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Top 5 – Tips for using a lightbox

Posted in Blog, Top 5 | 13 comments

Hello! Remember how Monday is supposed to be “Inspiration Monday”? Well I’m still getting used to posting every day of the working week and I was in Adelaide on the day I usually write posts, so I left contacting the photographer I wanted for Inspiration Monday until Sunday night and of course they haven’t gotten back to me yet, because it’s been less than 24 hours. My bad. I still wanted to keep the posts coming, so here is my top 5 tips for using a light box!

Top 5 – Tips for using a lightbox

1. Always shoot in manual mode – this is something that you’ll start doing gradually anyway as you grow as a photographer, but this is something you should ALWAYS do when using a light box. The reason for this is that it gives you greater control over how bright the background is going to be in the final image.

2. Invest in at least 1 flash – You can get some great off-brand flashes these days. The Yongnuo range in particular are my favourites. You can even get the YN460-II which has a built in optical slave, so you can trigger the flash by using the flash on your camera set to a very low setting. This way you don’t have to spend money on any other wireless trigger devices. For more on triggering a flash off camera – check out THIS post. The YN460-II can be bough on eBay from china for as little as $40.00, but make sure you are buying from a reputable seller! Once you have the flash or and light source, set it up

3. Use a tripod – If you are using a flash then you can set your camera to what ever it’s fastest sync speed, which is usually around 1/200th or 1/250th of a second. At these speeds you don’t have to worry about the camera shaking too much but if you are using a lamp or natural light to light your lightbox, then you will need to use a MUCH lower shutter speed such as 1/30th or bump up your ISO to 800-1600. ISO at that level is going to give you a pretty grainy picture so it’s much better to use a tripod and a slow shutter speed.

4. Pick the right background colour – just because it’s a light box, doesn’t mean it has to be white. Shooting a white or chrome product on a white backdrop is a pain and often wont look very good. Having a white and a black background will mean you can shoot most things but if you want to branch out with complimentary colours you can use these two website for ideas and

5. Put it on a table!!! Shooting on the floor will KILL your back. Plus shooting at a front on or even low angle will make products look taller and more important, shooting downwards will work for some things, but not all.

There you go, my top 5 for shooting with a lightbox. Also remember that there is no fixed way for lighting in a light box, although I usually start off with the light to the left of the product and up, a little bit to the front, I like to play around with the lights after I have a few safe shots.

If you’d like to see how to build you own light tent on the cheap, read my older article HERE. And when I say cheap, I REALLY mean cheap.



  1. Thank you. Fantastic tips, must make mysefl a Light tent now.

  2. It’s super easy! I have heard a lot of people using different things to prop them up as well, so when you get to that point and don’t have any chopsticks I’d love to hear what you use!

  3. It’s great to hear a review on a cheap flash from a photographer who has used one! I’ve seen them but always thought I would have to buy Canon/Nikon but if they work well then I think I’ll get another one just to have handy. Yay!

  4. I was really surprised myself, but i took the risk and couldn’t be happier. My only complaint would be that dialing in the right power level can be tricky because it just goes up and down in little power bars instead of showing you a number, other than that, awesome!

  5. Great post!!
    I’m still trying out new things with my new camera but shooting small items in a light box is my main use for the camera at the moment.

    Trying to get good shots have been tricky as I know very little about cameras.
    thanks for the great tips i will put them to good use.

  6. Thanks fake jen! I was worried about this post because it’s REALLY hard to be funny when talking about light boxes, but people seem to be enjoying it well enough. If you ever have any questions about camera stuff, feel free to get in touch! I loooove talking about cameras!

  7. Going to get myself a lightbox today. I can’t be bothered to make one myself, and I could use the extra lighting that comes in the kit. Looking forward to finally getting good product shots for Etsy! Thanks for these tips!

  8. Go for it Becky! I got one off eBay for like $15 and it works great. As great as the ones I show how to build are, they aren’t very durable. If you need some help or my opinion on anything, feel free to ask!

  9. actually i have a question. From a totally photography noob.
    what lights do you use with a light box. I’ve bought one on ebay like you did for about 15 great little pop up thingy but i can never seem to get the light right.
    I don’t have a flash (other than the camera one) so i think like you say here, I need to invest in one.
    but i’m not sure how to go about that.
    I read your blog about them but frankly i’m still a bit confused!
    Gotta do a lot of reading on them I think
    Fake Jen (Steph)

  10. Great question Steph! When it comes to lighting a light box there are pretty much only two options:
    1. Flashes
    2. Continual light (lamps)

    In my opinion flashes provide the best light for a few reasons (adjustable power, even light, easily white balanced, etc) but they do require special equipment to work (transmitters, receivers, stands, etc). Lets assume you’ll be going down the continual lighting road. Go to Bunnings (or sometimes even Woolworths) and find two florescent bulbs that put out a lot of light. You can tell by looking at the wattage. The higher the watts, the more light they put out. The reason you need to use two of the same kind of bulb is because different bulbs put out different colors of light. Once you get the bulbs home, put them in lamps and place one on either side of your light tent. bring one of the lamps towards the front, but still on the side of the light tent and point it at your subject. point the other lamp at the backdrop behind your subject. This ensures minimum shadows and still quite a bit of contrast. Let me know if this helps or if you need me to clarify things a bit more!

  11. Thanks Jimmy! I know it might sound so simply for most people who know a bit about camera work but I never understood were to put the lights. Im off to bunnings to get some Hugh watt, white light bulbs! Hopefulling that will help with my lighting issue.

    Another question completely not related to lightbox photos.
    I’m looking to take Photos of an event this weekend for a blog post and I’m wondering how I go about lighting. The event will be in a night club so I’m thinking flash is a must. But I’m not sure if my little camera flash will be enough. I have an Olympus EPL-2. Any suggestions to get the best lighting?

    Thanks again you’ve already been super helpful!
    Steph aka fake Jen!

  12. Best of luck with Bunnings! If you have a wide aperture lens (something like 2.8 or wider) then you won’t have much trouble. If you don’t then see if you camera has a slow-sync, front-sync or rear-sync flash option, those can have some pretty cool results that don’t look as harsh as regular flash photos. Otherwise just look for well lit areas to take photos in, but make sure you’re facing into the light and not with the light above you because that makes terrible face shadows. Have a play around with settings when you first get there and see which combination works best for you. One last thing, if you shoot in RAW then you can take it into Adobe Camera Raw (a Photoshop plug-in) and lighten photos really well, but RAW images take up a LOT more space on memory cards than regular photos. you’ll still get about 400 on a 4gig card though.

  13. ok no problem! thanks so much for the info. Its really helped me out!
    Can’t wait to try out different settings at the event to see how the lighting works!

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