Wednesday, April 6, 2011

DIY Light Studio Tutorial

I am no expert on photography, but starting up this blog has encouraged me to tinker around with the camera. During the dark days of Winter, I wanted to have the freedom to take photos in the evening when little natural light was available. We decided to read up on making our own do-it-yourself light studio.

Mr. SixBalloons ended up building two models, one of which is made of salvaged plastic white sign board material. We simply taped together the pieces with the white backsides as the interior walls of the photo studio.

Another common style is made with an ordinary cardboard box with the sides and top cut out, covered by some translucent white material. I used some white fabric purchased at a thrift store to diffuse the light.

Taking my Kathie Winkle Corinth Teacup as a subject, I tested out the various lighting situations in the cardboard model as follows:

Light Studio with Diffused Light

Natural Light Only (Evening)

Natural Light, with Camera Flash

Clearly the first photo taken without flash in the diffused light situation worked best at mimicking natural lighting and showing the true colours. The light bulbs do create some glare spots, but it might be worthwhile experimenting with say, two layers of white tissue paper instead of the sheer cloth I used.

Because of the bright and reflective surface of the plastic signboard, I prefer the plastic light studio over the cardboard model. I feel that the light bouncing off the smooth white surfaces diffuses the lighting further, reducing shadows and creating a more natural look. The Primary Bowls below can perhaps show this.

If changing backgrounds is important to you, the cardboard model makes it very convenient and versatile. The table runner I often use as a backdrop to my photos lays easily through the cardboard opening at the top of the box.

The bottom line for me? You just can't beat natural light for freedom when taking pictures. However, I love having a simple home-made alternative that lets me take photos after sundown.

This was a fun DIY project for us, and rewarding because we saved money by salvaging and re-using. The adjustable desk-clamped lamps were collected on various thrifting adventures for about $3 each. We decided it was important to get proper lights and purchased these Philips Compact Flourescent bulbs which output 100w while actually using 23w of energy. We know these will last us a long time.


  1. I love all this techie info! Thanks so much for sharing- definitely something to think about doing in the future. :)

  2. Great post- thanks for sharing, will have a go at this light box photo taking at some point :o) Scarlett x

  3. Very cool. Thanks for explaining how you did this. Let us know if you experiment further and get a different result. I like that you showed the comparison photos. Very "enlightening"!

  4. This has been a really really useful post - thanks so much. I am really noticing the (tragic) difference between my photographs and those taken by some other bloggers, and was beginning to get worried. I'm very much point and click - I've only just had the macro function explained to me - but even I had realised that evening (when I'm less busy) is not the best time for taking pictures. And although I'll always be a first and foremost a fan of an individual writing style, I'm beginning to appreciate the power of a great photograph. Thanks!

    I do have some tips to share on winning competitions though - if you're interested. My area of expertise!

  5. I really found this post helpful and plan on setting up a little "studio" like yours on the weekend.

    Thank you x

  6. Neat-o post!!Loved being able to go behind-the-scenes and see how you take your great pics!! I especially enjoyed seeing the difference between all the lighting conditions.

  7. Very cool - thanks for sharing about your photography set-up. I like that even the lights and fabric and white board were salvaged and didn't cost a fortune.

  8. I'm glad this was helpful! Now that it is summertime, hopefully I can get more shots with natural light.

  9. You're my hero! I needed these tips badly! Thanks


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