Product Photography 101: Building A Budget LightBox

Author xlxmarketing 24.3.2010. | 16:20

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By Francisco Pupo

One of the challenges of selling online is taking good photos of your products.

Good product photos need to be clear, attractive, and informative to capture attention and create an interest or desire.

Your online viewers obviously can’t touch or feel your product before they buy it, so you will need to communicate as much information as possible through the use of good product photos and a detailed product description.

The goal is to remove any fear or doubt your viewers might have about purchasing a product they can’t see or feel first-hand.

To accomplish this goal you don’t have to go out and buy expensive camera and lighting equipment either. You can use inexpensive equipment easily found at your local Wal-Mart or Costco and still achieve great results.

By the end of this 2 part guide you’ll be ready to start taking professional looking photos and begin to attract the attention your products truly deserve!

Lighting Studio Setup

Proper lighting is the most important factor in capturing high quality images.

You want to use lots of lights, but not direct lights, as this will create strong shadows that will ruin your photos.

Another thing that will ruin photos is using the flash. Using a flash will washout your colors and the picture will loose much of its detail which entices the purchaser.

Our goal is to create soft shadows and subtle backgrounds. To achieve this effect you will need to use soft diffused lighting.

So how do you do that without spending thousands of dollars on an expensive studio?

You could buy an expensive “light box” or “light tent” to achieve this, but why spend the money when you can easily build one yourself?

To achieve this you need the following things:

A Frame

This can be anything sturdy enough to hang things off. Suggested items include wood and PVC piping. But as long as it is able to be clipped together to create a frame then you should be safe.

Alternately it could be a constructed structure which can be ‘modded’ to have light shone through it. Big plastic containers and cardboard boxes come very much in handy at this time.

A Reflective Surface

this is used to reflect the white from the lights back onto the object and improve the results. Some things you might want to try include: white fabric, polystryne, (white) cardboard, white/frosted plastic…

Anything that will reflect the maximum amount of light and not change the tone of the light.

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All of these materials can be used as a lightbox wall

The Lights

Select the lights that are known for their output of ‘white light’.

This rules out incandescent or fluorescent light bulbs as they produce yellow and green cast (respectively) and will not give you the “daylight” look that we are trying to create.

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GE Reveal light bulbs do a great job of creating the “daylight” look, are relatively inexpensive, and can be found at most appliance stores

Project Construction

Once you have collected all these items all you need to do is create a frame that is big enough to photograph the items you are trying to capture.

Obviously, if you are taking a picture of a painting you’re going to need a bigger lightbox than if you were taking a picture of a phone, so use your discretion.

Then, once you have the three/four-sided frame built you can line it with your material.

Once this is done set up the lights.

Where you put the lights very much depends on the thickness/density of the material.

If you are using something thick/dense you will need to put the lights on the outsde of the opening pointing in so the light reflects off the white surface.

If you are using something thin, like plastic/cloth then you can put the lights on the outside of the box and let the light filter through the surface.

lighting location

Different materials require different lighting positions

Essential Camera ‘Accessories’



It would be wonderful if that was all you needed for a studio but the sad truth more is required.

When taking product photos it’s important to keep the camera as still as possible. This is especially true when taking photos at slow shutter speeds. You can buy an inexpensive tripod from Wal-Mart or eBay that will work just fine.

Also, if you are taking pictures of something shiny there is a good chance that fingerprints will magically appear on the item so a good cloth is needed to wipe the item down and get the best photos.

And finally, if you are looking for a complete look at the object you may want to elevate the item so that you can see all the way under it.

A piece of lego, A clear perspex box or something similar will do the trick.

Well there you have it. You are now ready to start taking professional looking product photos just like you see on eBay, Amazon and Chinavasion.

Don’t forget to check out part 2 of this article where we will teach you how to take advantage of your camera’s manual control settings to maximize the image quality of your photos.

Author xlxmarketing 24.3.2010. | 16:20
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4 Comments

  1. David March 24, 16:43

    Very professional. I learned a great deal in this discussion about taking product photos, and feel confident enough to give it a go, and relatively cheaply too. Thanks Chinavasion.

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