Building a Photography Box

by John Wolfe

I built a camera box for photographing LEGO projects. All together, it cost me about $50. The materials for the frame were $30, the 2 clamp lights were $14, and the 3 sheets of colored construction paper were $6. I used light bulbs, glue, and screws that I had handy. If you don't have any, then add a couple dollars more to the materials cost. 

To use the box, you lay a piece of construction paper on the base with the sheet sweeping up the back of the box. This hides the corner and provides a seamless transition between horizontal and vertical. 

The lights are clamped onto the 1x2 framework and can be positioned as needed. Because of the open design, you can light from the tops, sides, front, or any combination. A cheap white pillowcase over the reflector opening will diffuse the light to help avoid harsh glare on the LEGO.

Bill of Materials:
Qty Description Cost Place 
 1  2'x4' - 1/2" plywood  $6 Menards 
 3 6' lengths of 1"x2" quality or select boards $12  Menards 
 1 4' length of 1"x3" quality or select boards $5  Menards 
 2 White 20"x30" - 1/4" foamboards $7  Hobby Lobby 
  White or Construction glue    
  Various screws: 1-1/2 inch, 1 inch, 3/4 inch    
  Various colors large construction paper $2 ea  Hobby Lobby
  Clamp on Light reflectors $7 ea  Menards 
  Cheap white pillowcases 2 for $1 Dollar General

General notes: All joints should be glued and screwed. Screws should have holes predrilled to prevent splitting the wood when tightening. The plywood should be cut with a table saw and the boards should be cut with a miter saw. Hand saws will likely leave you with uneven edges. 

Use these photos for reference: 


Right Side: 

Step 1 - Cut plywood to 20 inches by 30 inches. First, cut the 20 inch side so you have a 20 inch by 48 inch piece. Then cut it down to 20 x 30. Save the 18 x 20 piece for reinforcing the sides later. This piece of plywood is the base and goes on the bottom to support the framework and hold the weight of the model. 

Step 2 - Cut these lengths of board: 

1x2 Four of 22 inches each 
1x2 Two of 20 inches each 
1x2 Two of 30 inches each 
1x3 Two of 22 inches each 

Here is the layout for cutting the 1x2 boards: 

Board #1 = 22" + 22" + 22" 
Board #2 = 22" + 20" + 20" 
Board #3 = 30" + 30" 

Each board has enough extra material to take into account the loss of material from the blade cut. Just make each board the described length and it will all fit together. 

Step 3 - Make two 22" long "L" pieces. These are used for the rear uprights. For each "L", take a 1x2 and glue/predrill/screw its edge to a 1x3 to form the shape of an "L". Allow glue to dry and set. 

Step 4 - Attach two "L" uprights at rear corners of the plywood base. Apply glue to the end and pre-drill/screw (1-5/8") up through the bottom of the plywood. 

Step 5 - Attach a 22 inch length of 1x2 to each front corner of the plywood. Apply glue to the end and screw (1-5/8") up through the bottom of the plywood. 

Step 6 - Attach the two 20 inch lengths of 1x2 on the outside of the left and right side uprights at the top of the uprights. Not on top, on the side at the top. Apply glue and pre-drill/screw (1") into place. 

Step 7 - Attach the two 30 inch 1x2 lengths across the uprights at the front and back. Use glue and predrill/screw (1-5/8") from the top down into the uprights. 

Step 8 - Cut the 18"x20" piece of plywood into two pieces of 9x20. Attach these to the lower left and right sides of the unit to brace it. Apply glue and predrill/screw (3/4"). Because your saw blade has width, the actual size of the 18x20 piece will be closer to 17.75"x20" and the halves will be closer to 8.5"x20". This is OK. 

Step 9 - Trim one piece of foamboard to 20x28 inches. Attach the piece to the plywood base. Use contact cement, double sided tape, or very short screws. Do not use white glue as the moisture will make the foamboard warp. 

Step 10 - Attach a foamboard piece to the rear uprights for a backing. Use contact cement, double sided tape, or very short screws. Do not use white glue as the moisture will make the foamboard warp. 

Step 11 - Place a bulb into the clamp light and cover the reflector opening with a cheap white pillowcase to diffuse the light. Attach to the reflector with dabs of hot glue.