Flickr Photographer Jeffrey Bail posted a tutorial on the Digital Photography School about how to create an inexpensive light tent. He didn’t want to pay $100+ for such a contraption, so he was able to make his own fairly cheaply. I decided I had to explore this a bit more.
First, I decided to check availability. I’m basically a lazy person, so if I can find something pre-made at a reasonable price, I’ll go ahead and pony up. Also the idea that something pre-made might be collapsible and easy to store appealed to me. At our local Wolf Camera, they had light tent kits starting at $109, which included a 20" X 20" cube and two lights. Online, they have a cube only for $49. That’s almost tempting, but I decided to see what I could come up with.
Bail’s method used a cardboard box covered with white muslin, with white Bristol board for the background. He used a daylight bulb with a standard desk lamp. To me, this seemed like it would present some storage problems. I considered several alternatives. The first would be to construct a frame from PVC pipe and drape with fabric. Another idea would be to use a hanging file frame, usually made out of light metal. I even considered knocking the sides out of a white styrofoam cooler, although that would also have been hard to store. The solution I came up with was even easier.
At Walmart, I found a transluscent file box for just under $10. This was perfect. I bought two yards of white crepe fabric for a total of $2, just in case I needed to darken it a bit. Also purchased was a daylight bulb and a utility lamp with metal reflector. I also bought two sheets of poster board. Total cost was about $25. The bulbs, lamp, and box were the most expensive.
I wound up not using the fabric at all. I cut the posterboard to the right width, then just slid it into the box with a curve. I placed the lamp on top, and I was ready to shoot. Here’s picture of the setup…
The cool thing about this is that I didn’t have to cut the box at all. It comes with a lid, so I can store the fabric, lamp, and posterboard inside the box when it’s not needed. The results were pretty good…
These were shot with my 50mm Nikkor lens, some at f/1.8 and some on automatic. I was getting some vignetting, depending on where I placed the lamp. I’ll need to tweak the lighting a bit until it’s perfect.
[tags]photography, light tent, light box, tutorial[/tags]
5 thoughts on “Homemade Light Box”
Thanks for mentioning me.
Many people contacted me after the article concerning storage problems. I have to agree with this also. I Did make another light tent that can fold up using fabric, glue, wire and coat hangers.
If you want, you can check out the new article
Wow this is fantastic! i’ve been searching the net for homemade light boxes but this one i think is just so simple, i like the thought of being able to store your materials in the box when your done. hahaha i have just the same box too!! question though, what light did you use? what wattage would you recommend?
John – I used a compact fluorescent bulb in a simple metal utility lamp. It was a 60 watt “daylight” bulb. That gives better results than the soft light bulbs.
Actually, you could try different ones to see which works best for you.
Thanks so much! I am revamping my photography and I can not wait to try this with my jewelry!!! Your article has really helped! Thanks!!!!
Wow! You got a really good deal on those, I bought my photo tent off http://phototent.net for like $80 I think it was, I like it but wish I saw this first.