It’s my first tutorial!

08Nov12

I can’t avoid it anymore. I said I would start doing tutorials so I have to start doing tutorials.

Don’t get me wrong, I want to. I’m just a little nervous. I’ve never done one before! Over the years I’ve trained and taught many people on a variety of topics. But I’ve never done a step-by-step tutorial before. I guess it’s time to break that barrier. Let’s get to it!

Let’s Build a Light Box!

In the not-too-distant future, my Etsy store will open its online doors to sell my ready-made products. The photos that highlight those products need to be spectacular but hiring a photographer isn’t feasible.

As a small business owner I have to wear many hats. Photographer is just another hat I wear from time to time.

The Process:

Step One: Get all your stuff together. Here’s what you need:

– One cardboard box sized according to your needs. (I chose a box 22″ x 22″ x 18″. This is large enough for me to photograph all my smaller items and small enough to keep set up all the time.)

– White paper and/or tissue paper. (My OCD told me to use both! I listened.)

– One piece of white bristol board. (If the box you chose is on the large size you may need to use fabric instead of bristol board. In this case you’ll also need some velcro and a glue gun. I’ll explain when we get to that step.)

– Three lamps (minimum 60watts each, better if they’re 100watts each) and three natural light light-bulbs. (I used Enersaver bulbs in cool white and daylight.)

– An X-acto or other sharp knife, ruler, pencil, scissors.

– Clear or white tape (I went with white duct tape).

– an extra set of hands by way of a helper is extremely, well, helpful!

Most of the supplies. I said it was my first tutorial and I meant it! I forgot to put the scissors and bristol board in the photo.

Most of the supplies. I said it was my first tutorial and I meant it! I forgot to put the scissors and bristol board in the photo.

Step Two:

Cut windows out of the two sides, top and front of the box. I left a two inch border around each window. Leave the bottom and back of the box uncut.

Box with top, sides and front cut out.

Box with top, sides and front cut out.

Light box with top, sides and front cut-out.

Light box with top, sides and front cut out.

Step Three:

Use the white duct tape to tape the white paper on the inside of the box. Be sure to cover everywhere inside the box.

Light box with white paper done. Now onto the tissue paper (or more white paper if you're just using one).

Light box with white paper done. Now onto the tissue paper (or more white paper if you’re just using one).

Step Four:

Next cover the top and sides with white paper (or tissue paper, depending on what you’re using).

Side view of the light box with white and tissue paper done.

Side view of the light box with white and tissue paper done.

Step Five:

The basic light box is done but there’s a few finishing touches to do. This is where the bristol board or fabric comes into play. The point where the back and bottom sides of the box meet leaves an unsightly line in the back of your photos. To combat this, cut a piece of bristol board the width of your box by the length from the top back wall to the bottom front wall. Once placed inside the light box, it will cover that line, giving your photos a nice even background.

In my case, the box was too large for the bristol board to adequately cover so I came up with an alternative: fabric back drops. Using a glue gun, stick one side of velcro along the top edge of the back wall.  I used a piece of white cotton 18″ wide by 35″ long, finished the edges and stitched the other side of the velcro to the wrong side of the fabric at the top edge.

Inside lightbox with velcro added to the top back side. The other half of the velcro is on the inside of fabric. This hides the bottom back bend of the box and allows for the use of back drops.

Inside light box with velcro added to the top back side. The other half of the velcro is on the inside of fabric. This hides the bottom back bend of the box and allows for the use of back drops.

With the back drop in place I’m left with that same even background:

LIght box with white back drop.

Light box with white back drop.

Step Six:

Now place your lights on either side, and on top of, your light box. Voila! You’ve got your light box.

The full view of the completed light box.

The full view of the completed light box.

Light box with black back drop.

Light box with black back drop.

The nice thing about using fabric for a back drop, is that you can easily change the back drop to suit your needs. Here’s the same light box with a black back drop.

A side view of the finished light box showing the black back drop, light coming in from the side and the subject I'm shooting.

A side view of the finished light box showing the black back drop, light coming in from the side and the subject I’m shooting.

Let’s take a look at a photo using the finished light box:

Using the light box to photograph completed projects and items for sale.

Using the light box to photograph completed projects and items for sale.

All projects have their setbacks and this one was no exception. Light boxes are fragile. I knew that. I was being extra careful around it. I diligently kept the cats away from it. So of course I broke it! One of my lights fell right through the side tissue paper! At least I had all the supplies handy for a quick fix. 😉

I was worried about the cats ripping the tissue paper but this was all me. My side lamp fell right through the tissue paper. Opps!

I was worried about the cats ripping the tissue paper but this was all me. My side lamp fell right through the tissue paper. Oops!

Have you done this project or one similar to it? Have some tips to improve this project? Post your ideas, photos, comments below. I’d love to hear them!

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