Lifestyle Photography Tips

DIY lightbox for brighter photos

January 30, 2016

If you look at my Instagram feed then you’ll know that I love bright photos but unfortunately it’s not always easy to get the light to co-operate with your photography plans. So I thought I’d share an easy and cheap tutorial on how to create a DIY lightbox which will help you create beautiful bright pictures! 

DIY Lightbox

Anyone in the Northern Hemisphere is currently mid way through winter and taking photos is near impossible in these low light conditions. Usually the only option is to take photos on the weekend when there is enough natural light and even then it can be challenging with the sporadic weather conditions!

DIY brighten your photosI have been investigating studio lights for the home and there are a myriad of options out there but many are expensive and there is also there’s the problem of #nospace to put everything in my apartment!

In the meantime, I have been setting up my good old DIY lightbox which seems to be doing the trick for now. Read on to see how to set your own lightbox up for under $10 in under 10 minutes!

DIY brighten your photos

You will need:

  • 2 x pieces of white A4 corrugated cardboard about 5mm thick
  • A thin white material (i.e chiffon, sheer curtain) to cover your window/ door light
  • A table or surface to place your objects on
  • A chair or something to prop up your cardboard
  • Your camera and objects for shooting!


Setting up your DIY lightbox:

Step 1:

Set up your table close to your window or door. Try to get your objects level to where the light source is  (i.e. if your window finishes well above the floor then instead of putting your objects on the floor, put them up on a table).


Step 2:

Use a thin piece of white material (i.e. sheer curtain, chiffon) to put across your light source. This acts as a light diffuser and will help prevent harsh light and shadows on your objects.

Lightbox - Set up

Step 3:

For the lightbox to work you will need the light to be sweeping across your objects from the left or right, not straight on. Try to put the taller objects furthest away from the window so they are not creating shadows onto the other smaller objects.

Lightbox - Set up

Step 4:

To maximise the light, I usually set up a piece of cardboard behind the objects (use the back of a chair or prop it up against something to help it stay upright). This unfortunately can mean that there isn’t a lot of texture in your picture so you may want to use a timber table or marble contact paper/board as your base.

Lightbox - Set up

Step 5:

The last piece of cardboard will face the window to ‘bounces’ the light off the cardboard onto the shadows of your objects. I find holding it 45 degrees towards the window really shortens the length of the shadows but play around moving the cardboard closer and changing the angle.

Lightbox - Set up

It always helps to set up your camera on a tripod and use the timer so you can get the cardboard in the best possible position to reflect the most light.
DIY Lightbox - Before and After

Step 6

If this still isn’t giving you enough light then you might also want to try wrapping foil (as in the kind from the kitchen) around your cardboard. This increases the reflection of the light. But be warned that foil and shiny surfaces (i.e. copper, silver etc) don’t mix very well because it can create harsh reflections.

DIY brighten your photos


Tips & Tricks:

Unfortunately it’s not an exact science and it’s all about trial and error! Here are a few extra handy hints to get the most out of your lightbox and to improve your photos:

  • Find out what time of day the light is best through your windows and aim to take the photos at this time. For me, this is mornings at 10am in my living and afternoons at around 3pm in my bedroom on the other side of the apartment.
  • Funnily enough, if you take photos when it is really sunny then your photos can sometimes get a yellow tinge to them. You can easily tone down the ‘warmth‘ on your Instagram filters (swipe to the left) to reduce the yellow light.
  • Have a look at interior catalogues and food magazines to see what type of lighting you like. You will notice that many will still use studio lighting on both sides of the object because the shadows will be shorter than if there was only light on one side.
  • I often use Lightroom to process my photos because it’s really quick to edit photos and it only costs around $10AUD a month for the license. Let me know if you would like a tutorial on which Lightroom filters I use for my photos in the comments below.
    DIY Lightbox - Lightroom

If you have a go at using this DIY lightbox then please tag me on Instagram on @theurbanquarters or use the hashtag #TUQdiy. As always, feel free to ask me if you have any questions and I’ll try to help you out! Happy snapping!Brighter photos

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