Homemade Lightbox

About a month ago one of my clients asked me to photograph some of his products for his online store, now I had the right camera at my disposal, however I did not have a lightbox I could use. So I went online and Googled around only to find out that a professional lightbox costs around $200! So I searched for a homemade lightbox and to my amazement, there are tons of ways to create your own lightbox.

One that caught my attention was a post by Bill Huber at www.pbase.com. I actually printed the image he posted and took it with me to the hardware store so it’ll help me find what I’m looking for. On his post he mentioned that you needed to get a 1/2 pvc pipe and 1/2 tees ,street elbows, and caps. When I got to the hardware store I found out that there was a discrepancy on one of his measurements.

I learned that a 1/2 pvc pipe will not insert into a 1/2 tee, street elbow, or cap, simply because they are the same size. You would need to have one size bigger than the other. So I tried the 3/4 tee and low and behold the pvc pipe slid right in! Here is a list of what I bought:

2 – 1/2 @ 23 inches. PVC pipe
2 – 1/2 @ 16 inches. PVC pipe
2 – 1/2 @ 14 inches. PVC pipe
4 – 3/4 PVC Tees
4 – 3/4 PVC Street Elbows
4 – 3/4 PVC Caps
2 – workshop lights
2 – 20 watt fluorescent bulbs

[ click on the images for a larger view ]
PVC Pipes

Shop Lights


I believe my total came out to about $15.00. After the hardware store I passed by a local hobby store and picked up a poster board that will serve as a backdrop for my lightbox. I bought this glossy-type poster board called Write-on/Wipe-off Poster Board.
Poster Board

I found this white blanket somewhere in my closet, basically it’s purpose is to diffuse the light glare coming from the fluorescent bulbs.

And here is a complete shot of everything you need to build your own lightbox:
Homemade Lightbox

And now the homemade lightbox assembly, this is actually fairly easy, it’s like putting Legos together! I started off with the 23 inches & 16 inches pvc pipes and connected the 3/4 tees like so:
Step 1

Next I connected the 3/4 street elbows to the tees:
Step 2

Then I took the 14 inches pvc pipe (4 pieces) and put the caps on the end, this would serve as the feet for our lightbox:
Step 3

And lastly, we insert our 4 pvc pipes into the street elbows and here is the final result:
Step 4

And again…

On Bill Huber’s post he also mentioned gluing the pvc pipes together, I decided not to glue mine together because I knew I would need to transport the lightbox to my client’s location.

Here is my set up, I just taped the poster board onto the pvc pipe as oppose to screwing it down, again so it’ll be easier for me to transport the lightbox anywhere I want.
Sample 1

Lights out !!!
Sample 2
Homemade Lightbox Sample

And lastly here are some sample shots I made using the lightbox. Please note that in order to achieve a true white background effect, you will need to change your camera’s apperture / shutter speed / ISO settings. These pictures have a slight blue tint because I didn’t take the time to adjust the settings, but with the right combination you should be able to achieve a white background effect. Or you can be lazy and just edit the images in Photoshop and adjust the levels!
Lightbox Sample

Lightbox Sample

Lightbox Sample

Lightbox Sample

Well I hope you found this post helpful, there are many other ways to make your own lightbox but I found this one fairly simple.

24 Responses to “Homemade Lightbox”

  1. David A. Desrosiers

    The reason isn’t the brightness or contrast, it’s that you need to lose 1 to 1.3 stops on your exposure when you take the photo.

    Most people forget to adjust the camera’s white balance settings, and end up with a grey background instead of the white they intended.

    If you’re taking a photo of something that is “light” on a white background, your camera is going to try to adjust the white balance to compensate and draw out the image from the background. If you don’t set your exposure to 1 to 1.3 stops ahead, you’ll get the milky result like in JB’s photos above.

    You’ll see a DRAMATIC improvement in your photos once you get this technique down right. The same goes for photographing something dark on a dark background, you need to adjust your exposure the opposite way.

    I have a PVC light box that I built with two backdrops, depending on what I’m taking photos of; “polar white” and “coal black”, using matte board from the local craft store.

    Good luck!

  2. bath salts

    Great pvc work with that lightbox, i found a better material to cover with that flows light PERFECT – Click Here to find out!

  3. Mephedrone

    good job on the guide/pictures, i want to make a lightbox now!!!

  4. TMT Bars

    can any one send me process to make lightbox.

  5. mrniceguy incense

    This is just what I was searchin for. So happy i found this site :))

  6. منتديات

    No wonder why brooklyn’s shoes were sitting in the light box. I think if

  7. How to Make a Lightbox | From Mascara To Meatloaf

    […] you want to build a sturdier lightbox, here is a link to one using PVC piping and other materials, and it’s still relatively inexpensive.  I […]

  8. soccer boots

    Poul after posting this I am sure you have win many heart of us.

  9. User

    Dude, JB, how much for this blog template, it’s sick! Email me!

  10. Seattle Architects

    I like your use of the PVC pipe. I have a table that has legs in almost the same formation so I’ve used that, without the table top (which is removable)to use as a frame.

  11. whydo

    Your blog design is awesome! Took a little long to load up but it’s worth it. The comments section is incredible!

  12. Jon B

    I’m guessing it’s the camera you are using. Try adjusting the brightness and contrast, that might help.

    Also you can try adjusting the Levels in Photoshop..if you don’t have Photoshop..go to http://pixlr.com/editor/ and you can edit your photo online.

    Just load your image – click on Adjustment – Levels and play around with the settings.

    – JB

  13. marc

    Hi-I only have a easyshare cx7330 digital camera and am trying to set up light box to take photos of watches..but keep getting grey (not pure white background) I have light box and 2 pro lamps on the sides..I don’t think my camera has a aperture setting.. unless you meant the thing that says -+ 2 on it? can this be done or am I fighting a losing cause on this white background situation…is it my camer or is it the lighting? what do I need to do…please reply..my small business depends on it..

  14. Nixx

    do black ppl look liek they fuckin liek u?? urll ppl are so racist !!!!

  15. amy

    3/4″ fittings do not work, I need to go back and get 1/2″

  16. justine

    don’t like white people very much!

  17. wtfunks

    2 – 1/2 @ 14 inches. PVC pipe

    change that to 4 – 1/2 @ 14 inches. PVC pipe..

    had to make a trip back to home depot..

  18. Steve

    I don’t like black people very much

  19. http://www.golfnorwich.com/

    Very cool. thanks for sharing. My ebay pictures will never be the same. :)


  20. carmen

    The 1/2″ PVC pipes goes right through the 3/4″ elbows and tees. You’d need to find the 3/4″ to 1/2″ adapter to ensure they’ll exactly. Else, you’d have to put glue or cement on the frame and leave the rest as they are for ease of transporting it around.

  21. Randomness

    Very Clever Idea! I like it.

    Total Randomness.

    I heart randomness…

  22. Lisa

    No wonder why brooklyn’s shoes were sitting in the light box. I think if you just use a plain matte poster board instead of the glossy finish it would eliminate the tint and object reflection.

  23. jon

    Thanks Paul, yeah I’m not a photographer nor have I taken any photography class so my results suck. But I’m sure a person who knows what they are doing will know how to get the proper results.

  24. Paul

    Interesting project though not sure of the results..
    – Paul @ http://www.photographyvoter.com

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