I thought I’d post a little photography-based tip for those who are interested. It’s how I built an inexpensive but very effective white box (or light box) for white-background photography. After searching numerous websites for suggestions on white boxes, I was left pretty disappointed. The cardboard box suggestions were the worst. They resulted in sloppy contraptions that gave awful color integrity.
At long last, I found a short mention of using white foamboard from Office Depot (Staples, whatever). Desperate, I went with that suggestion and was very pleasantly surprised with the results. I bought several 2′ x 3′ sheets of white foamboard – five in total. The foamboard’s ultra-white surface has the wonderful ability to gently disperse light. The foamboard is also very rigid and makes it easy to construct a 5 sided box that doesn’t get wobbly or weak.
I used a full-sized sheet of foamboard for the bottom surface. I cut 2′ x 2.5′ squares from two foamboard sheets and used them for the left and right sides. A 2′ x 2′ square was used for the back of the box and a 2′ x 2.5′ sheet for the top. Standard masking tape was used to affix the boards together and create the standing box. I would have preferred to use white duct tape or white masking tape, but neither Home Depot nor Office Depot had any in stock.
The slightly-longer bottom extends out from the box for a little more white runway in angled photos. I then used a razor knife to carefully cut several flaps in the top of the box for properly angled lights. These flaps can be opened or closed, depending on what angle I want light to shine. Cutting holes (and not flaps) is discouraged, because it causes a permanent light drain, inhibits internal reflection and, if you’re shooting anything highly-reflective (like glass, bottles, etc.), the dark hole will show up as an annoying artifact on your object.
To reduce the inevitable horizon line from the bottom joint of foamboard sheets, I used a couple sheets of ultra-white paper taped to the backboard of the box, with a sloping angle, then taped to the bottom foamboard sheet.
As for lighting, I used three cheap articulating lamps from IKEA. They cost $8 each. They’re awesome because the insides of the lamps are coated in bright white paint. The key element in this setup is the actual light bulbs. Standard incandescent bulbs cast a terrible orange glow that can ruin shots. I opted for bulbs that had near-perfect light. They’re “daylight” CFL (compact florescent) bulbs that have a color temperature of about 4500 to 5500. (Incandescent bulbs have color temps around 2800-3400 – way, way too orange for any decent photos.)
With the white box built and the bright white bulbs installed, I set up a tripod for some test shots. Here are a few test results:
Not too shabby. Certainly better than white sheets, white felt, white linoleum or goofy cloth-style pop-up photo tents.
P.S. I found that placing a thin sheet of clear plexiglas on the bottom of the white box helps create a neat reflection under certain objects, similar to the drop reflection common to Apple’s product photos.