Improving Photos with a DIY Light Box

So you just picked up a cool new firearm and you are looking to share some not so subtly boastful photos of it with your buddies. Often, this involves snapping a few shots with your cell phone with the firearm strategically placed on your kitchen counter as soon as you get home. Sometimes the end result is impressive while other times, this amateur photography leaves us saying “trust me, it looks better in person.” While there are times when a quick, casual photo does the job, how can we step up our game without breaking the bank? As it turns out, the answer is simpler and cheaper than you might expect. With little more than a large cardboard box, some poster board, and a couple of lamps, it is possible to achieve near-professional photos with very little effort.

What you will need:

  1. Large cardboard box (mini-fridge boxes work great for this)
  2. Utility knife (I used a Leatherman Sidekick)
  3. Large poster board of various colors (pick up at least two sheets of white)
  4. Bright white or “full spectrum” light bulbs
  5. Two 7” clamp lights
  6. A few sheets of 8.5×11” printer paper

Putting the whole thing together is extremely easy. First, cut off the top flaps of the box. Next, cut large rectangular holes in three sides of the box. After you have completed the cutting, simply slide one of the large white sheets of over the remaining side of the box and let it bend several inches up what used to be the bottom of the box, but will now be the back of our light box.  This helps us to prevent unwanted shadows in the back corners of our light box and will also help to give us a seamless background for photos.

DIY light box

DIY light box

White base

White base

My preferred matte black background

My preferred matte black background

My preferred bulbs

My preferred bulbs

Once the box has been completely prepped, mount the lights on the top rim. I recommend softening the light by taping some of your printer paper over the lamps’ faces. I have also found that my shots are better when I place some white poster board on at least one side opening. This helps to reflect more light back into the box and will soften your shadows some as well.

Shot using Nikon D3200 with one indirect light and one direct light

Shot using Nikon D3200 with one indirect light and one direct light

Shot using Nikon D3200 with one indirect light and one softened direct light

Shot using Nikon D3200 with one indirect light and one softened direct light

Shot using Samsung Galaxy S5 with one indirect light and one direct light

Shot using Samsung Galaxy S5 with one indirect light and one direct light

Shot using Samsung Galaxy S5 with one indirect light and one softened direct light

Shot using Samsung Galaxy S5 with one indirect light and one softened direct light

That is all there is to it! Your photos, whether they are of firearms or anything else, will be hundreds of times better than the old countertop shots. Be sure to take some time to experiment with different lighting for more interesting photos.

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