Tuesday, November 3, 2009

DIY Softbox Part 1.

I have been wanting for some time to make a small softbox for my product shots. Well, I finally got the project under way. There are lots of tutorials online already, but I thought I'd show you how I did it.
My plan is for a box about 16' x 12", made of black foamcore lined with aluminium foil, fitted with a wooden collar to which attachments can be fixed, and with provision for a grid.

The materials for the box are: 2" X 3/8" softwood offcut, black foamcore, aluminium foil, black duct tape. Other items required are: sharp knife (I used an X-Acto knife), pencil for marking out, straightedge, scissors, spray adhesive, masking tape, woodworking glue, a sheet of coarse sandpaper, and some old newspapers.

I made the collar first. The dimensions I used were purely arbitrary, I just wanted to create an opening large enough to accommodate the head of any speedlight I had, with a little to spare. Woodworking is not my forte - I simply glued the pieces together.

Cutting foamcore is easy, but I'd seriously recommend the use of a metal straightedge, rather than a wooden one. (Do as I say, not as I do). The use of a cutting mat reduces slippage, prevents damage to the work surface, and avoids trouble with the Significant Other.

The four sides of my softbox. The "thin ends" are sized to fit the wooden collar, and the "wide ends" are cut to give a 16" X 12" opening. It is important that the lengths of the tapered edges are the same on all pieces - this will ensure a good fit.

The panels are scored with the craft knife to allow the foamcore to be folded into position.

The softbox assembled with masking tape to check fit.

The tutorials that I have seen recommend crumpling the foil and then flattening it back out again to reduce specularity, but I find this method tedious and the foil always tears for me, so I just pressed the foil against a sheet of very coarse sandpaper (I'm using 40 grit here), and rubbed it down with a piece of soft cloth. This gives an even lustrous finish that should give nice diffuse reflections.

The panels are sprayed with adhesive (the masking tape is useful, the newspapers are essential), and the textured foil fitted in position and trimmed...

...the four panels lined with foil.

Inside view of the box during assembly. I'm very pleased with how the textured foil looks in the finished article.

The box taped up with black duct tape.

In the next part, I will make the front diffuser for the box, and do a couple of test shots.


  1. JAG, this is awesome! My DIY projects never look so good. The idea of the wood collar? Brilliant! Can't wait to see a product shot utilizing this.

  2. If you want a softbox you should not take the advice of amateurs and put "Silver" on the inside of the box it should be "White" not silver. Silver is far to specular and you want "Soft" light not harsh light in a softbox hence the name.