Photographic Light-Box On The Cheap

 You can get much better results when photographing models, even with a relatively mediocre camera, if you can control the lighting, and a light-box is an easy way to do that.

You can buy fancy light-boxes complete with adjustable lighting and everything, but they aren't cheap. There are ways that are much easier on the wallet.

I made this light-box from a cheap plastic storage bin, some white posterboard, and a couple of cheap clip-on lights. A cardboard box would do almost as well for the shell, but the strength of the plastic box means that if need be I can clamp lights to its edges.

You will notice that neither of the lamps is actually directed at the model — that's because I usually want a very diffuse light illuminating the scene, so the lamps are directed at the reflective arch of cardboard over the top. If some direct light is desired, it's a simple matter to add another lamp clipped to the top front edge of the box.

The piece of cardboard I used for the top arch isn't long enough to go over the whole span from bottom to bottom, and I'll probably fill those empty gaps with additional pieces of card. It doesn't matter if the join isn't seamless, as it will never be seen in a photograph.

I suppose it might do the job if I just painted the whole of the inside of the box white, but I prefer a smoother arch as it creates a slightly more diffuse light, being reflected from many more angles than just the four of a flat top, sides and back. I may well paint the cardboard liner though, as the posterboard has a very slightly blue cast. I believe it's possible to get a very highly reflective pearlescent white paint, intended for painting walls for home-cinema projection, and if I can find some (and it's not too dear) I'll give that a go.
The subject — an Airfix 1/48 Hurricane Mk.I
The light-box in action with two lights

This is a carved wood Garuda I found in an antique shop and picked up on the cheap, due to it having a large crack in its base which I didn't care about at all. I've photographed it against a piece of coloured card, but otherwise I haven't changed the setup as shown above at all.

Reaper Bones Ice Worm
These two scenes have been exposed and post-processed with the aid of a very simple little white-grey-black card. Photoshop allows you to eyedropper-select the tones to be treated as white or black within the the scene, and if you have elements in the image that you know are pure white and/or pure black, this automated levelling can be very handy.

Battlefront 15mm British (North Africa)
Cards like this are available from photographic supplies vendors, but they're ridiculously expensive, and I don't need that degree of accuracy. I just mixed the grey until it was a close enough match to the medium grey on a scanner calibration card I got with my scanner some years ago.

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