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How to Build a Wooden Light Box for Photography

How to Build a Wooden Light Box for Photography

How to build a wooden light box for photography on Manda Blogs About.net

The best blog posts always include amazing photos, especially if you’re a food blogger or post product reviews so I bought this camera, Samsung 14.2MP CMOS Smart WiFi Digital Camera with 18x Optical Zoom and decided to build a wooden light box for photography to help relaunch the Manda Blogs About… blog. A cardboard or PVC light box design would not work because of Frito so I made my light box out of wood and hardboard. The whole project (including the lights) costs less than $70. There are affiliate links included in this post that link to some of the items that I used on Amazon. I bought the wood and hardboard from Lowe’s for around $20.




 

Supplies

Furring strip and hardboard wall panel for making a wooden light box for photography.
Furring strip and hardboard wall panel.

Tools

Tools for making a wooden light box for photography.
Circular saw, tape measure, brad nailer and yard stick.

Notes on Tools

The power tools I used made it quicker and easier for me to make a wooden light box. I already had the tools and know how to use them so this was a fun project that only took a few hours for me to complete, not including the time for the paint to dry. I’ve included modified directions so that you can make this box without power tools, it’s just going to take a little longer.

I made the base of my box with plywood so that it would be sturdy and because I wanted it to look like a table top since I’m using it mostly for food photography. You can make the bottom of your light box out of the hardboard if you don’t have a circular saw or if you want to make the box lighter.

If you’re not comfortable using a circular saw the hardboard can be cut with a utility knife. Use the yardstick as a straight edge and go over the cut a few times with the blade of the knife.

You can use a hammer and 3/4 inch brads if you do not have an air compressor or a brad nailer.

You can sand the plywood bottom of the box by hand if you don’t have an orbital sander. I sanded mine by hand so that it would have a rustic look.

Instructions for Building the Light Box

The box that I made is a 21 x 21 inch square.

  1. Cut two 21 x 21 inch square pieces of hardboard for the sides.
  2. Cut two 21 x 22 inch square pieces of hardboard for the top and back pieces.
  3. Measure four inches in from each side and cut a square out of the center of both of the sides and the top piece of hardboard

    side panel with square cut out of center.
    Side panel with square cut out of center.
  4. Use the utility knife to clean up the corners if cutting with the circular saw.
  5. Sand around the cut edges by hand with the 200 grit sand paper.
  6. I cut a slit in the top piece so that I could slide in a fabric backdrop without disrupting the lighting. Measure one inch in from the back and one inch in from each side. Make two cuts the width of the saw blade.
  7. Cut a 21 x 21 inch square piece of plywood for the bottom.
  8. Cut two 21 inch pieces of furring for the top braces.
  9. Cut two 18 1/2 inch pieces of furring for the side braces.
  10. Glue and nail the 21 inch furring strip to the top of each side piece. Make the strip square with the top edge of the hardboard.

    21 inch furring strip for side brace.
    21 inch furring strip for side brace.
  11. Glue and nail the 18 1/2 inch furring strip to the side of each side piece, below the top brace. Make the strip square with the back edge of the hardboard.

    Top and side braces on each side panel.
    Top and side braces on the outside of each side panel.
  12. The brads will make the hardboard flare out. Sand it down by hand with the 200 grit sand paper.
  13. Smear the caulk into the nail holes with your finger and then wipe clean with a damp paper towel.
  14. Spray paint the sides, back and top panels. Spray paint in straight lines from side to side, working your way down each panel. Let the paint dry for an hour between each coat.

    Spray paint the panels for the inside of the box white.
    Spray paint the panels for the inside of the box white.
  15. Lightly sand by hand with the 200 grit sand paper and dust off with a dry rag after the first and second coats. You should only need three coats.
  16. Sand the plywood for the bottom with the 50 grit sandpaper to make it smooth and remove any marks, then again with the 80 grit sand paper to to make it smoother for finishing. Wipe with a dry rag. (The orbital sander will make this quicker and create a cleaner finished product. I did this by hand with an older piece of plywood so that it would look rustic.)

    Hand sand the bottom piece for a rustic look.
    Hand sand the bottom piece for a rustic look.
  17. Mix your stain well and apply to the plywood bottom with a rag, moving with the grain of the wood in long strokes. Don’t use a dry rag, make sure it’s soaked well with the stain.

    Stain with the grain of the wood.
    Stain with the grain of the wood.
  18. Let the stain dry for two hours then apply a coat of poly using the two inch foam brush or paint brush. (Clean the brush with water between coats and store it in a covered cup of water. Be sure to clean the water out of the brush before each coat.)
  19. Let that coat dry for two hours and then lightly sand by hand with the 200 grit sand paper.
  20. Apply a second coat of poly.
  21. Let that coat dry for two hours and then lightly sand by hand with the 200 grit sand paper.
  22. Apply the final coat of poly and let it dry.

    Use three coats of water-based poly.
    Use three coats of water-based poly.
  23. Put a bead of glue across the bottom edge of  one of the side panels and then nail it to the bottom panel.
  24. Do the same to the other side panel.
  25. Apply a bead of glue to the sides and bottom of the back panel. Nail to the bottom first and then the sides.

    Top and side braces of light box.
    Top and side braces of light box.
  26. Apply a bead of glue to the back edge and side edges of the top panel and then nail it to the side braces.
  27. Wait 30 minutes for the glue to set and then caulk the seams where the white back and side panels come together with a 1/8 inch bead of caulk.
  28. Smooth the bead with a wet finger in one long swoop and clean the excess off with a wet paper towel.

    Finished inside of wooden light box.
    Finished inside of wooden light box (featuring Kitty Pants).

Setting Up the Light Box for Photography

  1. Fold the sheet depending on how much you want to filter the light.
  2. Place one end of the folded sheet under the edge of the bottom of the box and wrap around the top.
  3. Tuck the other end of the sheet under the bottom of the opposite side of the box.

    Fold sheet and wrap around top of the wooden light box.
    Fold sheet to filter the light and wrap around top of the wooden light box.
  4. Clamp a light to each side and the top of the front of the box then adjust to angle the light inside the box.
  5. Use the spring clamps to hold the sheet to the side braces or clamp the cords out of your way.
  6. If you made the slit in the top of your light box you can insert back drops without readjusting the lights and the sheet if you’re filtering the light from the top.
  7. If you’re taking photos from the top opening of the box you can use the clamps to keep the sides covered with the sheet and out of the way of the top opening.
Adjustable clamp lights and spring clips.
Adjustable clamp lights and spring clips.

 

Clamp lights and sheet to filter light.
Clamp lights and sheet to filter light.





Frito claimed this as his home for the first few days after I made it. He attacked me repeatedly when I tried to remove him so that’s why he is prominently featured in these photos.

Bengal cat - Kitty Pants photo taken using a light box.
Kitty Pants – photo taken using a light box.

Here’s an example of what a difference the light box will make for your photographs. The first picture is just some keys in the box without the sheet or lights set up. The second picture shows the keys with the sheet over the box and all three of the lights turned on.

Picture of keys without the use of a light box.
Picture of keys without the use of a light box.

 

Picture of keys using a light box.
Picture of keys using a light box.


 

There may be affiliate links within my posts.

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