How To Make a Lightbox for Food Photography (DIY Guide)

Nothing quite describes the delightfulness of a well-cooked meal, but scratch that, a nicely taken photograph does the job. But what can you do if you want to take a picture at night or on a stormy day? A quality food photograph requires diffuse daylight, where knowing how to make a lightbox comes in. 

Here are essential steps you can take to make a lightbox for food photography:

  1. Measure and cut out the windows.
  2. Line the inner part of the box.
  3. Cover the windows.
  4. Use your lightbox.

This article explains in detail the step-by-step guide on how to make a lightbox and other things you would want to know about one. I’ll also talk about the materials you’ll need to make a lightbox.


Materials You Need for Making a Lightbox 

With simple tools like a cardboard box, a lightbulb, some tape, and a muslinOpens in a new tab., you can make a lightbox frame to take attractive pictures of your food. 

  • Sturdy cardboard box: The cardboard box is the most important material for your lightbox as it helps you to build its frame. It could be available for free or for sale in the grocery store. The best box shape is square, and it can be any size; The larger the box, the larger the items you can take with the lightbox.
  • Lights: White lights are best for your food photography since they simulate natural light. Daylight/fluorescent bulbs can be great options.
  • Fabric: Use white muslin fabric, white t-shirts, or a white bed sheet or whatever white fabric you have available. You need around 2 yards, although it depends on the size of your box.
  • Bristol board: A heavyweight drawing paper similar to an oak tag used in art. About two boards are required.
  • Measuring and cutting tools: Sharp scissors are necessary to make your work seamless and neat, helping you cut out accurate lines. In the absence of one, a box cutter would be appropriate. You would also need other tools for measuring, such as a tape measure, straight edge ruler. You would find this in most grocery stores around.
  • Masking tape and glue stick: Necessary to glue sides, strips and Bristol board.
  • Portable light fixture: You might also use a desk lamp as a light source.

Steps on How To Make a Lightbox for for Food Photography

Now that you have all the required materials, you can start making the lightbox:

1. Measure and Cut Out the Windows

With a tape ruler and a marker, measure 2 inches (5 cm) from the side of the box, marking various spots.  

Connect the points with your straight edge to create a nice-looking square/rectangle in the middle of the box with a 2-inch (5-cm) border around it. Only the two opposite sides of the box need to be marked, not the top and bottom. 

Using the scissors or box cutter, carve out the boxes that you’ve drawn. Repeat for the opposite side of the box that you have marked out for a cutting. 

Cut the top of the box off, or remove the flaps on the top of the box after you’re finished. Leave the bottom part of the box untouched. 

2. Line the Inner Part of the Box

Using your marker, make 16 lines every two inches on your Bristol boardOpens in a new tab.. Then, using your scissors, cut 16 strips out. Adhere the paper strips to the inside of the box with glue. Make sure the side with the marker is hidden below the cardboard. 

Cut a second piece of Bristol board to the same width as the inside of the box and much longer than the box’s length.

Place the long Bristol board/white paper in the box until it reaches the bottom curve. Smooth out any crease as you put in the Bristol board, or else it will show up in your shot and ruin it. Remove any excess paper protruding from the top.

3. Cover the Windows

Cut pieces of the fabric you want to use to fit over the holes and hide them. The purpose of the fabric is to diffuse the light coming into the box, so choose a fabric type that won’t reflect light. 

Cut a large piece to fit over the top of the box. The fabric must be about one inch bigger than the windows you cut out. Then secure the fabric in place using tape or clamps.

Using tape, cover all of the holes in the box except the one facing your background. Then secure the top piece with tape.

4. Use Your Lightbox

Now that your lightbox is ready, all you have to do now is illuminate the box’s top and snap away.

You can place your lightbox on a broad, smooth surface and close to a light source. Your lightbox will do the job of filtering the light.

Place your food or any other product you want to snap at the center of the lightbox so that it can receive even illumination, and take your shot.

Here’s a video by eHowArtsandCrafts on how to make a light box to photograph food: 

The Importance of Light in a Food Photography Lightbox

Nothing is more annoying after preparing a delectable meal and serving it beautifully than taking a poor photograph that fails to convey the dish’s splendor.

For a dish to come out looking alive in a picture, it’s preferable to shoot your meals in natural light that’s properly diffused. It’s simply the most attractive and affordable kind of light. 

Avoid using your phone’s flash or, even worse, your on-camera flash. It will make your meal appear dull and unappealing. 

You also don’t need to spend a lot of money on a beautiful lighting setup. You only need to understand how to control and filter the light you have available.

Lighting Tips for Food Photography

Even while using artificial light, you can still make your lighting look as natural as possible. 

The following tips are great for indoor photography using your lightbox and artificial lights:

  • The light should be diffused. You’ll get a powerful explosion of light if you use a strobe light. And if you’re using a lightbox, you may need to add more diffusion to mellow the light even further.
  • Turn off all of the lights in the room. Especially if you’re shooting with a steady light source, you might not need the contrast that comes with regular room lightsOpens in a new tab.. Indoor lighting has color variations that can cause unwanted color casts in your photographs. These effects will be extremely tough to correct in post-production.
  • Allow plenty of room for yourself. You’ll need space for your light, as well as a diffuser and multiple reflectors or bounce cards if you’re shooting with artificial light.

What Is a Lightbox?

For those new to food photography, here it is. 

A photo lightbox, often known as a light tent, is a white-backdropped box with translucent sides. The box is designed to be empty so that you may put a product within, snap a picture, and obtain a professional-looking outcome with no shadows upsetting the plain, even background.

Why You Need a Lightbox for Food Photography

To produce high-quality photographs suited for use in your marketing campaign or online store, or even just for social media, you must have complete control over the light and backdrop while shooting inanimate objects like food. A photo lightbox is useful in this situation.

Advantages of Using a Lightbox

As a food photographer, you want your images to be more appealing than they have ever been. Consistent lighting can improve the quality of your images with the help of a lightbox and a creative mind. 

The goal of lightbox photography is to create the greatest artificial lighting possible. But, other than that, here are some of the benefits you can get from it.

  • You can take pictures anytime: A lightbox provides you the freedom to photograph your meals whenever you want, day or night.
  • Cost-effective: It’s relatively inexpensive to DIY, yet it is effective. Compared to many lightboxes and light fixtures on the market, where you can easily pay about $100, this is a wonderful steal. The entire DIY lightbox cost four times less than that.
  • Ease of storage: You can always deconstruct your lightbox for storage and set it up only when you need it if you don’t have enough space because it’s so simple to set up.
  • Can be used for other small items: Aside from food, a lightbox is perfect for photographing jewelry, small electronics such as smartphones, and other small items.
  • Any camera would do: You don’t need a high-tech camera for this purpose. You can use any camera you choose, including your smartphone.
  • Perfect alternative to natural light: It’s a great alternative if you have trouble accessing natural light.

Disadvantages of DIY Light Boxes

As fantastic as lightboxes are, they have their downsides, including:

  • Relatively time consuming: If you’re too busy to make a DIY lightbox, it’s best to invest in a ready-made one because making a DIY lightbox will take a long time. If you aren’t used to it, accurately measuring and cutting the material can be difficult. Plus, you may not have the appropriate equipment in some cases and will need to spend money on extra items.
  • Prone to poor design: Contrary to common opinion, creating a lightbox is more complicated than simply making a box and putting some lights inside. If your cardboard and lights aren’t oriented correctly, you may start a fire. In addition, it can be too bulky to transport or carry if you use wood. However, most lightboxes on the market are compact and foldable.
  • Selecting light sources is difficult: The most challenging part of making your lightbox is figuring out what kind of light to use. You’ll have to find the right lighting for your box in addition to purchasing it, which may also take a long time.

Equipment That Goes Hand-in-Hand With a Light Box


Use LED light bulbsOpens in a new tab. or compact fluorescent lamps, but not both or else, the illumination won’t be evenly distributed.

When photographing food with your professional camera or mobile phone, you want the setting to have a natural feel, and most people use natural light to create this.

Look for the following when purchasing artificial lighting: 

  • The light that can be controlled with grids and softboxes.
  • Strobes lights with 400-500 wattsOpens in a new tab. of power and LED lights of 60-150 watts.
  • High-Definition Flash which can capture liquid splashes in pictures.
  • Modeling lamp with 300 watts of power (may be used for video) that can be adjusted.
  • Various voltages for when you want to travel.

You might want to steer clear of the following:

  • Overpriced lights and of poor quality.
  • Cheapest lights in the market.


As previously stated, you’re free to use any camera, including your smartphone camera.

Before purchasing a camera, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • What’s the minimum number of megapixels that you need?
  • What else do you intend to do with this camera?
  • Do you intend to shoot videos with it?

The answers to those questions will undoubtedly assist you in narrowing your options.

The following are features you require for your camera:

  • Capacity to tether to computer.
  • The cost compared to the number of megapixels.
  • Editing options should be available.
  • Noise at the lowest ISO setting.

You shouldn’t be bothered with:

  • Touch-screen displays.
  • Points of auto-focus.
  • Capabilities for high ISO.

You will also need lenses. As regards food photography gear, lenses should take up the lion’s share of your cash.

Their hefty cost should be considered a long-term investment and an important component of your budget for equipment.

The features food photographers look for in lenses include:

  • Color representation and sharpness.
  • The shortest focus distance – the closer it is, the better.
  • Length of the focal plane.

You don’t need features like:

  • Speed of auto-focus.
  • Name of the company.
  • Stabilization of the image.

Other Equipment 

Table. Any sturdy table will suffice as long as it’s larger than the lightbox. When taking photographs, you should be satisfied with the height.

Reflector. This is a personal preference. It can add direct light in some instances. A simple mirror, a white sheet, or anything else that reflects light would suffice.

Tripod. Besides providing stability, a tripod allows you to use longer shutter speeds for better results. It will help you feel calmer.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to food photography, nothing beats natural light. With a well-set lightbox, though, you can get extremely near. Many professional food bloggers and amateur food photographers use this technique to create stunning images. And the best part is that you aren’t limited to capturing shots solely in daylight with a lightbox.


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I'm Vinnie, and I'm here to support you to create your own studio at home, whether it’s for photography, recording audio, podcasts, or videos!

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