My apartment, ugh. I love it to death, but it doesn’t get enough direct sunlight for my liking. Taking photos in my apartment is a joke — everything comes out sad, dull, and slightly blue (no pun intended). Sometimes I’ll pack up my art and take them to a friend’s house to take photos — friends with better natural lighting. That gets old pretty fast. I really wanted better photos for my Etsy shop, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to spend hundreds of dollars on a fancy light kit. I figured hey, it’s really just a box with some lights around it, can’t I make that? I sure can! I took to the googles and searched for a good DIY tutorial. As you’d imagine, there are a ton out there. The two I found most helpful were by Digital Photography School and Savvy Seller. Etsy has their own as well.
With instructions in hand, I set out to build a light box. I did it wrong — I didn’t tape the sheets of tissue paper exactly where they were supposed to go — but it still functioned properly. Except for the lighting. Again with the lighting!
My photos were coming out yellow. At first, I thought the photos just needed some editing (you’ll likely need to edit after to get the color right). But, editing proved futile. The photos were still yellow-y. After more and more reading, I realized something. Most of the tutorials I found bragged about how cheap it is to make a light box, and used regular cheap light bulbs. That … doesn’t work. I found some lightbulb recommendations on a couple blogs and it turns out that the key is “daylight” bulbs.
I purchased the Refresh Daylight Hd 100Watt Equivalent A21 Led 2 pack from Target for $22. I’ve never spent more than $2 on a light bulb in my life, so this purchase hurt my soul. On my way to the check-out counter I must have turned around about 5 times, threatening to leave the bulbs behind. Let me tell you though — it’s worth every penny. These bulbs were the solution to all my problems — the light box AND the dull lighting in my apartment. I always thought my lamps were the problem, but it’s been the bulbs this whole time. Mind. Blown. From here on out, I’m going to be bougie about my bulbs.
If you don’t believe me, take a look at the side by side comparison below. The top row shows my original bulbs and the results, while the bottom row shows my new bulbs and the results. It’s magic, I tell you!
Of course, nothing is perfect. You’ll still need to do a bit of editing after you take your photos. For example, they might have dark corners that will need to be lightened, or you may need to adjust the brightness a tad. It won’t require too much work, and you don’t need expensive software like Photoshop to do it. You’ll be just fine with something free like Pixlr Editor or BeFunky.
Welp, after all of the hard work and troubleshooting I poured into my DIY light box, I scrapped it and bought a better one on Amazon. I couldn’t help it! My box was hideous, the sides were caving in, it was a pain to store, and my cats kept trying to sleep in it. I bought a Bestshoot 16″ x 16″ Photo Studio Shooting Tent Light Cube Diffusion Soft Box Kit for a whopping $13.88 from Amazon. The “kit” comes with the light tent and a few different color back drops — no lights. And the best part is that it folds up into a small pouch!
The results are great! Just as great as my DIY box, except the backdrops are wrinkled when they arrive, as you can see in the photo above. There’s an easy fix for that — iron them. Trust me, I’ve tried it. Another idea is to just keep using the white poster board, which I actually prefer.
For $13.88, this light box is totally worth it. In total, this whole light box setup cost me around $40 — box, lamps, and bulbs. My life is changed forever. Any tips on how to improve on this? How do you take your product photos? I want to hear everything!