Tuesday , 2 September 2014
These photography tips are designed to help you make your photographs looks bright, eye catching and professional and you don't need to have an expensive camera to do this!

How-To Make and Use a Light Box to Improve Your Product Photography

Product Photography Class

Article by:  Anna from The  House of Mouse

Original article

Great photos are one of the most important things to get right if you sell online. Your photographs are your virtual shop window: If they are not light, bright and eye-catching then often buyers will surf right past your store without even noticing your work. Really beautiful photographs will bring buyers through your virtual door and keep them there long enough to remember your creations.

These photography tips are designed to help you make your photographs looks bright, eye catching and professional and you don’t need to have an expensive camera to do this!

This tutorial comes in two parts:

  1. How to make a Light Box
  2. How to edit your photos to make them pop

I use both processes for all of my photographs.

Part 1: How to make a Light Box
These tips are one way of taking great photos, but they are certainly not the only way. I hope that you will be able to use this tutorial as a starting point and gain the confidence to make photographs with your own style.

First select a box that is the right size for what you want to photograph. For small items like jewelery a box about 30cm wide or 1 foot is good, although if you want to photograph larger items you will need a larger box.

Cut out the top of the box and the front, leaving a bar across the top to help your box keep it’s shape


Line your box with white paper, making a curve with paper in the back horizontal corner so that it won’t show up in your background.


Make sure you put white paper on the sides too, this will help to bounce the light around even more and make your photographs really bright.


To avoid any lines in your photographs, use a large piece of paper for your backdrop, I love to have a white background so I am using a piece of A3 white card, but you can use any color you like. You can also use fabric if you prefer.

Stick or pin your background in place,
again making a curve in the horizontal corner.


Your light source should be 2 adjustable lamps with daylight light bulbs, 100watts will get a great result. Daylight light bulbs are best because the colors in your photographs will be more accurate than if you use a regular yellowish bulb. Daylight light bulbs look bluish when they are not on. You can get daylight light bulbs from any good electrical store, some art supply stores also stock them as painters prefer to use them too.


Arrange your lamps on either side of your light box, if the stands poke under your box -as they do in mine – then stand your box on some books to make it flat. Some people prefer to just use one lamp, but I find using 2 will eliminate all shadows and shows up the details on your work much better.


As you can see, when the bulbs are on the light bounces around in the box in all directions! Perfect for taking bright photographs


If you have a tripod for your camera then set it up in front of your light box, if you don’t have a tripod then add one to your Christmas list! For now you can stand your camera on something to balance it.

The reason for the tripod is that you don’t want to be using the flash on your camera. If you turn off the flash on some cameras then any photographs taken with the camera in your hands will look shaky, the tripod will keep it stable and make your photos nice and clear.

Finally your light box is ready! Place your items in your light box, switch on your lamps, arrange your camera (remember to switch off your flash) and take some photographs!

Every camera is different, some of you may find that you are happy with the photos you get just from the light box. But if you are like me you will still want to make them brighter. Part 2 explains how to do this…

Part 2: How to edit your photos to make them pop
So you have your photos from your light box, but they are still a little dark and dreary. This tutorial will show you how to edit your photos to brighten them up and make them really pop!

To do this you will be using the “levels” tool that is found in almost every photo editing software. I will be using Photoshop for this tutorial. If you don’t have any photo editing software then I recommend you try picnic which is a free and simple photo editing site (to get to the levels tool on picnic: upload a photo, then click “exposure” and then “advanced”).

To open the levels tool in Photoshop, click the “layer” menu then “new adjustment layer” and select “levels”, then click “ok” to open the tool.


The levels tool looks like a graph or histogram. By using the dropper feature and sliding the arrows around you can create different effects, including lightening up your photographs.

Use the dropper feature to select the lightest color in your photograph. (The dropper does not appear on the picnic website, but it will appear in Photoshop and a few other photo editing programs.)

The dropper is the 3 little icons in the bottom right corner of the levels too. You can use these to select the darkest, lightest and medium tones from your photograph. For my purposes I only want to use the lightest one (on the far right) but feel free to play around with them to see the affects you can get.


Select the white dropper and then click it on the lightest part of your photograph. You can keep choosing a new part until you are happy with the result. As you can see, I have selected the brightest area of my background. This will automatically readjust the photograph.

Next you can also use the arrows on the slider under your histogram to lighten or darken your photograph further. If you are using picnic then this will be your main way to lighten your photographs. Click the arrow in the middle of your histogram and slide it to the left and right to see the results

Slide it to the left to lighten your photograph


Or slide it to the right to make it darker


I just want to lighten my photograph slightly so that you can pick out the details in the Cellist Mouse’s skirt. When you are happy with your adjustments click “ok”


If you are using Photoshop, you will need to “flatten” your image before you can save your document as a .jpg . To do this select the “layer” menu and click “flatten image” you are now free to save your file. Feel free to crop your image if you want to before you save.

Here is what my photograph looks like before and after using Photoshop to brighten it up…


Looking for more photography help?

Studio Quality Product Photography With a $12 Set Up

Simple Photography Setup

The 5 Cs of Product Photography

5 iphone photography apps worth downloading

Product Photography Class

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83 comments

  1. Great tutiorial! Easy to follow and great pictures- thank you!

  2. Tim, you’ve done it again! This proves that a lightbox doesn’t have to be high-tech or expensive. Thanks for leading us step-by-step through this smart, practical process. I love that I can build a lightbox out of ordinary supplies I already have around the house. Thank you!

  3. thanks! between this and the $12 set up that was explained on 1/30/11 I’m going to really be able to improve my image quality, I really appreciate all the time put into these articles!

  4. I’ve read A LOT of DIY light-boxes and this is one I’d actually want to build and buy.

    Now where to get the box and those great lamps?

    P.S. Tim, thanks for dropping the pop-up. Woot.

  5. What an awesome tutorial! Well done ♥

  6. This will help so many people…. its awesome… and so easy to do…

  7. Yes..Where did you find those great lamps? I have been looking and can’t find any with a great base like those.

  8. I have not been flattening my images before saving – what exactly does that do? Thanks for the great article!

    • You images must already be flat if you are able to save them as jpgs.

      Jpgs don’t allow for layers in a file and so your photos must be flattened before hand.

      All flattening does is it takes whatever layers you may have in a given image file and merges them all together onto one layer.

  9. I forgot to say…Fantastic blog post!

    • Actually, there is no need to flatten your PSD image before saving as a ,jpg even if there are layers. The act of saving as a .jpg will flatten the image. However, it is beneficial to create a merged composite layer (shortcut: Control+Alt+Shift+E) to be able to apply sharpening to the image prior to saving as a .jpg.

  10. This was Great… will you have one on
    shooting through glass for those of us who make shadow boxes!
    Also, I have seen those lamps at walmart!
    thanks again!

  11. Nice softbox concept. Thanks

    An alternative for lightbulbs: one can use the daylight compact fluorescent lamps (aka CFLs) that run cooler, last longer, and use lots less power. Just let ‘em come up to full speed for a couple minutes before you shoot.

    Have fun

  12. Great article! I’m thinking about taking the pluge and start using Photoshop instead of Picasa. Which version of Photoshop would you recommend? Birgitte

  13. Loving this whole thing on photography ! I thought halogen light would be best, after daylight?

  14. Great Post, as always. I made a light box, but will now use two lamps, and think my results will be better. Thanks again for your inspiration!!!

  15. Thanks for the info. I got a light box off think geek and whenever I tried to use it, the images looked horrible. I tried moving the lights and played with the images in photoshop but they still looked horrible. I’ll have to try placing the lights like you showed and see if that helps.

  16. I enjoyed this info. but have a question for you… Where did you get the lamps and bulbs? I am having a hard time finding lamps that will take 100w bulbs. Thanks for the help.

  17. I have been using the white backdrop but not using white paper on the sides of my photos. I can see now that would make a difference. Thanks for the tip. Appreciate it.

  18. This article is great! My photo’s keep coming out so dark and I try and take my pics outside, but outside doesn’t always work either. Thank you. :)

    • Try checking your ISO or your exposure on your camera. Some have one or both. The higher the ISO, the more light will be seen in the camera. Be aware though that sometimes if you have a higher ISO, you can also have more ‘noise’ in your images. Noise looks like little pixels of dust in an image.

      Most point and shoots also have an exposure setting in the menu where you can increase the amount to +1 or +2.

  19. This is very helpful, I will be making a light box. Trying to shoot on perfect days outside is just too time consuming when I need to get a product listed and its 12 degrees outside!

  20. larrysleatherwork

    Just a fast note.. I made Tim’s light box and got two cheap lamps from walmart that take the new bulbs. Got the bubles that will put out the 100w but save energy. Works just like Tim says. Then have an old version of photo5 that I lighten to my satisfaction then with my leather I will hit blur one time to get the natural leather look rather than the sparkle. Always room for improvement but its great. Thanks Tim

  21. The BF and I just made a similar kind of set up to photograph bags I have made and I had similar feelings about my final outcome without digital media. I can’t wait to set up for pictures to try the photoshop tips you offered. I’ve played around to get results but the results were happy accidents more than a clear path. I’d hug ya if I could..

  22. Thank you for the blog post Ana, I especially appreciate the photo editing tip using the slide.

  23. Excellent article …. thanks!

  24. Hi, I just wanted to thank you for the dropper tip… I’m having lighting problems while taking pictures, and although I’ve been teaching myself and using photoshop for many years, I didn’t know about the dropper. I hope it will make my life easier in post!

    Thanks

  25. I saw several people ask about the lamps & bulbs but i didn’t see an answer. DId I miss it? Where can we get these, Tim? THANKS!

    • i realize you asked this question along time ago, but perhaps it will help someone else. I found the lightbulbs at a number of different hardware, grocery and general stores. They are just daylight bulbs as opposed to the regular bulbs which tend to be yellow. The lamps I found at Canadian Tire(8.50 ea), but I think Home Depot or any big box store like that would have them,the ones I bought clamp on the box which works very well. I also used a rubbermaid tote which I painted white on the inside, a little more sturdy and I can clamp my lights on without breaking it.

  26. Great article, thank you for the tips!!!

  27. I made a box like this and have used it for almost a year now. This works great and when you edit your picture in the computer you can get it really looking great. Thanks again for this info. on the light box. Its in everyones budget and works great.

  28. Great post. The simple design of this light box makes it possible without a great deal of effort or expense. The levels tips are great too. Thanks!

  29. Ah being an old photography teacher I have to ask wouldn’t you like your pictures exposure to come out right without having to use Photoshop to correct every one? Sure would save you time.

    First let me tell you that if you are using a point and shoot camera that doesn’t have a manual setting you won’t be able to do this. What is happening is the camera’s meter tries to average all it sees to create what we call middle gray. Usually that works but when you have so much white in a picture it tries to turn the white to gray. You have to be smarter than your camera and override the meter. You need to set your camera’s exposure to get around two more stops worth of light.

    The really simple way is if your camera has exposure compensation you set it for +2. Try a shot and see if that is the right setting for your camera. You may need a little less or a bit more to get it just right. Then you are set to start shooting in your light box and each one will have that nice white you are looking for and you shouldn’t have to mess with it in photoshop.

    If you don’t have the exposure compensation you can manually add two stops more of light. I could get all complicated here and give you a bunch of settings but if you are using a tripod I’d suggest just changing the speed by two clicks. If it’s too dark you went the wrong way. Go back to your first setting and do two click the other way – take a test shot and you should have a much better exposure.

  30. One thing about this set up. I would NEVER EVER use it the way it is pictured above.

    I’d suggest you get a box big enough so that the lights don’t have to touch the paper or sides of the boxes. The way they are pictured above it is a prime set up for a fire. These lights get VERY hot and they will start that paper on fire.

    Be VERY VERY careful and NEVER walk out of the room with this type of set up when you have left the lights on.

    When I am working with hot light is I plug them into a power strip with an on/off switch and have it on the floor. When I don’t need the lights on to take the picture I hit the off switch with my foot and it kills the light until I need them again.

    • Thank you, for the idea, never thought about doing it with 100w daylight bulbs.

      Also thanks to Pam for the info on the 2 f stops, gr8 idea and it worked well.

  31. Wow, I have finally found a light box I could make. I have fought with thie problem and therefore I post very little on my blog…turquoise…green, evrything else looks blue! thanks so very much!

  32. Thanks so much for this! I only have a point & click and an old version of Photoshop that I don’t know how to use. This was very helpful!!!

    PS. I used a plastic storage tote instead of a box. Worked like a charm.

  33. I don’t even know the way I ended up right here, however I thought this publish was great. I don’t understand who you might be however definitely you are going to a well-known blogger when you are not already. Cheers!

  34. wow. photoshop is incredible. thanks for this tutorial.

  35. wow this photo very look very nice thank you

  36. My pics come out nice and bright when I use the lights in my light box, and I don’t even need to use levels,or if I do, it’s barely a tich. Just wondering what pic you showed in the before picture – with lights shining into the light box or not shining into the light box, because it looks so dark.

    Nice tutorial that you offered here.

  37. great stuff!

    A suggestion:

    Make your tripod legs as high as necessary instead of raising the neck.

    The higher you raise that flimsy neck thing instead of gaining height with the legs, the more potential camera shake .

    using the self timer as well will ensure the most stable shooting platform…

  38. This is such a great article. I have pinned it on my Pinterest board entitled “Consider This”. Here is the link:
    http://pinterest.com/moxyfoxdesigns/

  39. Your instructions worked great for me! Thank you so much for your help! The part about LIGHT EXPOSURE on photoshop, is what helped! Thanks

    -john

  40. Thanks for this much needed tutorial…:-)

  41. Wow. I use a lightbox and have been on Photoshop for ten years. I didn’t realize I could click the background color while switching the light icon in Levels. I sure feel silly but thanks so much. It’s the little details that help! ♥

  42. Was it just a matter of preference to set the white balance in photoshop as opposed to on the camera?

  43. Thanks so much! Stumbled on you when I was looking on how to make light boxes! :)

  44. Thanks for this easy to follow tutorial. I have been looking for this for a while now as I’m new to Photoshop and was getting lost in all the functionalities. I looooove how my new brighter pictures look!

  45. I just checked out this post! Your tips on photo editing are great. I started using them this morning. Thank you so much! Hopefully my pics will be better now!

  46. Iam going to post this on my blog site. Thank you for sharing. I have been looking for this information for quite a while now.

    Cathy the Bagg Lady

  47. My blog photos are awful! thanks for the tips!

  48. Thanks for the visuals – I have a light box with lamps but was having difficulties with shadows. I now know that I had the lightbox upside down and the opening should be at the top so my lamps can peer over the sides.

  49. I like how you did this set up. My issue is I have glass and I have tried everything. I am going to try this and see if it helps. Do you happen to know of any ideas how to do glass?

  50. WOW!! I have been looking for a no-fuss way for making a lightbox. That, and all other tips were greatly helpful! Thankyou so much for this post!

  51. Wow, that’s great. I was just about to buy a lightbox, but now I’m gonna do it by myself!!
    And the comments by Pam above also seem to be helpful. Thank you!

  52. I’m starting a boutique essential oil company and didn’t have the budget for marketing. This was a great DIY tip. Thanks

  53. Wow thanks for the tip man. I was about to purchase a ready made one on amazon. But your article just saved me. Im going to make a box for the products i review. By the way do you have any suggestions in case the product is big like a computer case. I do need to take photos of their boxes aside from the product itself.
    And will the color of the walls of the room affect the photobox somehow?

  54. Can you suggest a mid range camera to take pictures of my fiber art and also do video with-I value you input-thanks a lot-Cynthia

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