Building a lightbox

One of my new experiments for this year is to work on some macro shots. I did thousands of floral macro shots 2 years ago and the whole process was a great learning experience. Last year was mainly track racing, which again was a great learning experience and I have some spectacular racing photos. I want to do some more “studio” related shots so I have decided to built a lightbox in my basement so I can work on photos whenever I want.

The main source of my quest is from this site:

The design is very simple and straightforward so I have decided to follow the steps and create my own.

I started off with a trip to Lowe’s to buy the PVC piping and connectors. Getting the pipe itself is no big deal, that comes in 5ft lengths, its finding and matching up all the connectors that will have pulling all the pieces out and building an elaborate replica of your creation right there in the aisle.

lightbox_026 When you’re buying all the pieces make sure you get the right pieces to connect the legs and elbow joints with the top frame. Depending on what connectors are available the pieces may slip together, or they may need to be threaded together or you may even need a couple of extra pieces to make the connection. I have to admit I had to make two trips since my elbow joints were the same size as the T-connector and nothing fit together. It’s not tricky by any means, but it’s easy to get the wrong pieces unless you actually put them all together in the store.

You will need to cut the lengths of pipe to your specific length, but with a cheap hacksaw it should only take a few minutes.

The assembly of the box takes mere moments. It literally is building a rectangle and slipping on some legs; once you get all the right connectors that is.

lightbox_029 I decided to make mine a little bigger than the original specs from the website above and honestly I think it might be too big. I set the length to be 3ft and the width to be 2ft and another 2ft for the height. It seemed reasonable laying on the table, but when all put together it seems far too long and several inches too high. I think I’ll need to shorten it all the way around. A standard wine bottle is only 13 inches high so it’s got plenty of room for something taller like a vase with the flowers in it, but it all seems a little overpowering. I still have to put a cover over it, put in the background piece and take some photos with it. I haven’t glued anything together so it comes right apart. I need to get stronger bulbs for my lamps, they don’t seem quite bright enough and I think I need some more light for my basement. It’s pretty dark overall which isn’t helping.

I’ve completed stage one, I’ve made the skeleton. The whole structure cost less than $20. Now, I just need to get a backdrop and a cover. I already have some ideas of test photos to see how it works. I might try to fit that in this weekend, if not before.

I also need to decide which lens to use. I have the 105mm macro lens and the 18-200mm, both of which should work quite well. The 105mm is f/2.8 which might be better considering the lighting conditions I might be working with. I want as fast a shutter speed as possible so the background fades out as much as possible.

The first part is done, now to put on the final touches and get some test shots.

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