AlexCampagna 1:48am, 29 April 2008
This tutorial is also available on my blog

Last week I posted a DIY article on building a DIY Spiderlight. If you haven't seen it here it is:
DIY-Spiderlight

I finally had some time to complete the softbox that was meant to go along this light fixture.
Here's what it looks like (without the diffuser panel):
DIY-Softbox

I am so happy. The whole thing is very lightweight and also really strong. It also costs a fraction of a real softbox. Dimensions are 24" wide, 40" high and 20" deep. Be advised though, this won't be done in an hour. It took me several hours to build it, and it is mostly because of the curved shape of the 4 sides. A "pyramidal" shaped softbox would have been much less complicated. But hey... does it look cool or what !

To build this baby you will need:
- a 4' x 8' sheet of black corrugated plastic. Also called Coroplast (about 20$ and you can get it at your local signmaker or hardware store).
- a roll of STRONG aluminum foil
- Spray adhesive
- Aluminum tape
- Some wood to make the frame
- Some material for the diffuser panel. I bought a piece of white "permapress" cotton. Seems to work fine.
- a couple of "L" shaped metal brackets
- Tools: Knife, scissors, T-50 stapler + staples

That's pretty much it! About 35$ total for everything.
Here's how it was done:

DIY-Softbox-01
Here's is a piece of coroplast with the layout of one of the big side parts.

DIY-Softbox-02
One of the sides cut out. Notice the direction of the channels on this piece. This is important !


DIY-Softbox-03
Cutout of one of the top/bottom panels. Notice the direction of the channels on this piece. This is important !

DIY-Softbox-04
When you bend coroplast in the wrong direction, it can be desastrous. To avoid permanent fold marks, simply take a very sharp knife and cut the FIRST HALF the the coroplast layer. I did a cut every inches or so. This allows the whole panel to bend nicely without any problem (at least not yet...more details coming).

DIY-Softbox-05
Aluminum foil applied to the panel with spray adhesive.

DIY-Softbox-06DIY-Softbox-07
Here's the wood frame what will hold everything together. It will also be used to hold the diffusion panel as well. I did not picture any steps regarding the construction of this frame since the excellent strobist, do-it-yourselfer and photographer Nick Wheeleroz already did it when he build his own softbox. Click here to read his tutorial on building the wood frame. While you're there, take a couple minutes to check his incredible work too!
By the way Nick, I am a professionnal woodworker myself and i built it exactly the same way as you did. See, no need to go with fancy joinery on that thing :o)
The only difference with his version and mine is that I built it a bit thicker and added a additionnal screw from the side for increased stability.

DIY-Softbox-08
Here's the part where I TOTALLY SUCKED at this project. The fact that I had cut the first layer of the coroplast to make it bend easier, also made it really soft. I had to temporarily attach both of the softbox sides to the Spiderlight fixture and figure out a crude way to support and secure the whole thing while installing the top and bottom panels. The side panels were first stapled on the wood frame.

I did not know what the final shape of the top/bottom panels would be so I had to take a big piece of thin cartboard and lay it down over the two installed sides and trace it out. I then transferred the layout on the coroplast panels.
Maybe I am making this sound simple but in fact it took me two whole afternoons of head scratching to figure out a way to do it all. Hopefully one of you guys will figure out a better way to do it and post it on this thread.

Oh and I forgot, the top/bottom panels were first stapled to the wood frame. Then, they were connected to the side panels using black duct tape. I know, it ain't pretty, but is holds damn well. At least it's not grey!

DIY-Softbox-09
The completed softbox. Ain't it pretty ?

DIY-Softbox-10
A quick look from the inside.

DIY-Softbox-11
Lightbulbs in. Ready... set....

DIY-Softbox-13
Yeouch! My eyes! :o) 1/30sec. f2.8 ISO 80

DIY-Softbox-14DIY-Softbox-15
I placed the diffusion panel (cotton sheet) over the softbox for testing purposes. Both of these shots were taken at 1/200 f2.8 ISO 80. The first one is with all 5 bulbs turned on. The second one is with only 3 of the bulbs turned on (see my tutorial on the DIY-Spiderlight for more details). You can really see the difference in brightness.

DIY-Softbox-12
Taken at 1/1600 f2.8 ISO 80

Now a first field test (BEWARE OF THE MONSTER):
DIY-Softbox-16
Yep. It's me. Turned off all other lights in the room and set my camera on the tripod. This shot is not really good. Here's why:
1- I was alone. I had to pre-focus on... thin air. No subject to focus on since i'm behind the camera while composing the shot. That's why it ain't sharp.
2- The softbox is still on the floor. I haven't got my lightstand and swivel bracket yet.
3- The subject is ugly!
4- Again I was alone so no one or/and no lightstand yet to hold a reflector for me.

Anyway. It does work! This was shot at 1/30 f2.8 ISO 80. Still a bit too overexposed on the lightened side. Of course this kind of light is not to be used to picture an excited child moving around.

That's pretty much it! Later this week i will install the diffusion panel with velcro on the wood frame. I will also work out a way to make the spiderlight removable with some sort of washers and wing nuts...
As soon as I have my lightstand I will do some more serious testing with hopefully better subjects than me.
Might take a while though... I want to order my first "off-camera" flash. But then I have to decide between Nikon or Canon, but then I have to decide of my next camera as well... and so as lenses and BLAAAHHHHH!!!!!

Anyway. Just give me a couple weeks. I'll be updating this thread as soon as everything is in.

Hope you like the softbox!
AlexCampagna Posted 9 years ago. Edited by AlexCampagna (member) 9 years ago
Here's some more test shots:
Masterchief-1
1/60 f2.8 ISO100, No diffusion screen, Softbox on left, DIY reflector on right

Masterchief-2
1/40 f2.8 ISO100 No diffusion screen, Softbox on left, DIY reflector on right

Masterchief-3
1/40 f2.8 ISO100 WITH cotton diffusion screen, Softbox on left, DIY reflector on right.
710 Photography 9 years ago
Very nice. I've wanted a spiderlight ever since I went to a Ed Pierce seminar. They are on the pricey side though.
AlexCampagna 9 years ago
Then just build my version! :o)
{ karen } 9 years ago
ooooh, this makes me want to get up and make one. thank you so much for sharing this. the results look great.
admin
udijw 9 years ago
Hi Alex,
The results are amazing. Looking at the images, there is no way to tell your design from a store bought one.
I guess that your woodwork know-how really paid of.
The diffused results look great.

Thanks for sharing this tutorial and set up.
- udi
AlexCampagna Posted 9 years ago. Edited by AlexCampagna (member) 9 years ago
Template to make the sides:
Softboxtemplate
Pavel Sporish PRO 9 years ago
Fantastic job!
I love the final result.
How does the structure stands hard?
Doesn't it collapses where you've cut it to make it easier to bend?
AlexCampagna 9 years ago
Yes it was collapsing. That's whay I had to setup some crude way of supporting it while attaching the top & bottom. You didn't read did you ;)

But once the top & bottom were attached and taped, the whole thing is rock solid!
Andrew Burrows PRO 9 years ago
This looks excellent. Do you have a template for the top and bottom pieces too?
AlexCampagna 9 years ago
No unfortunately I don't. It actually depends on the depth you give to the softbox. That's why you are better cutting the top & Bottoms "on-site"...

I actually might take it apart some day to replace the interior with Flat white paint or mylar... if that is the case i'll try to sketch out the top & bottom piece..
rhondan [deleted] 9 years ago
Where exactly did you purchase the coroplast? I've had no luck finding it anywhere.
AlexCampagna 9 years ago
Call your local signmaker. They usually hold tons of this stuff. It is also called corrugated plastic.

I could've also bought it (in white only) at my local hardware store....
admin
udijw 9 years ago
rhondanpro - at least in Israel it can also be found at office supplies stores.
- udi
GregBond 8 years ago
Minor tweak and a question:

Instead of velcro, maybe use magnets to hold the diffusion panel in place. You've got the metal corner brackets at the corners of the wood frame so you've got an easy place to stick 'em. If necessary, you could add a straight bracket or two along the length and width of the wood to provide for more magnet anchor points. (I prefer magnets over velcro and you can get some crazy-strong magnets for a couple of bucks at the hobby store.)

Now the question: How do you mount this whole thing to your light stand(s)? Seems to me that there's too much weight in front to mount it by the wooden lamp bracket. Also seems there too much weight in the back to mount it by the wood frame. How did you solve this?
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