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How To Make Your Own Softbox

written by: •edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 6/15/2010

Professional softboxes are often too expensive for many photographers, yet they are quick and easy to make. This DIY Photography article outlines how to make a functional, customizable softbox that you can make with materials from around the house.

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    For many photographers, the use of a softbox remains out of reach due to their often ridiculous expense, and so the subtle, professional effects the softbox provides are too often left to be desired. However, the function of a softbox is quite simple - to provide diffuse lighting to a scene - and so it would make sense that they would be simple to make. This article will teach you how to make your own simple, yet effective DIY softbox out of cheap materials from around the house.

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    Supplies for your DIY Softbox

    • Cardboard box. This will be your softbox. No, I'm not kidding. Wait a few paragraphs. You'll probably want it to be the size of a standard softbox, though these directions will apply to any size you want to make.
    • Aluminum foil. Same stuff you wrap baked potatoes in. Ultra reflective. cheap, and easy to work with.
    • White cloth. You want something semi-translucent and colorless—even an old white t-shirt will do. If you don't have any scraps lying around, a trip to the scrap section of the local fabric store will get you everything you need. Sketching paper works remarkably well also.
    • Scissors. You'll be cutting cardboard, so make sure they're sharp enough for that.
    • Glue. You don't need anything really heavy duty – basic craft glue will do.
    • Something to provide lighting. You can use whatever you happen to have – if you have an external flash, go for it. If you have a light bulb and cord, maybe cannibalized from an old lamp, that'll work too.
    • Electrical tape. This is important if you're at all worried about any potential overheating problems with your light source.
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    Construction of Softbox

    Cut off the extra flaps from the box, and then unfold (and if necessary, cut) the cardboard box flat on the ground. Cut the aluminum foil to fit the interior surfaces, one plane at a time, then glue them down. Trim if necessary - it's better to have to cut off excess later than to have to add more! Then, refold the box so that it is once more three dimensional and properly box like. You may want to tape it for added structural integrity along the joints.

    Once the glue is more-or-less dry, cut a hole in the side opposite the open one for your lighting source of choice. If you're using a bare lightbulb, make sure that there are no exposed wires. If you're using an external flash, make sure that it is removable. It'd be a good idea to wrap these wires in electrical tape or some other heat- and electricity-resistant material so that there's no chance of fire.

    Finally, just glue/tape the white cloth to the open side of the box, and you're done!

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    Softbox Variations

    From here, there are a number of things you can do.

    If you want it to look a little more professional looking than a cardboard box, it's easy to cover the exposed cardboard with plain white paper or whatever else you might desire. It is best to do this when you have the cardboard box flattened.

    If you're up to some lighting experimentation, it is very easy to make more softboxes with different colored and textured cloth in front, or even just color them yourself for exactly the effect you want, with watercolor or other sources of pigment.

    You can also vary the position of the lighting source within the box, which will change the manner in which the light diffuse.

    By all means, play around with the design. It's easily made and just as easily customizable, so it's simple to come up with just the right design to fit your specific needs.