If you sell products online, you might want to spruce up your online store for the holiday shoppers. One easy way to make your products look more professional, and thus more desirable, is to photograph them inside of a light box.

You could spend anywhere between $20 and $4,000 to purchase a pre-made light box, or you can make one yourself at home for (almost) free! Best of all, a light box can improve your photos even if your only camera is your phone.

This DIY light box cost me $3.70 and took 10 minutes to build. The tools you will need are:

  • a cardboard box
  • packing tape
  • a box cutter
  • white tissue paper
  • white poster board

Step One: gather your supplies

Follow these steps to make your own photo light box:

Step 1:

Use the box cutter to cut the top flaps off of the box. Next, cut out 3 sides of the box, leaving about a 1-inch border on each side. You don’t have to worry about making this perfect—as you can see, mine is free-handed and a bit messy.

Step Two: cut the box

Step 2:

Cut the tissue paper to the approximate size of the holes on the sides of the box (leaving edges that can be taped down). Then tape the tissue paper to the box, covering each hole. The tissue paper will act as a light diffuser, softening the incoming light and removing harsh shadows.

Cut the tissue paper

Step 3:

Cut the poster board to the width of the box. Make sure the poster board is long enough so that it extends out of the box. Tape the top of the poster board to the top of the back of the box, then let it drape down in the box to create an “infinity” white background. You can tape the bottom of the poster board to the bottom of the box so it doesn’t curl upwards.

Add the poster board

You’re done!

Now you can place your products inside the light box and take some photos. You can either put the light box in a naturally well-lit area, like near a bright window, or place a desk lamp above the light box if you don’t have enough natural light. I found a corner of our office with lots of natural light, so I didn’t use any additional lighting.

Natural light is always preferable to artificial light, unless you want to add dramatic shadows, in which case you can simply angle a lamp to shine towards the left or right hole in your light box. Also make sure that you shoot without a flash.

product in the light boxproduct in the lightboxstart taking pictures

A great thing about using a light box is that it makes your photos look so professional that you don’t need to use an expensive camera. Here are some example product photos taken with different setups. First, with an expensive Canon camera with no light box, then with the Canon and a light box, and finally with a regular iPhone5 and a light box:

Cactus photo without light boxCactus photo with CanonCactus photo taken with iPhone

Here’s one more example, first with no light box, then with the Canon set up, then finally with the iPhone:

no light box

Canon with light box.

light box with iphone

Final Tip: Using a light box and a close-up photo is a great way to showcase the details of your product without any distracting backgrounds. You can photograph your product from different angles so your customers know exactly what they’re getting. However, customers also like seeing a product in its natural environment. This gives them a feel for how they can use the product in their own home, making them more likely to purchase it. So make sure to throw in a photo of the product nestled into an attractive background.

photograph in natural environment

Any other ways you’ve improved the photos on your website? Let us know in the comments.