We’ve wanted to step up our photography game. After replacing our old, broken camera with a used DSLR we decided the next step was to construct a large light box for photographing our products. A light box diffuses light through a translucent material — some people use tissue paper or wax paper. Between our cats and careless human feet, that would last about a day.

Instead, we chose something a little tougher and longer lasting: bleached white muslin. The concept is that controlled light will flow into the top and sides of the lightbox and provide an evenly lit image.

We’ve endured our share of interior shadows, rainy weather and frantic editing while trying to achieve professional-looking photographs. We needed an upgrade.

A discussion about a lightbox floated through the house for months but it took the new camera to force this baby into existence. I’m excited at the prospect of using the lightbox in the house and not checking the weather site to estimate our daily rain douse.

And, I’m delighted to offer this tutorial on how to make a 36-inch lightbox.
Lightbox 7

Materials needed:

  • Four 10′ pieces of white 1/2″ PVC pipe
  • Six 1/2″ unthreaded elbows with outlet
  • Two 1/2″ unthreaded elbow
  • 4.5 yards of 36″-wide white muslin fabric — I bought it, on sale, at Joann’s for 99 cents a yard.
  • Box of 15′ White Velcro 3/4″ wide — David bought this at Ace Hardware for about $21 and change.
Step 1

Cut each of the four 10′ pieces of 1/2 -inch pipe into 33 1/2″ sections. You want 12 sections. Eleven will be used for the box, and one for the paper backdrop.

How to Make a Lightbox

Step 2

Assemble the cube. We didn’t get photos of this step but I think you can figure it out. There are 6 elbows with three openings and 2 elbows with two openings. If you have any questions, just contact us and we’ll be happy to help.

How to build a lightbox

Step 3

Attach strips of the 3/4″ white Velcro along the vertical pipes of the box and along the top pipes. We switched over to shorter segments, about 2″ in length, to conserve the Velcro. The following diagram shows the difference between strips and segments of Velcro.

How to Make a Lightbox

Step 4

Cut a 3-yard (9 feet) length of muslin. Stretch and pressure adhere the 36″ muslin edge to the vertical pole.

How to build a lightbox

We wrapped and stretched the muslin around the remaining sides. Remember, you will have a lot of fabric. I recommend two people to make this step easier.

How to build a lightbox

Pressure mount the last of the fabric to the final vertical pole. In the photo below, I am about to swing that piece in and attach it to the pipe.

How to build a lightbox

Here’s a close up of one pipe covered with a strip of Velcro, and another pipe with segments of Velcro. Believe us, you don’t need to wrap everything in Velcro. Save some for the next project.

How to make a lightbox

The wrap creates a tight 3-sided covering for the cube.

Step 5

Cut an additional piece of 3’x3′ fabric to fit the top. Attach that piece by applying the matching Velcro strips to the top two pipes.

How to make a lightbox
Step 6

You can’t see this, but David added Velcro segments along the top edges of the pipes to keep the box from leaking light at the top seams.

Our lightbox can be assembled and disassembled easily, but we have more to do:

  • purchase a roll of 36″ white butcher paper or kraft paper.
  • identify the lights we plan to use on the outside of our box (sides and top).

I expect to use about 7 feet of paper at a photography session. Somehow we’ll attach the the 36″ edge of the paper to  the twelfth and final pipe. The paper will flow down the back wall, along the floor, and out of the box to create a backdrop and floor for photographing. You can use either white or colored paper to create different backdrops. The product that we photograph should look like it’s floating. A smaller dimensioned light box could easily use Poster or Bristol board.

We only had time today to assemble the lightbox. I’ll let you know how the next phase turns out.

Ann Marie and David

Participating in:


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