Homemade Light Box for Product Photography

The object of product photography is to show details of an object clearly. Lighting an object well brings out details and provides pleasing highlights. One method for uniformly lighting small objects is to surround the object in a light box. The following article describes the process for making your own lightbox for small object photography. From start to finish this project should take no longer than 30 minutes.


Materials Needed

Foam Board

You’ll need 5 sheets of foam board, also called foam core or foam poster board. If you go to the local craft / art store you should be able to pick up large sheets for just a few dollars a piece. I have a huge box in my basement and the pieces were $4.99 a piece. The board used in this tutorial was $1.99 a piece (each piece is 30″ x 20″).

White Tape

The tape I’m using is between 1″ and 2″ wide white masking tape. Stay away from duct tape, as the heat from the lamps makes the glue really messy. This masking tape is nice and lightweight and if you need to, you can take the tape off to re-adjust.

Lamp / Light Bulbs

I’m using shop lights from Home Depot / Lowe’s. You can pick these up for just a few dollars a piece. Of course you can always use a flash and bounce it off the top of the box. I find that sometimes this is too much light and I get by pretty well with just the shop lights.
I’ve tried all sorts of light bulbs. With your eye they may all look the same, the camera picks up different colors from different lights. The lights I’m using in this tutorial are Sylvania 100 watt Daylight Bulbs. It was $1.98 for 4 bulbs, not too shabby. Sometimes I like to experiment with a little hand held florescent light. It gives off a cool color which can be nice. That’s about the extent of my knowledge on lighting so you’ll have to experiment and find what works for you.


You’ll need a razor knife and a straight edge.

1. Attach the Top and Bottom

Here is a quick sample of how I apply the tape. I know it’s overkill to show this but I’d rather err on the side of being thorough.

Apply the tape

Apply top and bottom

2. Attach the Left and Right

It may be hard to see how it will come together, but I just applied the left side (which is at the top of the photo below). Do the same for the right side.

Apply left and right

3. Cut Off Overhang on the Sides

Left: Shows the box with the overhang on left and right side.
Middle: Shows using a straight edge to cut the excess.
Right: Shows the box with the sides trimmed down.

Cut off sides

4. Cut Notches in Sides

This is something I just recently started doing. I found that I wasn’t able to set the lights deep enough so cutting a notch in the side helps. You may have to skip this step and see the final deal, then you’ll get the idea. The notches I cut were only a few inches deep, you could do more or less. Make it work for you.

Cut notches in sides

5. Lights

You can see I added a few more lights. The more the better in my opinion.


Showing the outside of the box.

Outside of box

Use this light box with a Flash. Here would be a sample illustration of how to use the flash with this setup. This works like a charm.

Use your flash

Optional Step

You can apply a strip of tape to the back seam on the bottom. Apply it so the tape forms an even transition between the two pieces of foam core. Here is a quick and dirty illustration to show what I mean:

Tape back seam

See What it Produces

After literally 2 minutes with the light box and a few snaps later here is a shot I took of one of my lenses. Obvious improvements could be made here but this is just a quick image to show you how simple using this box can be.

Sample from lightbox

But Wait, There’s More

Here is another trick I started doing. Sometimes I like to shoot the object from a top view. If you cut a hole in the top of the box, this is possible. Be careful not to cut too much, you’ll want to score the part you don’t cut, that makes it bend with ease.

Cut a hole in the top

Sample Photo

Here is a sample of shooting a necklace through the hole I just cut in the top of the box.

Hole in top sample photo


67 thoughts on “Homemade Light Box for Product Photography

  1. Kent

    I built this yesterday and it works great.
    I go the form board from Michaels (craft shop) for $1 a piece. The lights were around $5.50 each.

    I only need to get some brighter light globes (I only have 60W) and will find some daylights to get the colour sorted.

    Great idea and easy plans.

  2. Rosy

    You can also use Sure Spray Deodorant to eliminate the glare on shiny products. Works just as good as dulling spray – a little tip from my photography professors.

  3. maria~

    I just built this today and it’s totally awesome! The only problem is the background looks a bit yellow and slightly dingy. Am I just not using enough lights? Or am I using the wrong lights or what? Help! :D

  4. Sharon

    For the problem with the seam in the back of the box, I took a piece of white poster board, had at home for school projects and just taped the top and it formed it’s
    own bend–works great to eliminate the seam!

    Still having some trouble with shadows as I am shooting
    pictures, I did best to use the box with no lights and
    flash disabled with a 85-200 lens, a light photoshop
    lightning, and they look great!

    Thanks for the tip, it is great!

  5. DIsco

    For all the “yellowish” people. It is your white balance in most cases. In your camera, you should try to set your white balance first. It is basically a measure to tell the camera what is white in the shot. Most cameras compensate for the extra white in the image and turn it yellow but if you set the white balance it will leave you alone. Another trick is to bump up your exposure just a bit to +1 or +2.

    I use a simple panasonic LUmix camera and get great shots.

    Don’t be afraid to learn about the settings in your camera. Try stuff out, it isn’t as mystical as I previously though.

    You don’t have to use the exact bulbs that are said here. just get any “full spectrum” bulb. They usually have a blue tint to them.

    Anyway, Great tutorial and thank you so much for all your hard work.

  6. Gabriel Betancur

    Hey guys…
    i was wondering if you could please help me out to build my own light box. However, the issue that i have is that the item that i want to take pics off need to be put on a flat surface, in other words i need to take the pics from above. Therefore, my questions are: what are the dimension that i need to use, what sort of light i need in kelving and which one is it better flouro or halogen
    thank you


  7. Bob

    Building the box was a snap. I even lucked out and the foamcore was on sale 2 for 1 !
    I have been having a problem with blue cast. I have tried AWB, cust. WB using a gray card…. this did help reduce the blue cast but not eliminate it. I am using 4 GE reveal 75w blubs. Many Thanks.

  8. Amanda

    Wow! I have learned so much on this site! Thanks a lot! I have a question. I use a Panasonic Lumix FZ30 with fixed 35-420mm Leica lense. Is it true that my camera will not sync with a strobe flash if I try it for studio photography? Also, the backdrop stand from PVC, will it be sturdy if I make it 2 meters high and 3 meters wide (adjustable to smaller measures off course)? Thanks again!

  9. Amanda

    Wow! I have learned so much on this site! Thanks a lot! I have a question. How can I get my photo’s to be a superior quality when viewed on my website and still be small enough in size to load quickly?

  10. Kathleen Murphy

    Great site, and tips from others. I thought I’d add a thought.

    I cut two holes on the top of either side, so that I could run a window suspension rod through the box. Then I drape (ironed) fabrics over the rod and out the front of the box, giving the same back curve as construction paper would. My most common piece is an off-white lace curtain. Works great!

  11. Chris

    I recently purchased a box just like the one in the pictures and i have a canon EOS40D. the thing is I can’t figure out a way of taking a good picture of stainless steel jewelry items.. i can’t get a picture that looks like the item itself. I have some great stainless steel jewelry but just can’t get the pictures to show this.. really need help….

  12. Karen

    Have been reading all the posts and I have set up a light box like this and it has worked well ….. however I am in the process of taking white lotion bottles against the white and need to cut out – the comment about one click of the mouse removing background in CS3 (which I have) I am curious about how to do this. I have been cutting out images with the magnetic tool BUT with the white against white it is not working. How are you removing the background so easily? Must know :)

  13. SiP

    I bought a large semi-transparent storage box from Staples, lined the bottom, two short sides and one long side with bright white heavy duty paper.

    I then sit the box on its long side with unlined at the top, use a light-box (previously used for viewing slides & negatives and almost became redundant until I thought of using it for this project) upside down facing into the box. I get nice even distribution of light as the semi-transparent side of the storage box acts as a diffuser.

    I also have two old glass shelves that I can use for various effects: one frosted, one with a dark-tint. I put the light-box inside the container, lay the tinted shelf on top and use diffused low power flash from above. Nice effects!

  14. SiP

    Buy a pair of 12-inch WHITE cold-cathode tubes (they’re very cheap and used for lighting-up the insides of PC cases) and power them from an old external CD enclosure (or just buy a decent 12v PSU), velcro them to the top of your DIY lightbox and you’ve got very decent lighting.

    You need to be very careful and use a 12v DC PSU, which powers a little box to which you connect the tubes. The little box apparently increases power output to drive the tubes. Lots of info on case modding websites.

  15. DCRose

    I am a custom cake designer, but a terrible photographer.I was referred to your website because I am having trouble shooting clear pics of my cakes. Do you know if the light box would be too hot to shoot pics of cakes?

  16. anon

    This is a great idea for a cheap light box, but my comment is more focused on the questions asked. I am no expert, but I will try to help.

    Starting with the newest and moving toward the older questions that I think I know the answers to:

    DCRose asked about cakes;

    It looks like there is a total of 4 100W bulbs used in this tutorial. Is that too hot for cakes? This will depend on the color of the cake and the color / size of the background (The Box). If you have a beautiful white cake in a small white box with 400 watts of light, it may be too hot. Just decrease the light and / or increase the box size. You may need to increase the box size anyway because it looks like this one is only 20″ tall.

    Karen asked about white lotion bottles;

    I don’t want to speak for anyone, but I believe the photoshop comment was made based on a different color (other than white) for the subject. The “one click and the background is gone” approach is using the magic wand. If you would like to use the magic wand to delete your background, you will need to change the color of the box. Just for reference, the magic wand is selecting a color range, based on the tolerance, of connected pixels. If there is a 1 pixel break in a shadow, Photoshop will continue to select the white, or close to white, pixels until your entire image is considered to be the background.

    Amanda Asked about image quality on the internet;

    Image quality directly translates to number of pixels. 320 X 240 or 640 X 480 is not a quality image but, depending on how you’re using the image, it will work. If you have a 320 X 240 image and it is resized to 100 px wide for a thumbnail, it will look just as good as it did before. If you have a 640 X 480 image and an auction site displays it at 800 px wide then you will lose quality. The bottom line is that you need to upload your image at the highest resolution possible. Today’s internet speeds do not limit our image sizes. I am not trying to tell you to upload a 10 megapixel photo. This can take a few seconds on the fastest connections. Just upload your images at 1024 or 1280 wide and most users will view them quickly.

    Gabriel Betancur asked about top down shots;

    This tutorial is based on the authors needs. Your needs may, and probably will, be different. The dimensions of your box will depend on the product you’re putting into it. As far as lighting goes, there are thousands of “pro’s” that will tell you what to pick, but in the end, it’s up to you. Grab a halogen work light, a flourescent shop light and a simple clamp light like the one in the article. The lights don’t cost much and the testing is well worth it to decide your personal preference. A 4′ flourescent may not work with the design in this article, but you get the idea. The final choice is yours.

    I guess I could have shortened this comment. If you didn’t want to read the whole thing, here’s the short version;

    The color and size of your subject will dictate the color and size of your light box

    Photoshop has a magic wand, but it’s not really magic

    There is no quality on the internet. My rambling on blogs is the perfect testimony to that

    Tutorials are based on the authors needs. You will need to adjust dimensions, lighting or any number of things to make it work for you.