How to Make a Macro (Miniature) Photography Light Box and Other Tips

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Required tools and supplies:

  • X-acto knife and fresh blade
  • Metal straight-edge ruler to use to cut against
  • Cutting mat
  • Sheet of mat board (I like a warm gray for background since it matches most anything)
  • Sheet of plastic corrugated board
  • Fast-grab, quick-dry white craft glue that dries clear
  • Opaque wide packing tape
  • Old white sheet or similar fabric (ironed with no wrinkles)
  • Artist's paint brush to apply glue
  • 2 high-watt spot lights (see in text below)

I am not a professional photographer by any stretch of the imagination, but--like most of you--I learn a little about what I need, add a little "duct tape" so to speak and fake it really well. For example, I needed to improve the photographs of my miniatures...I especially wanted to capture all the smallest details of my new line. I did a little internet research and found out about light boxes -- boy are they expensive!! Then I went and designed a "quicky" light box for my own purposes. As it turned out, this box has been very effective, and I thought you might like to see it since most of you need to take a photo or two on occasion of your own works.

1. What I used for the box was a large piece of mat board (see photo). If I were to do this again, I would use that corrugated plastic board that you can get at the craft store. That would hold it's shape better, but takes a little more muscle to cut than the mat board.

2. The finished box size is 12" (inches) cubed. Cut 5 pieces of the corrugated board to 12"x12" squares. The left, right and top panels (3 out of 5 panels) have windows cut that leave a 2" boarder on all four sides.

3. I glued the ironed white bed sheet fabric in the windows as light diffusers. You can start by gluing the bottom edge down and allow it to dry. Stretch the top edge and glue it down. Use a strip of tape to hold it in place while the glue is drying, then remove the tape after the bond is dry. Glue the left and right sides down. Don't let light seep through any unglued areas!

4. Use the opaque wide packing tape and "tape-hinge" the bottom panel and back panels together. That means that they should be at a 90 degree right-angle when you are done. Make sure that taping is done on the exterior of the box.

5. Repeat the tape-hinge step to tape the top panel to the back panel.

6. Fit the sides into place and tape tightly. You will probably need to shave a little of an edge here and there to get it to fit well. You don't want light to seep through the seams because they will make unwanted shadows and light strips.

7. Notice in my photo that the background is curved. That is a piece of mat board wedged into the cube. I am able to use any color background with removable panels--and there is no seam in the photograph background since the panel is curved. The panel is 20" long by 11.75" wide. To keep it from slipping out the front, I glued two 1" wide by about 10" long strips of mat board together (stacked on top of each other). Then glued the stack to the floor of the entrance flush against floor edge. I can pop out the background and replace it with another color panel whenever I like.

8. For lighting, I went to my local hardware store (Home Depot  in my case) and purchased two 500 watt halogen work-lights for about $20 (see photo). Don't leave these lights on when unattended! They are extremely hot and will cause a fire if close to the light box.

9. I still use my flash on the camera. Of course you will need to practice with different settings on your particular camera and for what you are photographing, but some of my digital settings may help you. Here they are:

  • Close-up setting (mine's a little tulip)

  • ISO 64 (on my camera)

  • Super Zoom ON

  • F8.0 and 1/1000 (highest settings)

  • The ASA on regular film should be a high sensitivity, i.e., 400 ASA

  • Work with your white balance if there is a setting on your camera


Paper Minis Miniatures
On-Line Since 2002

Front Royal, Virginia

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held by Ann Vanture, 2003-2012
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