Andy´s DIY Softbox

Here´s a sketch of the homemade softbox I´ve used for all my tabletop studio model car photos. The cardboard softbox sits on top of a 45 x 45 cm wooden frame with four legs. Any filters and diffusers I want to use also rest on the top of the wooden frame, and can be easily changed by lifting off the softbox. For some shots I´ve covered most of the softbox front with black gobos, leaving a 11cm (or whatever I want to try) window to give a strip light effect. I make black doors to control the light further.


The only thing that really cost any money on this was a €5 desk lamp fitted with a €20 daylight low energy (23w = 120w) bulb. Because I still use film cameras I needed a bulb that would give me a good white light. Perhaps with a digital camera that lets you adjust the light balance a cheaper bulb would do. Low energy is great because the bulb doesn´t get hot and has a really long and reliable life. I know many tabletop studio setups use flash, but I don´t have a flash, and also I like the WYSIWYG that a continuous light gives me.


The base card is swept up vertically into a backdrop. I have great fun with different colour sheets of card, as you can see on my photostream. To get a gradually darkening background I extend the backdrop out beyond the softbox and cover it with the black extension card that I show in dotted lines on the sketch. If I want a blacker graduated background I either lengthen this extension card to push the backdrop even further back, or I raise the base to get it closer to the softbox.


Over the months I´ve added a few extra whizz-bang refinements. Now I can strap the softbox down onto the wooden frame so I can turn the box on an angle or on it´s side without the whole assembly falling apart. I´ve also added extensions to the legs so that if I want to I can raise the softbox another 20cms. It´s good for taller subjects, or if I want to get a higher camera angle. But actually the best softbox light (big and soft) is when it is as close to the subject as possible.


I´m no softbox or studio lighting expert, and there are plenty of good sources on the net and here on flickr for advice on making your own softbox and other studio lighting tips, but I have been asked how I do my car shots, so I thought I´d share this with you. I´ve had so much fun from this softbox...I´ve shot almost nothing else in the past six months!


If anyone else is inspired to try this feel free to ask any questions....


All the best, Andy

  • Kenny Harrelson 5y

    Hey, Andy.... I just saw a nice trick a few days ago in one of my contacts streams that works pretty well. (I tried it already) What he did was to use ordinary glass, then he placed black paper underneath it. It simulates glossy black tile and puts up a pretty good reflection of whatever's placed on it. Here's what it looks like:

    Character by HaarFager (Pro)
  • Andy Game 5y

    hallo HaarFager, yes, that idea works well doesn´t it...I´ve done that a few times myself. And with coloured card too. It´s good when the camera is at a higher angle and shows only the base. Many of my shots have a lower camera angle, which means the background is in shot too, which in turn means that I normally bend the base up in a curve behind the model. Then glass doesn´t work!

    Incidently, did you see my attempts at floating a model above water for reflections? it´s here:

    1:10 Peugeot TN55 Triporteur Model On Water by andygame

    can get a bit messy, but it´s another idea to try. And the reflections are quite striking.

    Have you seen the number of views now on this page..1427! a week ago it was around 450...this page was featured on website last week, and now lots more people have seen it. I´m sure you can imagine..that´s a real buzz for me!

    bye for now, Andy
  • Kenny Harrelson 5y

    I suppose if you used a black card under the glass, then black velvet would make an appropriate background. I recently picked up a piece of black velvet for this. But when you go to using coloured cards, then it might be hard to find a matching color of material for that. I'm not so good at the colours, so I stick with shades I know.

    That water trick is amazing, as I commented over on the Peugeot motorcycle page. I think I have a pizza pan with a lip of about an 1/8" depth that might work for an attempt at recreating this method on my own - thanks for describing it!

    Congratulations on being featured on the DIY website! I'll bet it's a great feeling to see the view count go up! That's like triple the views in just a few days - wonderful! I know I love the feeling that comes with posting a picture and within even a day or two it's already been looked at 20 or 30 times, but nearly 1500, that's great! Of course, a dozen of those views are probably mine because I'm always checking back to see what new things and ideas you're posting on it. A person doesn't need to buy a portrait photography book for learning anything - just bookmark this page! Thanks for being a friend, I have met so many nice people on Flickr!
  • Andy Game 5y

    Hallo HaarFager, what a lovely message..Thank-you!

    Just to comment on your suggestion of black velvet behind and glass covered card in front....what I´ve found is that the far edge of the glass may show up as a lighter line, when illuminated from above as my photos are. I´ve had that trouble with a large mirror as a base, which is also a sheet of glass. I painted the far edge matt black to reduce the effect.

    A mirror actually can work well too..because if the camera is raised a bit as it normally would be, like that camera shot of yours above, the mirror reflects the (black) background colour and is unaffected by the huge softbox light above. So the subject gets plenty of light, but the mirror still stays black, with wonderfully stronge reflections. Only problem is trying to keep the mirror spotlessly clean! But photoshop can come to the rescue there can´t it!

    You keep up the good work too! Andy
  • Kenny Harrelson 5y

    Yeah, good ol' Adobe can clone out such things as lint or horizon lines or joining lines. The problem I have when photographing things is sometimes my background isn't wide enough to fill the frame. What I'll do is clone a little slice along the side of the subject that has the good area of the background and paste it right over it. Then, I'll drag the outer edge of it so that it stretches to the edge of the frame. So, if I use a white or black background, it generally doesn't show. I'll post a picture of it and maybe it'll help some people who have the same problem.
  • Denis Maillet 5y

    I've read everything but i have some problem to visualise the glass installation and it's shape..

    Can you take a picture of your glass and of the installation please ? It would be awesome !

  • Kenny Harrelson 5y

    I hope you don't feel that I'm commandeering your post, Andy, but here's that how-to on my background technique I spoke about.
  • Andy Game 5y

    Hi Deniooo...I´m not sure if your question is addressed to HaarFager or me? I think HF, because he was using glass?
  • Andy Game 5y

    Hi HaarFager...commandeer at will, we´re all friends here!
  • Kenny Harrelson 5y

    If Deniooo was asking me, I'll go ahead and answer. I use a piece of glass taken out of a picture frame, and it measures approximately 8.5 inches by 10.5 inches. What I'll do is lay the black construction paper flat on my working surface, then place the cleaned glass right on top of it. Behind it I'll drape a piece of black velvet to insure all that can be seen is blackness. Sometimes, the edge of the glass will show, or there will be lint on the velvet or smudges on the glass. These can all be removed using your favorite photo editing software. (Thank goodness!) Some of my pictures have needed a lot of "fixing" to get them to look exactly the way I wanted them to. That's about all of my technique, but there are a few other things I detail in these pictures here and here. If you have any further questions, don't hesitate to ask.

    I really need to build one of Andy's softboxes because that would save me a lot of the trouble and time it takes to expose my subjects properly using my method.
  • Hannah Ho 5y

    By far, that is the nicest DIY softbox I have ever seen. I'm planning to use your DIY softbox to take photos of jewelry to sell online. Do you have a real-time photo of your softbox? It would help so much!
  • Andy Game 5y

    thanks Hannah. I sketched my softbox because it was much easier to show everything that way than with photos. I did shoot a few shots on film (I don´t have a digital camera)..I´ll see if I can find them again.
  • mateo sanchis 5y

    Thanks for sharing!!!!
  • Andy Game 5y

    hi eme..thanks for favoriting!
  • dylanhauge 5y

    Just found the article and I am going to attempt to recreate your box this weekend. Thanks for the inspiration.
  • Andy Game 5y

    hi´ll be a buzz for me if you do build it. As far as I know you´ll be the first (after me). Let us know how you get on...any improvements or problems give me a yell..!
  • dylanhauge 5y

    So I wasn't able to make it to the store for materials as planned, but... I started testing materials around the house. I am going to modulate your design a little bit so that I can change the distance of the light. I haven't fully figured out how I am going to do that, but I will be sure to post.
    Light Box v1.0

    edit: Oh, and again thanks for the inspiration.
  • Andy Game 5y

    good luck with your experiments dylanhauge. Keep those light box ideas coming!
  • Yeah electrons! 4y

    Nice! thanks for sharing
  • mlhradio 3y

    Congratulations on receiving more than 5,000 views -- that's quite impressive! Now that you've reached this milestone, you might want to consider graduating this photograph from the 'Views: 3000' group to the 'Views: 5000' group, which can be found here:

    Once again, congratulations and hopefully your photos will receive many more views in the future! Reminder: Photos should only be in one 'Views:xx' group at a time. (This is an automatic message posted to all items in the 'Views: 3000' group that receive more than 5,000 views. There is no need to reply to this message.)
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Taken on March 23, 2009
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