Writing reviews at Brickset over the last few years has given me great pleasure. For me, part of the journey has been learning how to take better photographic images of my sets. I have researched how to improve the lighting that I use for my photography. As a result, I have found instructions for making an inexpensive light-box.
Maybe you take photographs of your LEGO for placing in reviews, or perhaps you list your LEGO on eBay or similar auction sites and need good quality images to improve your chances of making a sale.
Read on if you would like to see how easy it is to make an inexpensive light-box that will help improve the quality of the images that you take of your LEGO or small models.
What a light-box does
A light-box places a diffusing fabric between the light source and the item being photographed. The diffusion of light softens and improves the image being taken. It reduces the sharp shadows that may appear and makes the images look more natural.
There are several tutorial videos on YouTube that show how to build a similar inexpensive light-box. On YouTube these tutorials are listed under product photography.
You will need the following items:
- A large cardboard box
- A light coloured card to be placed inside the box
- Crepe or tissue paper
- White coloured duct tape
- A sharp craft knife
- A ruler
- A pencil
I used a new storage box sized 8. The box measured 51cm wide x 38cm deep x 30cm high (20 x 15 x 12 in).
The card measured 45cm x 61 cm (18 x 24 in).
Building the light-box
Stick down the base of the box.
The four top flaps need to have a rectangle cut out from each flap.
Using the ruler, mark out the areas on the flaps that will be removed from the lid of the box.
Lay the ruler along the fold and two sides of each flap and mark out a U shape on each flap (see image below).
I laid the ruler along the fold and simply marked out the width of the ruler; the ruler was 3cm (1 ¼ in) wide.
Carefully cut out the four rectangles from the four flaps (as shown below).
Carefully fold the U shaped flaps down as you would for a normal box lid.
Using duct tape, stick down the remains of the four flaps so that the top of the box is rigid.
Carefully wrap the tape under the inner edges.
The top of the box is now open to allow light to enter.
The front, left and right sides of the box will need to be removed to allow extra light to enter the light-box.
Mark out and carefully remove the three rectangles from the front and two sides of the box.
I used the width of the ruler as a guide to mark out a 3cm (1 ¼ in) frame for the three sides that were opened up (see image below).
Carefully bend the coloured card into the box. Use duct tape to stick the card in place. The curved card will give your box an infinity background. I have chosen a light pastel blue colour for the card so as to have a neutral background.
I needed to trim the length of the coloured card by about 4 cm (2 in) so as to get a nice curve towards the back of the box.
The top and two sides of the box will be covered with crepe or tissue paper. Cut out three pieces of crepe or tissue paper that are slightly larger than the three box openings. Stick these three pieces of paper using duct tape over the three openings of the box.
The completed light-box
The light-box works by diffusing light that enters the box. The crepe paper scatters the light giving the model being photographed a softer appearance.
The box, card and paper used to make the light-box cost NZD $7.50 (£3.60 / $5.20). You could easily use an existing large box rather than purchasing a new one.
The duct tape cost $14 but most of the roll was left over. The cost of this light-box is therefore less than the price of a City starter set. The light-box took about 30 minutes to build.
Before and after images
Here are some images taken inside the light-box. The before images were taken before the crepe paper was applied; the after images were taken when the crepe paper was in place to diffuse the light.
The images were taken in my living room in mid-afternoon with the room lights on and my halogen desk lamp directly above the scene exactly as shown in the image above. There is natural light entering the room from some windows to the left of the picture.
The light-box and camera were set at each end of my dining table as shown.
Apart from re-focussing the camera, no other adjustments were made. The camera remained fixed in place on the tripod and the light-box stayed at the end of the table.
Compare the before and after images. See how the shadows have softened and the glare has been removed.
I accept that the Dr Who before image is slightly out of focus; however, look at the sharpness of the shadows, particularly around the Daleks and the glare from their domed heads and the minifigure hair.
I do not purport to be a photographic expert. I have learnt my photographic skills since posting reviews here at Brickset. I have used trial and error, asked friends for advice and looked at many tutorials on YouTube.
If you like taking images of your LEGO, or any other small model or product, and have wanted to make your images clearer and more professional looking, have a go at making a light-box. Have fun experimenting with lighting; I am sure that your images will improve as a result.
Mounting your camera on a tripod will help keep the camera steady, but if you don't have one try sitting your camera on a stack of hard-covered books instead.
The box itself is quite delicate and will need to be stored carefully.
Perhaps you would like to post some reviews here at Brickset with your own images. You can read my guide to posting reviews which includes information on how to upload images and then add them to your reviews.