How To Make Homemade Photography Lighting

Experimenting with different lighting can make some photographs very interesting. This is easier to do with digital cameras because you can readily preview the shot you have just taken. A few years back you would have to take Polaroid shots just to be able to have some test shots, which is quite costly and time consuming.

Not all photographs can be taken with available light. Some subjects need to be shot indoors, under artificial lighting. Professional studio lighting equipment is very expensive. And photography really is about effective lighting – how you control available light and use additional light to make your subject literally jump out of the picture – to maximum effect.

For amateur photography, you do not have to spend that much on expensive photography lighting equipment. There are some rigs you can build by yourself that can yield quite a good result.

The instructions given here is for a light tent that is used for photographing small objects inside a studio.

Materials you will need:

  • A big cardboard box, one that is with thicker board is better. A square one is preferable.
  • White fabric, enough to cover the entire box
  • Rolls of masking tape, 2-inch wide
  • Glue gun and glue sticks
  • Several sheets of white Bristol boards, depending on the size of your box
  • Daylight bulbs or full spectrum bulbs – 100W fluorescent lights shaped like a bulb for bright, white light
  • Desk work lamp holder or clamp-on work light to mount your daylight bulbs in
  • Scissors, knife, straight-edge metal ruler, tape ruler, pencil


  1. On the wide side of your box, measure 2 inches from the edge, all around. Your box now resembles a TV screen with a two-inch border. Do the same for the opposite side.
  2. Carefully cut out the rectangles or squares you have drawn. First run the knife across the outline using your straight-edge ruler so you will have a scoring guide. Then continue cutting through to remove the inside rectangle/square.
  3. Cut away the top flaps of the box. Leave the bottom of the box intact.
  4. Mark two-inch wide strips on a sheet of Bristol board. Cut 16 strips using the straight-edge ruler and craft knife.
  5. Glue the Bristol board strips to the borders of your box, inside and out. Make the gluing as smooth and as flat as possible, especially on the inside of the box.
  6. Get another sheet of Bristol board. Measure the width of the box and mark it on the Bristol board and cut the excess. Your Bristol board should be as wide as the box and longer than the height of the box. Make sure that there are no creases on the Bristol board as you cut it because it will show in the photograph.
  7. Slip the long end of the Bristol board into the box and allow its bottom edge to rest against the front bottom edge of the box. It should be concave on the opposite side. Do not crease. Cut what extra board is left protruding from the top.
  8. Cut a piece of white fabric to cover the back of the box. Tape the top first and pull it down a bit before taping the fabric to the bottom of the box.
  9. Cut another piece that will fit the top of the box and tape it securely around the sides. Make sure that the fabric is stretched enough so no wrinkles show.
  10. You portable light tent is now ready.

When you start doing your product shots, you can position your lights sources anywhere. Lighting the top of the box will diffuse the light because of the while fabric cover.


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