely recommend experimenting, seeing what looks best with your subject. If you have your light really close to your box, your shadows are going to appear more pronounced, whereas pulling it away will help disperse them a little bit more. One last thing that you need to do before you start shooting that's really important, is to turn off all the other lights in the room. It might seem counter-intuitive because you're making it darker, but you really want to just stick to the two matching lights that you have because the lights in your ceiling might be a different color temperature than the lights that are being output by your lamps, and you don't want to deal with mixed lighting, it just gets really messy and hard for your subject to have its true color in the photographs later. So we'll do that. Here we have a reflector. Just slide this in, and you can angle it around. You can see it right along here, right along this edge is where my shadows are changing. Then obviously, you would just crop this out so that it's not on the picture. One thing that I think is really helpful, this shell is pretty light and it looks really good on the white backdrop. It might seem counter-intuitive, you want to have some contrast, but often when you're trying to do a studio portrait too much contrast can be really detracting. I'll show you, for instance, with this pinhole camera, it's black, it's super dark. So it totally pops on the picture, but it's really hard to see the detail in it because it's so dark in comparison to our backdrop. You can do your best to angle your lighting to show it off best and you can add a bunch of fill cards and really just try and make it so you can see what's going on in this picture. But one thing that I like to do that's really helpful is to change the color of my backdrop. Here I have a mass slate black poster board that you can slide in there. Putting the camera on that, it seems really dark right now, but once we adjust our exposure a little bit, you can see that it really helps show off those details, and then I would bring in a little bit of a feel to brighten up the front. On that, you can really see what a difference that bill card makes and then making sure when you take your picture that it is just out of frame. My phone keeps trying to make it really bright. One thing that I can do when I hit focus, there's that little sun that pops up. If you drag it down, it'll dark in your picture and then you can get a more accurate portrayal of what you're trying to photograph. There is my camera where I've adjusted the exposure versus the picture where I haven't. This picture, really, really bright, and then this picture is a lot more true to life. Now I thought I would take a moment just to show you the ways that you can change up your images by switching out your backdrop. Here's our shell again, this time on black, and you can see that it's a much more dramatic picture. I mean, I originally thought that I liked the white one better, but after I photographed it on black, I thought, wow. I mean, that's a really epic picture, it has a lot more shadow, a lot more contrast, and depending on your application it might just be perfect. Next, we have an air plant. This, I photographed in a couple of different ways. This is just photographed with both of my lights shining in, and then I also turn off one light. So you can see what it looks like with single-directional lighting. It's a lot darker and it's really moody. You can see the texture differently, the way that it lights up the leaves, paints a different image. Then I also wanted to show you what it would look like if you unclipped your lamp and then put it above your lightbox and shone down. Here you can see a lot of the shadows on the base of the backdrop and you can tell it's just lit up completely differently. Of course, I photographed it on white, it's just a totally clean, crisp image, really soft. Then just to take it one step further, I don't know if you've ever experimented with shooting with objects in front of your lens. So here in this image, in order to create this ethereal glowy background, what I did was I took a sandwich bag, a Ziploc bag, I cut a hole in the bottom about the size of a quarter and then I just put the bag over my lens, and then I've shot through it. Basically, the center of the image where it's in focus, that's where the hole was, and then as it fades outward you can see it gets a lot softer and dewy and misty. This creates a cool ambiance to it just by using a super cheap plastic bag. I've seen people do this with plastic wrap, I've seen people do this with a grocery sac, anything that you can find. Just put it in front of your lens and experiment and see what you can come up with. Next, I wanted to show you the different flooring that you can do to upgrade your lightbox. Here I have a couple of wooden planks that I bought at home depot. I think they're originally for doing wood paneling on your wall, but I thought they'd be an awesome flooring for pictures. I bought them and I sanded them down. They were originally like a really light blond wood, and then I painted just one thin coat of ebony stain on them to get them that warm, modern, cool, gray color. Here's an image of a different plant from above, changing your angle can completely change the use of your box. I mean, you wouldn't have expected that this image was taken inside a cardboard box on the floor of my kitchen, but it was. So just really pushing what you have and trying to see ways that you can take what you already own and just really take your photography to the next level. Something else that turned out awesome, that was really cool was, I just bought these cookie sheets, they're really, really shiny. They are Nordic ware brand. But anyway, I flipped the one over, and I set it inside my lightbox, and then I just laid these little vials on top of it. I love the way the pan mirrors the subject really well, and it just adds that cool [inaudible] scientific lab feel to it. Something that I had thought of is if you have a really nice olive wood cutting board, you could totally put a cutting board inside your lightbox and then photograph on that and it would make the same effect as my wooden floor. 6. Final Thoughts: Hello. This is the final video. Thank you so much for taking my class seriously, you're amazing. The fact that you would trust me with your 24 minutes of precious time, is how long it is, I don't know you do, is seriously a huge compliment. I hope that you learned something, and I can't wait to see the pictures that you make. Definitely, post those in the product gallery so I can take a look. If you have questions for me, leave those in the comments section, I will totally answer them. Thank you again.