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DIY Light Tent

Table of Contents
Intro Who is this for? What you'll need Preparation
Things to Hate My Verdict Why you need one Alternatives


DIY Light Tent

Introduction to my light tent

Hi guys and gals, don't want to shell out hand fulls of your hard earned pretty pennies for a light tent? Which you may only seldom use or don't see the need (I didn't at first), then you can make this on the fly with very little cost. Just to see what all the "fuss" is about.

Light tents allow you to change the quality of light and therefore controlling the type of shadows in your photograph as well as eliminating color casts from different light sources. For example, light tents are very useful for product photography because it eliminates harsh shadows as well as giving a nice clean background. You can see before and after shots in this lens.

Who is this for

The frugal photographer willing to put in some elbow grease. Or the budding photographer wanting to test things out before spending the big bucks.


Why you need one

A light tent is used to even out the lighting and reduce / eliminate shadows when shooting stationary (objects). Also to remove reflections on the object being photographed. Check out the following before / after shots.

DIY Light Tent DIY Light Tent


What you'll need

DIY Light Tent

1 card board box (size is up to you)

1 scissors

1 pen knife

1 roll of tape or more (read on for details, it's kinda funny)

2 rolls of tracing paper (amount varies depending on size of box)

1 ruler

1 marker

You may need additional stuff if you "mess" it up the first few tries like me. Total cost for me is about $8. You can probably do it cheaper.


The box

DIY Light Tent

Box selection, this is really up to you. What do you think is the largest item you would put in it to photograph? I've chosen the box that my PC came in. Since it was too shallow, I flipped up the lids and taped the edges to make it a deeper box with no top. See picture.

Decide if you want to only have one opening (to shoot through) or 2 openings (1 to shoot through and one for the option of using different bases to place your object on. I chose 2 openings as I have a glass table to get creative with reflections and light.

Now decide if you want flaps on the sides of the shoot through opening to allow more light manipulation.

Before you start cutting, use a marker and mark the side of the box to indicate if it is going to be the bottom of the box (when the shoot through opening is facing you). You will cut this whole section out later if you choose to do so.

Then mark the back indicating it's the back (you don't want to cut this one).

Now you will need to draw a square on the remaining 3 sides. I recommend more than 3 cm from the edges. I made mine 3 cm and feel it's a bit too flimsy and I had to reinforce with chopsticks.

The 3 squares you will be cutting out will leave you with a left side, top side and right side opening.

Once you've cut out the 3 sides, you can go ahead and cut out the bottom (at the folds of the box) if you so choose to. The reason why I put this step last is because the box is more sturdy when cutting out the previous 3 sides.

If you wanted flaps at the shoot through opening and you didn't need to tape the existing flaps, then don't cut them off (or only cut off the flaps you don't need).

If you need to tape the flaps to make you box deeper then you can just cut and tape flaps on from the excess cardboard.

** see the two bent frames? I think I cut too close to the edge (3 cm). I taped a chopstick to the bent part and taped the tracing paper over it so it's not bent anymore. In hindsight maybe I shouldn't have cut away all of the "floor" of the light tent as I could have used to edges for more stability and a place to mount (with blue tack) poster paper.

The paper

DIY Light Tent

Ok, I've read that some have used wax paper. I suppose it'll work also but my box is pretty big and I couldn't find a roll big enough to cover the whole opening. This is important because if you use tape to tape together the paper make sure you use clear tape so as to not block any light and causing shadows inside the box.

I found it best to use duct tape (the greyish/silver tape) to tape the box and to tape the paper to the box. I started off with masking tape but the tape would come off. Then I tried the clear packing tape, that didn't stick to well after a few days either. Duct tape! Still hasn't come off yet.

Now tape one side of the paper to the box and then tape the opposing side down, ensuring that the paper is pulled tight so that the surface isn't wobbly looking. the last two sides should be easier to tape down with out causing "ripples".

NOTE: I used tracing paper and it started to yellow after a few months, so maybe you might want to use wax paper or something similar?

My Verdict

DIY Light Tent

Well, I now "see the light"! Light tents are a "must have" in my opinion for product shots, or macro shots of indoor type things. Not only do I get good even lighting, no harsh shadows, I can use "blue tack" to stick on different colored papers for the background and base. This saves so much background removal efforts!

The only complaint I have now is that the box is cumbersome and hard to keep intact. My house is small and I got 2 kids running around. Not to mention, I'm not the greatest at building things (you can tell from the pictures) so the box is an eyesore and there's 2 holes in the paper already.

So I think I will buy a collapsible light tent only because they're easier to store.