How To- Make a cheap DIY softbox and get great results

As I get back into photography after a 15+ year hiatus, one of the things I’m trying to do is to see what I can do on the cheap.

Earlier this week I wrote about how to make your own product light box for under $10. And, it’s one of my most popular posts. And I can see why: All the ingredients you already probably have in your house already. and this one is no different:


You need:
• A box. I found a box by the dumpster in my condo. You’ve probably bought shoes, and have an extra shoebox lying around.

• Some tape. Plain old transparent tape works just fine here.

• A pen. Surely you have one.

• A knife or scissors.

• Aluminum Foil. Hint: Check the kitchen.

• Tissue Paper: Check your closets, or in a pinch you could use plain old printer paper.

Let’s start with your box. If you’re using a shoebox, the lid would be a good candidate: Cut a big hole in the lid, effectively giving you a 1 inch border all the way around the top. Tape your paper or tissue paper over the big hole you have a made.

Take your tape and aluminum foil and line the inside of the shoebox with the foil. doesn’t matter what side of the foil. I used the shiny side but your mileage may vary.

Now tape the lid to your newly aluminum foil lined shoebox
Lastly, in one of the ends of the box – it doesn’t matter which end the wide or narrower end – cut a hole the same size of the flash and stick your flash head in that hole.
You’re done.

I mounted my strobe on stand and you can see the results above, but also here:

Voila. A poor man’s softbox. On the cheap and with stuff you already have. I found my box in the garbage.

What I learned from this project is good light doesn’t have to be either complicated, or expensive. This is using just ONE light on a stick with a cardboard box, some tape, and some tissue paper I had lying around.

Great photos don’t need a $8000 dollar camera and mutliple lights and a studio to hold it all. For the self portrait, I set the camera on the table and propped up the lens with an orange (no tripod). I set the camera on self timer, and ran to the spot. I used what I had available. In this case it was a cardboard box and an extra orange. The orange was the snack at the end of the shoot.

What I’d do different: I wonder if adding more paper to the shoebox would help soften up the light a bit more? There’s still a shadow on the self portrait, and I’m pretty far from the wall. It could be unavoidable as it was dark out and the ambient light in the room was nil. But would more paper just make the strobe work harder? Only one way to find out….try it!

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