The How Zone

Homemade Lighting Softbox

Softening Light

The next step was to secure a diffusing cloth to the light openings. The reason we do this is to help soften the light coming in. I also did it so that I could put live insects inside without them making their escape into the house!

Sticky tape layout

Along the edges of the hole lay out a strip of double sided sticky tape. Accuracy isn't important (as you can see from the rendering) just make sure that all four sides of the cutout have the tape.

Next, cut out a square of semi-opaque white cloth slightly larger than the size of your sticky tape square. Carefully lay the cloth down on one side, press to get it sticking to the tape, and then stretch it across to the other side. Play around with stretching and sticking it until the cloth is nice and taut, and firmly attached.

Here's a close-up on one of the side openings with the attached cloth and a light shining through.

Cloth Side

The cloth I used was a white curtain liner from a nearby Jo Ann fabrics. It cost a few dollars. We used to do all kinds of hobbies and handcrafts as kids so it's kind of fun to browse through the store. Inevitably when you go to the check out counter with fabric the cashier will say, "That's nice. What are you making?"

I don't think most folks say, "A softbox."

At the moment I haven't done anything fancy with the lighting arrangement. We had a few clamp lights hanging around the garage and I bought a couple more at the store. A pole is placed on top of the box to clamp the side lights to, the top light more or less sits there, and sometimes I shine a fourth light from the front, by the camera.

Full Box View

That's what it looks like in action. All four fixtures are plugged into a power strip so I can quickly turn them all on or off. If you use high wattage bulbs you need to be careful about getting the cloth too hot. Mount the lights further back and don't leave them on for extended periods.

When I put bugs in the softbox I first drape piece of white cloth over the front, clipping or taping it to the edges. It has a hole in the center for the lens to poke through. Also, after using the box for a while I cut a little half moon out of the bottom. This lets the tripod move in closer or I can poke a taller subject, like a vase, up from the bottom.

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