Do it yourself light box

Happy Hump Day!  Or as we call it around here – Bagel Day!  I headed out to the gym this morning for a good run session.  I did 4 miles at 5.5 mph.  It went by pretty quickly.  Then I picked John up and we headed out to Orange Cat for breakfast.  I wanted to try their bagels.  Very cozy inside:

Except the counters are marble and very cold.  This placed used to be a candy making shop and the marble was for cold, which it is!  Now this place doesn’t make their own bagels, but they get them from a local bakery.  I had a blueberry bagel:

This was a most excellent bagel.  You could tell it was made with fresh blueberries because of the different colorations inside.  Yum.  The prices at this place are all over the map, though.  Some good and some really high.  They also have cupcakes now.  So much for me opening a place.  And they have giant cupcakes, too.  Check it out:

I think the only difference between a giant cupcake and a regular cake is the frosting to cake ratio.  What do you think?

As promised, here is the super expensive light box set up!  Why a light box?  Natural light should always be used first, but it is not always possible.  How about a flash, you ask? Well, flash food photos just don’t look as good.  They are very flat looking.  And fluorescent lights give a lovely jaundiced hue to everything.  Also appetizing.  So a light box will help you get better pictures of anything, not just food.

I scrounged up pretty much everything in the house already.  The only thing I bought was the snake light and the bulb for a grand total of $15.  I googled around about light boxes and got the general idea of how to do them.

  • Cardboard box
  • tissue paper or paper towels
  • straight edge (optional)
  • box cutter
  • tape
  • poster board or thin neutral background
  • Light source

First, mark the sides of the box with a straight edge to create a square you will cut out (or free hand it).  The size is up to you.  Obviously the bigger the hole, the more light comes in, but also think about the integrity of the box if you don’t leave enough box to support itself.

Then cut out the squares.  Please be careful.

I made a hole in the top as well.  This is because if I want to take this outside in the future and plop it over something in the flower bed, this will become the bottom of the box.  Or if I want to take an overhead shot of something.

Now take the posterboard (or whatever background you want) and put some tape loops on one end of it.  This will make the infinity background.  Tape it to the inside of the box at the back like so:

This curve keeps there from being any ‘seam’ in the back of the picture.

Of course, no activity can be done unassisted:

Now tape the tissue paper or paper towel to the opening as a filter:

Obviously plain white would be better than fruit print, but whatever is available, right?  You can also experiment with different filters, which is what I need to do.

Then set up the lights on each side.

You should have 2.  Silly me was thinking I would use natural light on one side of the box and the lamp on the other.  I forgot that nighttime occurs and dinner photos would only be half lit.  😳   So, I need another light.

Note that I left the flaps on the front of my box so that I could block any ambient light if I choose to, like fluorescent lights in the house.

If I end up not using it much, at least somebody will.

Here are 2 shots from dinner.  On the counter (no flash):

In the light box:

I need to play with how close I put the lights, because I think it is a wee over exposed on the one side.  Or maybe it is the background poster board.  Anyway, everything comes out that much crisper.  mmmmm….. crispy….

Of course, now this is making me want a new digital camera.  Anyone have a spare Canon Rebel they want to donate? :mrgreen:

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24 thoughts on “Do it yourself light box

  1. Pubsgal

    This is so cool! What a difference it makes! And Pixie cracks me up – of *course* no project goes unassisted! 🙂

    Oh and your last line reminds me of the “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” and similar books. “If you give a Lori a light box, she’ll want a new digital camera…”

  2. Cilla

    Pixie is so cute. I love kitties and their almost universal box fetish. My Jax has a wonderful (and pricey) cat bed, but he sleeps in a half-unpacked box in the spare room.

  3. Kim

    Wow, that is a huge difference in picture quality. Now just add the ability for us to smell those great looking meals. 🙂

  4. sherijung

    Mmmm, yes, I think you are getting a strong light reflection from the white poster board. Have you experimented with a darker background? Your dishes are light, so maybe a piece of dark fabric might create a nice contrast.

    I assume you have seen Maru the cat on YouTube? I cannot get enough of him and his boxes (and bags).

    1. Lori Post author

      I need to play with the different backgrounds. I might get a different bulb as well for the lamp. I am having fun with my new toy, though!

  5. Shelley B

    Pixie: “Thanks, Mom, for making me this cool playhouse” She is so funny – you will have to photograph her inside the box so we can see her markings in full glory!j

    By the way, it’s incredible how much better and more appetizing your dinner looked when shot in the light box – not that it looked particularly bad before, but WOW, it really pops with the better lighting!

    That giant cupcake is all icing. The smaller ones look more appealing to me.

    1. Lori Post author

      I will have to see if I can get her to sit in the box with the light on, that would be funny!

      I am the opposite with frosting, the cake is just the delivery vehicle for frosting 😀

  6. Mabelle @ Dance, Love, Dine

    Wow! I cant believe the light box makes such a HUGE difference!!! I think Im going to have to print out your instructions and make my own light box in the near future. PS: That cupcake looks sooo delicious…ahhh temptation! 🙂

  7. debby

    YES! We are twins about the frosting vs cake thing. I was just trying to explain this to the girls at work this week!

    And very interesting about the light box. I didn’t really know what you were talking about. And I thought your food pictures always looked good! What a difference.

    And Pixie is a crack-up.

  8. anne h

    I use side lighting, and backdrops sometimes.
    But mostly natural light. Outdoors.
    Recently I was taking a pic of my dinner,
    holding out a plate, at arm length, over the balcony….
    as usual……
    A new neighbor got a kick out of watching me!
    The other neighbors said – “Oh, she does that all the time!”
    Or something like that! Good, clean fun.

  9. Jody - Fit at 53

    Lori – I got this message this morn when I tried to comment- Sorry, this version of CommentLuv (v276) is no longer supported. Please update the CommentLuv plugin that is installed on this site. Click here to visit the download page or use the automatic update in the WordPress dashboard. (If you are commenting, please tell the webmaster of this site that their CommmentLuv plugin needs updating!)

    Anyway, love the coffee/bagel place. We don’t have quaint places like that & the bagel/cupcakes.. OMG!

    You are so resourceful with that light bow but I got to say, I love your helper!!!!! 🙂

  10. Leah

    Yes, I’ll also take a donated Canon Rebel… a good digital “big” camera is top of my list. Hubby knows…I’m looking for to post-graduation holidays where it might actually show up under the tree one year. 🙂

    Thanks for the step by step on the light box!

  11. Amanda @ bakingwithoutabox

    Why is it that we can buy our kitties toys and beds and they aren’t interested. But open a box and there they are. Darling Pixie shots. Great job building your own light box!
    What an awesome bagel place. I thought of you this morning when I changed grips on my chin ups. Remembered that if you could make it through that big long list of exercises, I could at least tweak one I already do.

  12. Roz

    OH how great is that??? And what a huge difference on the picture. Love the lightbox idea. Have fun taking pictures, and love that Pixie was in there “helping”. Take care.

  13. Roxie

    This is so awesome, Lori. Thank you for sharing the info on the light box. I really must get off my behind and take a photography class. I might take more pics if they came out better!

    Oh, and Pixie, well, what a helper!

  14. Ang

    The light box does make the photo drastically different. I’m a terrible photographer. If the photo is visible and you can tell what it’s supposed to be I consider it a win. 🙂

    I love icing. Cake…not so much. I would love a tiny piece of cake with tons of icing.

  15. John

    Until your before and afters I was thinking that was a lot of trouble for better pics but it does make a big difference. Sorry no spare camera 🙁

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