Homemade Lightbox [Archive] - OSW: One Sixth Warrior Forum

View Full Version : Homemade Lightbox

09-01-2011, 14:07
Just set this up this week, and toy photos are much easier and much better now. Figured I'd post here to show how easy it actually is and some before/after shots with the same camera:

http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6085/6103994314_5a27157288.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/edwick/6103994314/)
Short instructions: Get box. Cut holes on 3 sides. Attach velcro over holes and in box. Attach velcro to sheer cloth for sides and to posterboard for the back. Paste posterboard onto sides. Stick everything on. Get 3 desk lamps and 3 100W equivalent bulbs (I'm using daylight CFLs). Take much better pictures.

http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6185/6103447101_5877d15578.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/edwick/6103447101/)
I used velcro in a few places so I could swap out the side light diffusers (for stuff like acetate/cellophane to do lighting effects) or just remove them, and on the backing so I can put in different color backgrounds or maybe even camo cloth.

http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6207/6103447589_fbfc8b78f1.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/edwick/6103447589/)
In action.

The difference having real light control makes is immeasurable. I'm still using the same camera I ever was. The left photo is before, taken in the best natural lighting conditions I had in the house before with no flash. Right photo is the same figure (with improved eyeglasses) in the lightbox:
http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5091/5514207146_abd8548d0c.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/edwick/5514207146/) http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6087/6100865267_15c3549450.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/edwick/6100865267/)

One more comparison shot. I had to use a flash and open the aperture wide to get the shot on the left, so depth of field has gone to hell (his head is in focus, but the gun isn't). Lightbox means I can shoot at ISO 200 and still get really deep focus:
http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5218/5521209157_3427bcb4bc.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/edwick/5521209157/) http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6082/6100910159_8482490bf6.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/edwick/6100910159/)

I may even try a few shots with my wife's mid-range point-and-shoot or even my iPhone just to see what happens.

Now the only problem is that I'm having too much fun re-shooting old figs to keep working on new ones, let alone all the other stuff I'm SUPPOSED to be doing...:).

09-01-2011, 15:35
I need a light box as well. Thanks for sharing your version of one!

09-01-2011, 20:44
Edwick, dude, that is awesome! What kind of cloth are you using? Also, how are you lighting the figure from the front - do you still have to use the camera's flash?

09-01-2011, 22:21
So awesome! Thanks for the instructions - the difference in the quality of the pictures is amazing. I am definitely going to try my hand at making my own light box. Thanks!

09-02-2011, 01:21
Edwick, dude, that is awesome! What kind of cloth are you using? Also, how are you lighting the figure from the front - do you still have to use the camera's flash?

:think Honestly, I have no idea what kind of cloth that is :lol. My wife had it lying around and it turned out perfect for what I needed. I think she said it's muslin, but you can probably use a cheesecloth or even an old undershirt. It's just to diffuse the light to make it more even, so any fairly transparent cloth should do. As a side note, the shot that shows the velcro is also showing my cheesy "hem" of the fabric -- I just used FabriTac to keep it from fraying rather than hemming properly. Lazy + cheap == good :D.

I'm also not lighting the figure from the front at all and not using a flash. I read about using rear-sync flash (setting it so that the flash fires at the end of the exposure), and I may try that sometime because it's supposed to make nice, flattering shadows. However, that's strictly optional -- there's enough light in the lightbox that I shot all those photos above at ISO 200 (low noise) at an f/10 or higher aperture (high depth of field) without a flash. Even that last photo of the lightbox in action didn't use a flash.

09-19-2011, 16:48
omg..wow..yea can totally tell the difference..im gonna bookmark this thread and see what i can do....

09-20-2011, 20:50
i bought 2 new lights..and got a box...half way there...

da Bronx Commando
09-20-2011, 21:06
Nice! I need to make one of these myself. Thanks for the idea.

09-21-2011, 17:44
ive got the box made, now i need to cover up the holes...

09-21-2011, 21:19
ta da!! getting there..need brighter bulbs, only got 60 watt and they arent that bright..

lmk what'cha think and thanks for the tips..btw...yeaaaaa..not as easy as one would think to build...lol...mine is very crude, but the end results so far are nice....lol...

09-21-2011, 22:54
Looking good! Brighter bulbs will definitely help -- my first lights were 60-75 watt LEDs and they just weren't bright enough. You may also want to fiddle a bit with your camera's white balance settings. That's why the photos have that slight orange cast to them. Most of cameras are set up to do auto white balance and newer ones are better at it, but setting it manually will give you the best results. Setting my camera's white balance was the only difference between this shot:

http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6187/6084954178_d84cd9ccd3.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/edwick/6084954178/)
First Lightbox Photos (http://www.flickr.com/photos/edwick/6084954178/) by edwick (http://www.flickr.com/people/edwick/), on Flickr

and this one:

http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6083/6100899009_125730f448.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/edwick/6100899009/)
SFC Needleman Reloaded (http://www.flickr.com/photos/edwick/6100899009/) by edwick (http://www.flickr.com/people/edwick/), on Flickr

The white posterboard in the second shot is actually white, which is how you can tell that your WB is right.

09-21-2011, 22:58
lol..yea, i was testing the settings a bit. ive got a brand new sony cyber shot camera, so it does take good pics, im just still learning about it..lol..thanks for all the tips and stuff...appreciate it...

i do have an LED light on top, so as soon as i can switch it out to a brighter, real bulb light, i will..it's just a stand in for now...i got the other two on clearance at walmart for 4 bucks each(think they were 7 or so)....

09-21-2011, 23:56
a few more samples...lol..im very excited about this..
figured out how to get the white to look white...what'cha think?


09-22-2011, 15:56
is white the best color to use for the background? or should i mix it up a bit? use darker ones for lighter bashes? and vice versa?

09-22-2011, 20:22
Looking good! One other tip I've mentioned elsewhere is also to give a try to the "landscape" setting on your camera. It's the one with two mountains on it. The reason is that it will turn off the flash and amp up your depth of field, so everything in the picture stays in focus. If you want to focus in on something specific, you can use the portrait setting, but keep that flash off. Flash photos suck.

re: backgrounds. When I set up my black posterboard as a background for my lightbox, I'll let you know :). My plan was to play some lighting games for the summer group bash (and, now, the CalTek contest bash) with a dark background and much less light to see if I can get some good, moody, shadow-y effects. It doesn't quite look the same in a pure-white lightbox:

http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6068/6162390924_d48f642696_m.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/edwick/6162390924/)
Playing with Lighting (http://www.flickr.com/photos/edwick/6162390924/) by edwick (http://www.flickr.com/people/edwick/), on Flickr

is not anywhere near as striking or dramatic an image as the album cover I've attached below, and I'm pretty sure I won't be able to get anything like it without a dark background or a lot of photoshopping. Not to say it can't be done (this image is one of my favorites I've ever seen here (https://www.onesixthwarriors.com/forum/sixth-scale-action-figure-news-reviews-discussion/626581-how-should-one-photograph-dark-scene-diorama.html#post1777534), and it was taken in front of a bright window), but I'm also of the belief that the less messing you have to do after the picture is taken, the better.

Anyway, the beauty of digital photography and the cheapo lightbox is that experimentation is cheap and easy and nobody has to see all the crappy photos you take but you, unless you want to share. If the black posterboard doesn't work out, I'm just out the 79-cents-plus-tax and the time it took to put it together. For every photo I've taken and posted, there's at least 3-4 that sucked. I'll probably even share some of them as examples of what NOT to do 'cuz I've been thinking of a "Serious Amateur's Guide to 1/6 Photography" thread to dump what info I know. I'm not lukazou or any of the other hardcore photographers on the forum, but I know my way around an SLR and there's not much you need to know to take much better pictures.

However, I'm happy to see that at least two people have found out so far that one of them is to build a lightbox :D. If people take better pictures, then I can see what they did better and steal their ideas to make better bashes :nanana

09-23-2011, 20:49
two different settings..one that has the WB set to white(with one push setting)..the other is landscape...


WB set
with a few tweaks on the ol' image viewer program...i figured out that i can auto adjust the brightness in the background and it improves it a ton..(same pic)

which one looks better?

09-23-2011, 22:21
ok, now im just having fun with my wifes monster high doll...wow..works for other stuff too!! lol...im sooooooooooooo glad that i found this thread...


works on non doll/figures too...some repaints that i did awhile back...anywho..i am having a blast doing new pics now...thanks again!!

09-26-2011, 08:48
Looking real good! It is kind of addictive to do photos after make one of these things, isn't it?

Von Luger
10-03-2011, 17:54
great tutorial edwick! really helpful tips and info, i have to put one these together someday.
thanks for sharing.

10-03-2011, 20:20
as crude as my light box is, it works great...next time i'll plan it out a bit better...lol...and honestly, it took about 30 minutes to set up....so if i can do it, anyone can..trust me...

10-04-2011, 07:57
Great post

Also changing the bulb or fabric color will give you different effects. and changing the background will help enhance your photos .

10-08-2011, 08:25
fantastic dude. building 1 2day.

10-08-2011, 15:32
very cool..yea you should go ahead and make that....just to impress you more on the quality of the new pics..

10-09-2011, 23:45
Experimented with a new black background for the OSW Kitbash Contest and discovered that I'll need to underexpose the shots a bit for them to come out well. These are probably the best shots I got in the whole session, and I think these are even straight from the camera, no modifications (as always, click to enlarge):

http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6231/6229217268_40f8fd0cbe.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/edwick/6229217268/)

http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6225/6229217946_d6e65aa38e.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/edwick/6229217946/)

However, most of them came out like this:
http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6180/6229335294_bfc43b6e6f.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/edwick/6229335294/)

Or like this:
http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6231/6229335010_24b19542db.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/edwick/6229335010/)

Yuck. Gotta spend some more time tweaking the settings and seeing what happens. I could salvage some of them (enough to submit something, anyway), but I'm really not very happy with them. One of the better ones:
http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6238/6228701177_b2014d542a.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/edwick/6228701177/)

The good news is that I figured out how to do that, because drastically underexposing with only 1 light source produced this photo:

http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6096/6228701791_33794c11dc.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/edwick/6228701791/)

which isn't completely awful and is almost what I was aiming for.

11-18-2011, 19:27
very cool effects ed!

11-19-2011, 02:06
Thanks! Forgot to post my first fake night vision shot:
http://farm7.staticflickr.com/6037/6314128756_c685589209.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/edwick/6314128756/)

Done by lighting with just one 60W green CFL from the top, on the highest ISO setting the camera had. I actually wanted more grain and noise than the camera produced, so I tweaked some contrast settings and added some noise manually through Photoshop.

Still not where I want it to be, but it's a start. I want to try it again with a black background. Also had a few shots with a dark background that came out much better after I manually tweaked the camera settings, but then my camera ate a bunch of photos on the card. Lost about 2 hours worth of work :grrr.

11-26-2011, 16:31
sweet pics Ed....i really want to redo my lightbox so that its not so crude looking..lol

11-28-2011, 11:12
you guys are awesome!! i can't wait to put together a lightbox and start shooting. i really appreciate all the info in this thread.

11-28-2011, 15:39
it really does make a huge difference with the pics..
and you can take pics of anything(im just showing off now..lol)

12-30-2011, 00:14
Getting a little better at shooting with the black background:
http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7020/6573584193_6591f3c3df.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/edwick/6573584193/)

Helps if the figure(s) have some color in them, though:
http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7012/6598322007_a42761408a.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/edwick/6598322007/)

The trick is definitely lowering the exposure. The big, dark background makes the camera think it's looking at a very dark subject, so it tends to go for longer exposures and wider apertures. I've been using the light meter as a starting guide and then switching the camera to manual and fooling with settings until I get something that looks kind of decent. Still a bit of trial and error to get a good photo out of it, though -- I took 5 times as many photos of the Diamondbacks (all black uniforms + black bodysuit for the Baroness + black background = one insanely over-exposed shot on the first try) as what ended up looking decent enough for the Flickr album.

02-18-2012, 17:44
have you tried using other colors...like the neon ones?...pink or green? or maybe something else..like blue...just wondering...

02-21-2012, 21:07
speaking of light boxes..has anyone done one without the box? like just used the lights and then screens or something with the fabric?? that way, you're not restricted by the size of the box and can pretty much do any sizes....just wondering..i think that would be the next step...

02-23-2012, 11:57
have you tried using other colors...like the neon ones?...pink or green? or maybe something else..like blue...just wondering...
Are you talking about the lights or the backdrop? I have played around a bit with the red and green CFL bulbs that seem to becoming more common in stores these days:

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7005/6758655295_243be1dde5.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/edwick/6758655295/)

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7029/6758654935_96f30cbdfc.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/edwick/6758654935/)

Don't see any reason why you couldn't use alternate colored backdrops as well, though you might need to experiment to see how much adjustment you'd need to make for exposures based on how they reflect/absorb light. The thought had crossed my mind to get something that's as close to the specific green that they use for green-screening in movies so I could do photo composites on my own. If there's matching paints available, that could also be used to paint stands or other supporting materials to make it easier to erase them after the fact. Tried it already with some photos and a black background:
http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7194/6855219655_85f91feef2.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/edwick/6855219655/)

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7206/6855219933_2ccab3536f.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/edwick/6855219933/)

...but the black stand on the bottom photo was just too hard to erase without screwing up the rest of the photo.

Haven't had much time to investigate a green-screen setup, though.

speaking of light boxes..has anyone done one without the box? like just used the lights and then screens or something with the fabric?? that way, you're not restricted by the size of the box and can pretty much do any sizes....just wondering..i think that would be the next step...This thought has occurred to me as well. I think one reason why you cover the sides of the lightbox even though the holes cut in them make them unsuitable backdrops is to make them act like reflectors, so light coming from the opposite side bounces back onto the subject. That just helps get good, even light across the entire subject in the box. If you omit the box and use lamps and a backdrop, I think you'd probably want to set up reflectors or something to do the same thing or you'll get harsher lighting that won't look as nice. It's why photographers prefer shooting outdoors on overcast days or at the dawn/dusk hours rather than shooting in bright sunlight. Cloud cover or the atmosphere at those points act as natural light diffusers. This is also why I avoid shooting with flash whenever possible, since it's just a single, strong light source that often makes the subject look awful.

The idea I had was to set up 2 smaller boxes that are inverted from the design above: the lamps and diffusing fabric go on the INSIDE, while the outside gets the semi-reflective material. Then hang a larger backdrop (probably cloth since it can drape better than paper material), put one smaller box on each side, and hang the top light with a second light diffuser over it. Again, though -- for me, it's a time thing and also one that I had much need for yet. Space is also a consideration -- I'm not sure I could put my top-light over a setup like that without building some kind of larger frame around it.

02-23-2012, 19:46
sorry..was talking about backdrop..kind of dropped the ball, didnt i? lol...

04-23-2012, 20:24
i found a nice light blue posterboard that id love to try out...have you done other colors, besides black paper yet? whites good..but a nice color would be better maybe..lol.. and since im really wanting to redo my box here soon, figured that it would be a good time to try out some new things...

04-24-2012, 08:55
сколько стоит в вашем бассейне абонемент на месяц? и как часто вы там плаваете?

04-24-2012, 14:15
Very informative thread, thanks!

04-24-2012, 19:59
I'm just going to chime in here as well, for a slightly different version of edwick's box, this is one I did that kinda spurred this on...:wink


04-25-2012, 02:27
i found a nice light blue posterboard that id love to try out...have you done other colors, besides black paper yet? whites good..but a nice color would be better maybe..lol.. and since im really wanting to redo my box here soon, figured that it would be a good time to try out some new things...

Nah, not yet. Before I do it, I'll probably just make that bigger one and will pop for a few bits of cloth instead of posterboard. I think it'll make it easier to swap backgrounds out.

05-11-2012, 23:26
i bought a piece of light blue posterboard..some quick shots...what do you think? nothing fancy or anything..


05-12-2012, 13:10
What a neat idea!!

Sooooooooo simple too. I'm certain I've got the materials around to make the box. I'd just need the lights.

What sort of bulbs would anyone recommend!? Ordinary, halogen or energy saving!? What's the best wattage?


05-12-2012, 15:34
i use the energy saving ones....the swirly looking ones....lol...not sure of the watts...but they arent too high...maybe 60 at most....they give off pretty good light for this..at least for me...
it is pretty easy to make and i keep wanting to update mine and kind of open it up more bigger stuff...more like a photo shoot area in real life....you know what i mean? anywho...make one and take pics and share with us...good luck

im not sure if i like the blue BG or not..lol..makes my ST look yellow...may have to mess around with my settings a bit..what do you guys think?

05-13-2012, 05:32
Ah, great,

I have one of those bulbs in my room, you get sharper shadows with those.

I'll have to look into setting one up one day.


05-13-2012, 21:13
Here's my attempt. I need cloth that's more sheer, I think.

05-13-2012, 21:17
you can also brighten it up with your basic windows photo viewer(depending on which win version you have)....in wn7, its windows live photo gallery and click on edit..it opens a new window, click on the pic that you want...opens..then click on exposure and mess around with the settings..it's pretty cool and helps a lot if you have issues with your camera settings(which i do, still...) so i just use the windows program...lol...

btw, great start ryan..cant wait to see more of your stuff up close and done in the box...brings them out and shows them off even better...also, unless you need the extra length, id cut your box off about where you have the split in the white paper...of course..that may mean you have to redo the whole thing..but in the long run, that may be ok(if it's shorter)....you'll be able to get closer to your subject...just some thoughts..im in no way an expert on this..just some ideas/suggestions for ya...

just a basic pic

with a few different tweaks on the windows program..and my background really is blue....lol...

05-13-2012, 21:25
Eh, I rock Photoshop Elements 9 (patches and such.) I usually like to go all-natural (one major exception), but here's a decent correction.

05-13-2012, 21:29
that makes a huge difference...

05-14-2012, 11:31
This is one inspiring thread,

You do wonder how many see it though as most of us head straight for the discussions bit.

One day I'll give one a go for sure


05-14-2012, 17:27
What sort of bulbs would anyone recommend!? Ordinary, halogen or energy saving!? What's the best wattage?
I'm using 100W equivalent daylight compact fluorescent bulbs (the twistys/CFLs/energy saving). Normal CFLs will give your photos a pretty strong orange cast and I think the daylight CFLs have better color fidelity. The 100W equivalents (23-26W actual energy usage) are bright enough to shoot handheld the way I want/need to. The extremely short version is that Brighter == Better because you can always reduce the amount of light hitting your subject (pulling the lamps further away from the box, covering them with some more opaque material, turning some lights off), but if you've got all 3 lights on and still aren't getting enough light, you're stuck. I could start spouting off about ISO and aperture settings, but I'll hold off until I actually write that post and take some demo photos so you can see what the practical effects are, or someone says they want to hear it.

I'd avoid halogen or regular incandescent bulbs only because the 100W equivalents will get VERY hot and that'll make your figs all sweaty and uncomfortable during long shoots :). In all seriousness, I'd be concerned about setting things on fire with either type, although you can definitely use either if you're careful. But the daylight CFLs give you just as good results and you save on your electric bill. Not much to lose other than a bit of upfront expense that will pay itself back pretty fast over the lifetime of the bulb.

Liking the results I'm seeing from the alternate posterboard and the new lightbox, too!

05-15-2012, 17:17
you should ask the mods to move it to the 1/6th section..it does deal with 1/6th figures..more or less..may get some more action...

05-15-2012, 19:26
Thanks for the advice,

When I can stop buying figures I'll try and get together parts for this.


05-15-2012, 20:21
20 bucks tops...for all the parts...box - free at walmart or store....pffft...dont pay for one...
posterboard...a buck usually for the nicer stuff....find some cheap lamps on sale..5 bucks each for 3..plus if you catch the good deals at your home remodeling store..you can get some nice cheap priced ones...dont know about where you live, but at home depot, they have a 4 pack of the bulbs for like 3 bucks...perfect for this...lol....so really it's pretty cheap to actually do...at least in this capacity..lol...

05-16-2012, 17:24
you should ask the mods to move it to the 1/6th section..it does deal with 1/6th figures..more or less..may get some more action...
I dunno, I think it's OK where it is. If anything, the dedicated photography threads over on the main board should be over here :).

Thanks for the advice,

When I can stop buying figures I'll try and get together parts for this.
As spiderrogue mentioned, it's really cheap to knock one of these things together. It took a lot longer to get the energy to get off by butt to do it than it did to get the stuff for it, and I think I spent more on the lamps than on everything else put together (only because I swung from being picky to impatient, so I went from buying nothing for a long time ("it's close but not quite") to buying all 3 in one swoop ("hell with it!")). Once I was done, I had a major, "Why didn't I do this sooner?" moment.

Now all I need to do is get the energy to get off my butt to make a bigger one...:p.

05-19-2012, 16:33
Thanks guys,

My main problem is having somewhere to stand everything, when I work that out I'll start thinking about it.


101st trooper
08-15-2012, 14:23
great tips!

08-15-2012, 16:59

chris u'5
08-15-2012, 18:02
I can't tell you how often I've looked at this thread :(

I spend an awful lot of time on my 'bashes and I feel I've improved a lot since I started this hobby a year or so ago but my photography skills still suck ballz!

I've tried various (decent) cameras but the light in my house really is not conducive to good quality photographs.

It's pretty soul destroying to be honest as a big part of this hobby in my opinion is showing and sharing your work and when I spend so much time putting my 'bashes together and my only audience is my girlfriend and new born baby, who both could not give a flying XXXX, I really need to get sorted with a light box of some sort.

08-17-2012, 11:41
To quote Ahnuld: "Do it. DO IT!!!" :)

Seriously, knocking together a lightbox is the easiest, fastest way to get better photos no matter what camera you're using. Think of light as the basic raw material for photography -- the better and more consistent your light is, the better your photos will turn out. Right after getting a pair of good serger's tweezers for modern MOLLE bashes, the lightbox was definitely the biggest "really should have done this sooner" additions to my 1/6 scale toolbox.

That being said, I think your photos show off your (excellent) work just fine now :).

chris u'5
08-17-2012, 13:59
Thanks dude.

I'm going to try and find a couple of cheap desk lamps this weekend...

11-01-2012, 01:59
Finally started in on my new, larger lightbox:

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8335/8143832577_7b6b4eff8f.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/edwick/8143832577/)

The bigger box bows slightly on the floor, so I've got a hunk of foam core I'm going to put down as a more level base. Then it's backdrops (which I'm going to use cloth for this time instead of posterboard) and finally a way to secure that top light so it's not resting on the box itself (and will give better light from that angle). The box is big enough that I might start playing around with reflectors to see how they work rather than the 3 direct (if diffused) lights.

01-22-2013, 19:54
Great! (Y)