DIY Light Box for Less than $60 Dollars

As a self-proclaimed “Aspiring Minimalist,” I’m always amused at the “things” one must take-on in order to facilitate the purging of certain items. And lets be clear about those certain items, I mean a once-cherished-all-consuming toy collection. And for this collection of things to leave my house, I have rules. And, that is what this project is about; identifying, acknowledging and letting go. Another distinction, when I say, “Letting go” I mean physically. I still retain the story which is important to me. And, with my rules in place, I will gather my beautiful toy pictures into a photo book and in the process take time to say good-bye.

The actual “Collection” story will come later. For now, let’s build something to facilitate the purging of something else.

There is a Light Box @ the End of this Story

The whole purpose of a light box is to capture an image in a controlled manner that is exempt from all shadows and lit from all around. Light is diffused through the material which aids in shooting objects with minimal glare. It is essentially, a mini photo studio that results in pro-like catalogue shots seen on any online shopping site.

I found several online How To‘s about building a light box. Most were desktop size, too small. I definitely need something taller. The one that I liked most was a complete cube frame. My pre-photo thoughts were that the bottom crossbar would present itself as an obstacle.  I used the cube as my model and tweaked the design to remove that bottom crossbar – creating a more garage type structure. It would now have more flexibility of angles.

Additional requirements were that it be low cost DIY and that I utilize what I already have on hand, Duh! I decided at least 32″ tall would be an ideal size for my use. I would not use any type of glue in the construction and that it be durable enough so that I may dismantle it often, for future use.

Supply run, I originally designed with 1/2″ PVC pipe in mind. Why? Because all the other online examples used it. I knew from the research that the three-way (Slip-Slip-Slip) corner piece would prove to be the most difficult to find. It was not available at the first local hardware store I went to. I had a conversation with the handyman and he confirmed that they would be difficult to find. I spotted what I thought I needed on the shelf but, it was 3/4″ (Larger). He explained that my supply list was all available in that size (3/4″). A second to think, “hmmm only a few pennies more and I’m not married to the idea of 1/2″ and 3/4″ seems even more durable.” Viola! Command decision to size up. All PVC in one stop. I then swung by the fabric store for what I estimated to be 4 yards of material to drape the light box.

Supply List

  • 11 – 3/4″ PVC Pipe in 32″ lengths
  •  6 – 3/4″ PVC Pipe Corners (Slip-Slip-Slip)
  •  2 – 3/4″ PVC Pipe Elbows
  •  2 – 8 1/2″ Clamp Work Lights
  •  2 – 60 to 120 Daylight Bulbs
  •  1 – hacksaw
  •  4 – Utility clips (*optional for holding fabric to frame)
  •  4 yards white fabric
  •  Butcher paper or a large piece of craft board (and tape or something to secure it)

Supply Notes: perhaps your local hardware store will make the pvc cuts for you. If not, have some way to cut at home or purchase a hacksaw. PVC corner pieces are “Slip-Slip-Slip” not the more common “Slip-Slip-Thread.” You want all of you pieces to slide/slip together with ease. The utility clips are optional. I chose to sew a semi fitted cover myself.

Assemble: cut PVC polls to size (32″) and snap together according to drawing. Secure paper backdrop. Drape the frame and clip fabric to frame. Bulbs into clamp lights, plug it in and light it up

In the end, it came in at $58 and change. Just under my $60 dollar budget.

Lastly, I leave you with a few toy shots, with a little help from Photoshop. These were all shot with a simple point-and-click Nokia camera I bought a couple of years ago for under a hundred dollars mounted on a $12 Radio Shack tripod – and a light box.

Happy Snapping Kiddies!

About halapeno

"I believe the need to make and create is inherent. Self-made, if you will!"
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2 Responses to DIY Light Box for Less than $60 Dollars

  1. Christine says:

    I’ve been searching instructions for making the perfect light frame/box and YOURS IS THE BEST! I cannot wait to get the materials to make this! I need a large one and all the others were too small for me. And….I LOVE the corner pieces that you used in your design, PERFECT AND THE BEST! Thank you, thank you!

  2. Christine says:

    I have searched for the perfect light box and YOURS IS IT! Thank you for the larger size and the perfect corners!

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