Use What You Have Lightbox for Blog Photography
By More With Less Mom on March 19, 2014
I have been working on improving my blog and making it more professional. One of the weakest links for many one-woman-show blogs is the photography. I have done some research to improve my photos without buying a new camera or investing in expensive professional equipment. One thing you can make yourself to help with lighting problems is a lightbox. My homemade light box is frugal, collapsible, and you can change the background.
I have a good backbone for my blog. I think my content is worthwhile and my writing is pretty good. I speaka de English. But my pictures are horrible. For my dinosaur play mat I had some dark nighttime photos, and some glaring morning light photos. For the beautiful dyed eggs we made for Valentine's Day the pictures all came out too dark. One of my goals is to make my blog photos better, and hopefully retake photos of some of the old recipes.
I have seen many posts on lightboxes. I don't have room to store a big old box somewhere when I'm not using it. I want to be able to control the light but still use pretty fabrics for the background. And I need it to be cheapy cheap cheap. My solution was to use what I had to make something, with plans to upgrade materials once I could make an informed decision about how to spend my money. The only thing I had to buy was two $3 lamps. This is absolutely a cheapo, starter lightbox for an extremely tight budget, and could be improved in many ways. Once you try it you can decide how best to spend your money on equipment and supplies to improve your photography.
You can get a little collapsible lightbox tent setup on eBay or Amazon for $30ish, which includes a box, lights, and a tripod. However this does not look sturdy and is pretty small. Prices go up from there for something more durable and larger. This might be a good place to start if you don't have time to muck around, and have more money than me.
- Table or three folding tables, preferably window height
- 4 pieces white foamboard or a white cardboard box, dollar store
- 1 piece white posterboard, optional for background/base, dollar store
- Masking/painters tape
- Tracing paper, muslin fabric, tissue paper, sheer curtain, or other diffusing material
- 3 desk lamps, you can use a lamp with no shade if you have someone to hold it up to the diffuser for you
- Extension cords if your lamps don't reach, dollar store
For your box you can use a white cardboard box, or foamboard. You need holes in the sides and top to let light in. You need lights of some type to direct light into the box. You need something to filter the light through the holes and onto your item without casting a dark shadow or glare.
You need to place a table in front of a window to take advantage of natural light. You want as much indirect light as possible. I had to move a couple chairs out of the way and put three folding tables up (you can get these at thrift stores cheap, if your windows are low enough and the tables are high enough).
I used four pieces of white foamboard (2 sides, back, and top) for my box. You can get this at the dollar store, I had a bunch for crafts and such. I used a white piece of posterboard for the background. Posterboard is 22x28, so for the space you have to work with one of your dimensions is going to be 22 inches. If you tape your posterboard to the back panel at the top you can drape it down under your item and you won't have a horizon line or seam in the background. I used painters/masking tape to hold them together. I found that the tape came right off the posterboard, but tore the foamboard. You can disassemble your box to store it, or leave the tape and put one side in front and one side in back and fold to store. Mine is stuck behind a hutch.
I already had a pad of tracing paper, but they are available at WalMart for about $5. You can also use muslin fabric to diffuse light. You can try tissue paper if you just want to experiment with it, but it is as fragile as you would expect. If you are shopping for tracing paper you could also get a large piece you can tape directly to a window to use that as your light source. I laid a piece of tracing paper in the middle of a piece of foamboard and roughly traced that, then used those lines to make a window that was slightly smaller (to leave room for overlap). I used one side of a pair of scissors to cut the hole (and not the table underneath). I used regular transparent tape to keep the tracing paper on. I made three of these panels.
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