The more you dabble in portrait and product photography, the more you see the significant difference a softbox makes. Knowing what a softbox is for and how it diffuses the light is one thing, but learning how to set it up in relation to your subject is another. So it’s not surprising that you want to experiment with a makeshift softbox before you invest in a professional one.
To make a softbox, cut four trapezoids from cardboard, wrap the inner surface with aluminum foil, and put them together into a square pyramid. Cover the smaller opening, but leave a hole for the LED bulb, then cover the front with white plastic to diffuse the light. Create a stand for your softbox.
In this article, we will give you easy-to-follow step-by-step instructions on how to make your own softbox out of cardboard. You will also need to decide how you want to create the base or stand for your softbox so you don’t need to get somebody to hold it for you while you’re shooting.
Do-It-Yourself Cardboard Softbox
Making your own cardboard softbox is easy. It may be a while since you last glued cardboard sheets together, and your teacher probably didn’t let you use a glue gun or X-Acto knife. But if you just follow these instructions you’ll have a working softbox in no time.
What You Need To Make a Cardboard Softbox
- Cardboard sheets
- Lamp with LED bulb
- Aluminum foil
- White trash bag, white grocery bag, or tracing paper
- Hot glue gun
- White glue
- X-Acto knife
- Clear tape
- Pair of scissors
Basic Steps in Making a Cardboard Softbox
- Draw and cut four cardboard trapezoids of equal sizes. The dimensions should be up to you because softboxes come in different sizes.
- Cover one surface of each trapezoid with aluminum foil. Use white glue to make sure the foil sticks tightly to the cardboard. The foil will serve as the reflector of your softbox.
- Cut two squares from the cardboard sheet. Each side of the square should have the same measurement as the smallest side of the trapezoids. For example, if each of your trapezoids measures 12 inches (30.5 cm) at the top and its parallel side (or bottom side) measures 4 inches (10.16 cm), then your squares should measure 4×4 inches (10.16×10.16cm).
- Cut a circular hole at the center of each square. The hole should be the same size as the base of your LED light bulb.
- Glue the two squares together. This would make them thick and strong enough to hold the light bulb. You may need to modify the design or configuration for this particular part or piece, depending on the kind of light bulb you will be using, as well as on the softbox stand you will be making.
- Cover one side of the square with aluminum foil. Use white glue to make sure the foil sticks tightly. Then cut the foil at the center where the hole is.
- Using a hot glue gun, put your trapezoids together to form a top-less square pyramid. Make sure the surface with aluminum foil is facing inside.
- Cover the back area of your softbox with the cardboard square. The back area is the part of your square pyramid with the smaller opening. Use hot glue to secure the square in place.
- Cut a square cardboard frame for the front portion of your softbox. The measurement of the outer sides of the frame should be about half an inch more than the front portion of your softbox. Your frame should be an inch thick.
- Cover your frame with white plastic to serve as a light diffuser. Cut a sheet of white grocery plastic bag or white trash bag so that it’s only slightly bigger than the cardboard frame. Wrap the plastic sheet around the front of the frame and secure it with tape on the back. You can also use tracing paper or wax paper.
- Put the LED light bulb into the hole of your softbox. Make sure the wires are already attached so the light already works once you plug it in.
- Cover the front portion of your softbox with the diffuser frame. You can use strips of cardboard to serve as an edge stopper for your frame. Secure the strips along with the main body of your softbox with clear tape.
You can check out this video tutorial to see how everything is done. It also shows you how to make an adjustable cardboard stand for your softbox.
However, if you think the stand is too complicated to make, you have other options. We are sharing more softbox stand ideas below.
Different Softbox Stand Options
Making the softbox itself is easy. However, you also need to make a stand or base so that your softbox can stand on its own while you are shooting people, pets, food, or objects. And making the stand is usually more complicated. The good thing is that you have a few options to choose from.
The simplest option is a base made of cardboard box. Your softbox would look like this:
(Source: DIY Photography)
This design is simply a softbox within a box, and it can stand on its own. But you will not be able to adjust the angle of the light. This option is good for taking photos of small objects or food that you can lay on a table.
This is a video demonstrating how you can make this type of softbox:
You can also make an adjustable cardboard stand, as shown in the first video. That one makes use of a kitchen towel tube as support for the softbox. You can check out another somewhat similar design, which uses cardboard blocks, pencils, and holes on the cardboard stand to adjust the height and angle of your softbox.
Here’s a tutorial video on how to make a cardboard softbox with an adjustable cardboard stand:
Another option is a stand made of PVC pipes.
(Source: YouTube: Invenções DIY)
You can make it adjustable with the help of bolts, screws, hooks, and a chain. Here is a tutorial on how you can make a softbox with a pipe stand:
You can also make a softbox with a simple pipe stand without the adjustability. Here’s a video showing how to do it:
Of course, nothing is as easy as having a spare tripod lying around. You can use that for your cardboard softbox. All you really need to do is to find a way to mount your softbox on the tripod. You can either use duct tape or hot glue to attach your cardboard softbox securely to the tripod.
Wiring a Light Bulb and Switch
Making a softbox involves using a light bulb that works, so you may also need to learn how to wire a socket, a switch, and a plug. You will need to do the wirings before you attach your bulb to your softbox.
Here’s a video demonstrating how to wire a receptacle socket:
And here’s a tutorial on how you can connect the switch:
Meanwhile, this video shows you how to wire a two-pin plug:
You have your own reason for wanting to learn how to make a DIY cardboard softbox. It could be because you’re on a budget, or because the one you already have got broken. It could also be because you just love to make things by hand.
Whatever your reason is, know that making a softbox out of cardboard is easy. Making the stand, however, may require more patience and commitment, especially if you want one that is adjustable.
And know that if making things is not your cup of tea, there are still affordable softbox kits on the market.
- DIY Photography: How to Make a DIY Softbox for Almost $0
- YouTube: How to Build Softbox Lights | Cardboard Box to BAMF Lights
- YouTube: DIY Softbox from Cardboard / Foam Board
- YouTube: Make This High-Easy Home Pipe Light (Softbox)
- YouTube: DIY Softbox Light (very cheap) – How to make your own Softbox
- YouTube: How To Wire Ceiling Receptacle Step By Step
- YouTube: How To Connect And Wire The Switch
- YouTube: How to Wire a 2 Pin Plug
- YouTube: How to Make Photography Lighting Softbox at home