How to Build a Cheap and Simple Light Tent for Product Photography


Photo by Matheus Bertelli

Product photography can be fun and challenging, it can also be very profitable.  The need to photograph small objects well can lend to any number of reasons, including:

  • Selling stock photography
  • Shooting for a client's website or printed catalog
  • Craigslist ad
  • eBay listing
  • …and more!

But you don't need to spend hundreds of dollars on a light tent or box to achieve great results.  For around $10 you can build a simple and effective light box with stuff you probably already have laying around the house.

Start with a decent size cardboard box. Leave the top flaps in place and cut out the three sides, leaving one to two inches.  With the windows you now created to allow light in, a diffusion method must be put in place.  This will help reduce shadows and the harshness of light.  Virtually anything white and semi-transparent can be used.  The above photo used sketch paper for the two sides and top, but muslin would work well, an old, clean white sheet would even work.

Cut the pieces to fit and tape them to the outside of the box.  Your diffusion panels are now complete, onto the next step.

Line the inside with a piece of white, non-reflective paper from the top back to the bottom front.  This will create the sweep, so make sure not to kink or wrinkle it while taping it in place.  Utilize a soft, gentle slope so you don't show where the bottom meets the top wall.  Craft paper works well here and is really inexpensive.

The last step is to light the box and you have a number of choices here.  The cheapest way to do this is in a sunny window or even outside on a nice sunny day.  Chances are you won't always have bright sun when you want to take product shots though, so anything from your existing flashes on wireless triggers or long flash sync cords to desktop lamps will work.  If you choose to use halogen work lights, which are cheap and readily available at home repair stores, be careful of the heat they generate and how close you place them to your light box.  If you're using paper diffusion or fabric, maintain a safe working distance, the lamps get very hot!

Your end result from this simple light tent shown above is:

Photo by Jens Mahnke

This example shows how well a reflective and shiny object, often some of the hardest objects to photograph, can be done quickly and easily on the cheap.

Make sure you do a custom white balance when using mixed lighting for your new light tent too!

About Author

is a professional photographer. See his site at Mike Panic Photography.

i show examples of mine on my blog here:

super easy and way cheaper than a manufactured light box, plus you can use all recycled materials!

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