Making photo frames from recycled materials

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Lightboxes are a great way to capture top-notch photos. These can be made from just about any material. You can even create one with cardboard. For me, I need something sturdy and durable. Although It would be great to break it down, I don't have any plans to travel with it. I also didn't want to compromise and make it too small. The overall size of it is 32.5in (L) X 21in (D) X 18.75in (H). Being that I'm a maker, my goal is to capture the best images so I can display my work. I put together a quick cut list for those of you that would like to build this yourself.

Get the free PDF Cutlist here

Materials I used

(7) 1 by 2 by 8ft select pine
Diffusion fabric Wood Filler Wood Glue

Tools Used

Miter Saw Pocket hole jig Drill and Driver Jawhorse Orbital sander Bandy Clamp Bar clamp Staple Gun

My Gear

Camera - Nikon D5500 - Lighting
Mic to record to computer -

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Step 1: Making the Cuts

You can find a free downloadable cut list here

With all the parts cut down to size, it's time to assemble. To keep things simple I use pocket holes screws. I wanted to keep the build simple so I build a bunch of frames and joined them. Since I will be repeating this process, I made a quick jig to speed things up. It's really awesome because this helped me keep everything aligned while I focused on installing the screws.

I didn't have time to create a complete set of plans. However, you can look at the cut list all the parts are labeled and that should help you put this together.

Step 2: Building the Box

After all the frames are made up you should now have 6 frames and one opening frame along with two loose pieces of lumber. The small loose piece of lumber will be added to the back for structural support. The other will be used to cover the loose ends of fabric along the front. This will be covered in a later step.

Now it's time to assemble all of the frames together. Pay close attention to the cut list, the backside of the size should but up against the back. When securing the sides to the back make sure to pocket holes are facing out. Apply wood glue in between the joints. You can use a nail gun or you can use screws to secure these.

Now install the front, and make sure to pocket holes are facing in. Next, secure the top.

One thing I noticed was the pocket holes actually landed on the inside of the trim that will be added later. You can use plugs to close this up or wood filler. This is so the holes don't show through the fabric.

I sand down the entire frame then gave the corners of slight round over with the orbital sander.

Step 3: Adding Fabric

I'm no expert with the fabric, but here's what I did. I figured out a quick guess on how much fabric I would actually need to wrap the entire box. Since I'm only doing this side in the top, I started with the smaller sides first. I cut the material so that it was slightly bigger than the opening. Then I stapled it down and stretched the fabric in all different direction until I was able to get it flat. I flipped it over and did the same thing on the opposite side, then I made my way to the top. The top was more challenging than the side, however, I was able to get through that and tighten up everything.

As a way to hide the loose ends of the fabric, I attached the final piece of the lumber. This piece was not glued, it was only nailed in place. Finally, I attached the trim on the sides. Again, these were also not glued in the occasion that needs to be pulled back off to replace the fabric if an accident happens.

To wrap this up I use wood filler to fill in the gaps and also the nail heads.

Step 4: Building a Backdrop

At some point in the future, I'll create some customized backgrounds. The goal is to make them interchangeable so that I can have more options when it comes to taking photos.

So in this step, I put together a really quick and simple temporary background. This was made from a few pieces of scrap and also some recycled pallets.

Step 5: Adding a Back

I didn't have plans to add a back. However, I did go back and add a piece of white hardboard 1/4 in. thick. This allows me to use it as a backdrop and I could also flip the lightbox on the back in the occasion I need an over the head shot.

Step 6: Setting Up

The lights I'm using are and can be used alone to take photos. However, I don't want to Lug these around every time I need to shoot a photo. So making this lightbox will make it easy for me to grab a few shop lights and bean them right inside. This way I don't have to worry about a softbox. At some point, I'll probably make some LED panels to stick to the side, where I can permanently have lights built on to the Box.

Beside the pallets, you could use kraft paper poster boards, you name it as long as it fits you can switch up your backdrop at any point.

Step 7: Shooting

Here are a few shots I took using the lightbox. They're not edited, but this will give you a good perspective on what you can get with a lit area.

This also gives an example of how you can make the background look extremely different by adding a few pieces in the area of your subject.

I hope you guys enjoyed this.

I try to put out a project video every week, so if you ain't already SUBSCRIBE to my youtube channel to get the latest.

If you like to see what I'm working on next follow me on .

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17 Discussions

Very nice job! I actually built one ,less durable though.

My only tip is a back screen you can add (have a look here: )

This is great :) made one of these myself a few years ago needs an update! But good to see using proper lights still not just LED strips, which don't defuse the light enough.

Really interesting project, thank you for no putting blow your mind music as do some others on you tube. By the way where did you get these two metal squares? They seem very useful.

Very smart

Thank you

Wonderful results!

Thank you

Great project!

Thank you

Well done project great explanation video. Your quick edits make it easy to keep watching. Thanks!

Thanks mate!

Nice one. Congrats.

Thank you

this is very well thought out. I have made a good number of quick light boxes and never once thought to leave the back side open to change out backdrops.

Thank you for posting this. I am definitely making it in the near future. I really appreciate this instructable.

Thank you for checking it out!

wow. It makes the pictures look really professionel.

Thanks, with the right setting you can get some great shots.



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