So, something I have always wanted to do but never seemed to get around to it was to build a light box to take photos of miniatures that would be in focus and show off the detail. I recently was working on an article on Star Wars Armada squadron painting, and decided it would be a perfect time to build something to take some good pictures of the finished product. I was able to do all of this with a quick trip to to the hobby store and about $10!
So, what I needed to buy was some poster board (20in by 30in), tissue paper, and some construction paper. You will also need a sharp hobby knife, masking tape, and a straightedge.
First thing I did, was cut one of my pieces of poster board in half, so I had 2 pieces that were 20in by 15in. These are going to be the sides of our box. I then measured 2 inches from either edge in order to mark lines to cut out my “window” that will allow the light to come into the box. You should get something similar to below once you cut out your windows.
The next thing I did was cut a second piece of poster board to match the width of the construction paper I bought (this will vary depending on what you buy). The construction paper is going to be our background, and I picked up both white and black to play with the different colors. I made the poster board the same width so that I can easily change out paper just by taping the new piece to the back – and then there shouldn’t be any gaps between the sides of my box, and the background I use. I then cut a hole in the center of this second piece, so that it has a “window” at the top.
The next step was to cover each opening with some tissue wrapping paper. This is going to diffuse the light from our lamps and keep shadows from forming around the items we are trying to photograph. I just placed the tissue paper over the openings, cut to size, and then used my masking tape to put it together. At this point I also taped the sides to the top, and if you do this correctly you can make it to where the box will fold up and be very easy to store later on.
At this point, the box is essentially complete. It is not real sturdy at this point, but once we put our construction paper on the back, and stand it up with the paper sloping inward it supports itself fairly well. If you need to, you can always tape the side to the floor, or fashion some sort of support for the back or bottom.
And that’s it! Now all you need to do is get a couple lamps you have laying around (or pickup something cheap from the store). Once you have your lamps, position them around the openings of your lightbox. You’ll notice a nice soft glow inside with minimal or no shadows. (It is worth noting that I really should have a top lamp – as it will eliminate some of the shadows you see in my test images below – I just need to go buy a 3rd lamp since I only had two laying around). All in all, this was a very simple project that took about 30 minutes from start to finish, and if you have a lot this stuff just laying around the house its well worth the effort if you want to show off your miniature painting skills. As far as the photography side of it goes – using any DSLR should work fine, but I am a total novice when it comes to photography and I just shot everything on auto with mine. I am sure with a bit more technical know-how you could make some phenomenal images with this lightbox.
Here are a few shots of some Battletech Miniatures I painted a few years ago in Clan Ghost Bear colors. Some of the small shadows you see would be eliminated with the use of a 3rd lamp over that top opening, but for the time I put into it, I think the results turned out nicely. Enjoy!