Light Box Product Photography

By Lisa McGrimmon | Published March 23, 2021
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Light box product photography is a smart way for beginners to start taking photos of items to sell online.

Why start with a light box and not some other setup?

  1. A light box eliminates many of the challenges involved in lighting product photography, making this setup easy for beginners to learn.
  2. Light box kits are reasonably priced and come with everything you need to light your photos.

If you'd like to use artificial light, and your products are small enough for tabletop photography, light box product photography is a quick and affordable way to get started.

What is LIGHT BOX Product Photography?

Light boxes are boxes with one open end and sides made of white translucent material that allow light to pass through. They are commonly used for tabletop product photography.

Woman holding DSLR camera and lens.Light box product photography tutorial.

You'll sometimes hear people refer to them as light tents or lightboxes.

Items to be photographed are placed inside the light box, which creates a small, controlled environment for product photography.

Lights are placed outside and aimed in the direction of the light box, so light can pass through the translucent white sides to illuminate the product inside. The translucent sides act as diffusers, creating the even light and soft shadows that are ideal for most product photography.

Don't confuse Light Boxes with Softbox Photography Lighting

If you're just learning about all of the equipment needed for product photography, you might hear the terms "softbox" and "light box" and assume they refer to the same thing. Or you may get the two terms mixed up.

Light boxes and softboxes are both tools that can diffuse and soften light, but they are not the same thing.

You already know that light boxes are used to create a more controlled lighting environment when items to be photographed are placed inside.

Softboxes , on the other hand, are designed to fit around the bulbs of photography lights. They are made of white translucent material, and light is diffused as it shines from the light through the softbox's translucent material.

Why are Light Boxes Great for Product Photography?

When I was taking a product photography course, I wanted to make the leap from using natural light in photography to artificial light. After researching a lot of options, I decided to buy a light box product photography kit.

Here's why I decided a light box kit was the best choice.

Light Boxes Are eAsy to Use

Light boxes make product photography easier by eliminating a lot of issues that can cause problems for beginner photographers.

Elements in your environment can create unwanted effects in your photos.

For example:

  • Nearby strong colors can affect colors in your images. 
  • Light from other sources can cause unintended effects.
  • Reflective items you're photographing can pick up the reflection of anything in the space.

When you place your product inside a light box, you block out a lot of the external environment and eliminate those sources of problems.

Light Box Kits are Affordable and Complete

You can buy light boxes individually or as part of a kit that contains other gear you'll need to light your photos.

My light box kit was well within my budget and came with everything I needed including:

  • a light box
  • two lights
  • two lightbulbs
  • two adjustable light stands which, in a pinch, can also be used as camera tripods
  • several colored fabric backdrops

The kit has everything I needed to start using artificial light, and buying it saved me from spending a lot of time shopping around for several different products separately.

If a ready-made light box isn't in your budget, check out Digital Photography School to learn how to make an inexpensive DIY light box.

Light Boxes are Perfect for White Background Product Photography

If you need to take photos of your products on a plain white background, a light box is ideal for this purpose.

The white translucent sides of a light box create diffused light. If you set up a light source on each side of the light box, you'll create the even lighting and soft shadows you need for white background product photography.

You can see this setup illustrated in the diagram further down the page. 

If the items you need to photograph are small enough, you don't have to limit yourself to white background photography inside your light box. You can also set up for lifestyle product photography inside your light box. 

Components of the Light Box Kit Can be Used for Other Lighting Setups

You're not limited to photographing inside the light box. I've used the gear to photograph items outside of the light box as well.

The lights can be used to illuminate photos you take outside of a light box. My light stands can also function as camera tripods. And I've used the light box frame to support photography backdrops outside of the light box.

How to Use a Light box for Photography

Light box setup for product photography

Light Box Product Photography Setup

1. Light Box

Place your light box on a surface with the open end pointing out toward the spot where you plan to set up your camera.

2. Product

Before you place your product, set up your backdrop inside the light box. Your light box will probably have clips in the top back corners. Use them to hold your backdrop in place.

If you're not using a seamless backdrop, place the surface you want your product to sit on in the light box as well.

Place your product inside the light box. You can add some props if you like. Arrange everything using good product photography composition rules as a guide.

3. Light Sources

You can set up your light(s) in several ways.

If you'd like a soft shadow on the opposite side of the product, start with one light aimed at one side of the light box.

If you'd like even light throughout the image with no shadow on the opposite side of the product, use two lights. Place one light on each side of the light box as shown in the diagram above.

These arrangements are generally good starting places. You can experiment with different product photography lighting setups from here.

4. Camera & 5. Tripod

Set up your camera in front of the open end of the light box. A tripod is extremely helpful here. It will allow you to keep your hands free, keep angles consistent, and avoid camera shake.

Before you take any photos, check to confirm nothing unwanted appears in the camera's view. Make sure items that should be hidden, such as the clips you used to suspend your backdrop, or the outer edge of the light box opening, are out of the scene. Adjust your setup if you find any problems.

start Photographing Your Products!

You're ready to start photographing your products.

Setting up for product photography can take a lot of time. Once you're set up, you might as well experiment with different lighting, camera settings, product styling, and composition. The more you experiment, the more you will learn and build your craft photography skills.

More Craft Photography Tips

  • Product Photography Backgrounds

    Product photography backgrounds. Ready-made & easy DIY backdrop ideas you can use to style product images in your home photography studio.

  • How to Light Product Photography

    How to light product photography in your home studio. Beginners' guide to product photography lighting using natural and artificial light sources, simple setups, and affordable equipment.

  • Camera Settings for Product Photography

    Key camera settings for product photography show beginner photographers the basic DSLR camera functions you need to master to take great photos of your crafts.

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