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Even though I’ve been blogging for three years, I recently joined Pinch of Yum’s program Food Blogger Pro that helps food bloggers learn some important lessons about blogging. Lindsay is a talented food photographer, and I learned a lot from her in Food Blogger Pro and from her ebook Tasty Food Photography. In a lesson on lighting she mentioned that she uses a Lowel Ego Light for capturing good indoor photos, especially during Winter in Minnesota. Lack of sun is not a problem for me in Arizona, but indoor lighting is a challenge.
Starting at $117 per lamp on Amazon, Lowel Ego Light units can be expensive. Could I find a DIY lesson and make a unit myself, I wondered? I Googled it and came up with a few sources, but the ones I drew from most were from BSinThekitchen, and Mowaca. There also were other inspirational posts from SemiSweetDesigns and TheAdventureBite. BS’s design was nice and compact, but I thought the screen might not hold the shape well so I went with Mowaca’s layout. His shop experience shows in his plans and design.
What I did differently was to keep the height at 13 inches so I could fit the boxes into a certain cupboard in my garage. The other reason for keeping it at that height was that I would only have to buy one roll of cross stitch cloth. I also covered the top entirely for more support, added the foil on the inner side panel, and reinforced the inside corners with cardboard strips. I made two boxes, too. Total cost for 2 was $30.65. (SemiSweetDesigns said two light boxes worked even better, and so did SteamyKitchen.)
The final dimensions of the box are 13 and 3/8 H x 20 W x 13 D. The measurement of the depth includes the cable which sticks out the back about 2-1/2 to 3 inches. The depth without the cable on Mowaca’s box was 6-1/2. Without the cable, mine turned out to be 10-1/2 inches deep because the instructions were unclear, and I saw that to have 9 inches in then center then there would be 10-1/2 inches on each side. I went with that.
If you are interested in making the boxes read all the steps carefully before starting, especially steps 2-3, and the alternative steps 2-3. In the alternative steps 2-3 I give instructions if you want the box depth to be 7-1/2 inches. I think 7-1/2 is better than 6-1/2 or 10-1/2 inch sides. Whatever you decide I’m sure you’ll have fun making them.
Things I had to buy. The prices below include tax.
$ 3.31 3 Foam cardboard (bought at the dollar store)
$10.83 (2) Ikea Hemma electrical cords ($5.00 ea. at Ikea)
$2.69 (2) Y connectors (Lowe’s)
$5.19 (1) pack 18-count cross stitch fabric (Charles Craft Silver Standard Line)
8.63 (1) 4 pack CFL Daylight Lightbulbs by Ecosmart; 23 watts equivalent to 100 watts, 1600 lumens. (I found this at Lowes. This is product and price were not shown on the website. And here’s a tip–don’t be confused with the double lasting bulb. It cost twice as much.)
$30.65 Total Cost
Things I had on hand:
- Razor knife
- Clear tape
- Masking tape
- Tin foil (*Not shown in the photo. This step is optional, but Mowaca added it later, so I thought it would be easier to put it on from the start.)
- Mini Glue Gun
- A bag of glue sticks for the mini glue gun
- Yard stick (a tape measure came in handy because it locks to stay open)
1. Lay the foam cardboard on the counter so the wide side is horizontal to you. Cut 7 inches off the top and save the top piece for later.
2. With the primary piece of board placed in front of you, measure 10-1/2 inches in on each side and mark verticals lines with a pencil, and then score. Don’t cut all the way through. Once the lines are scored you can open up the flaps. Set this aside.
3. Get the second piece of foam board and cut off 2 pieces, each 10-1/2 inches cut from the side. The 10-1/2 pieces will be will form the base and the top. The photo shows only one cut piece.
[Alternate steps 2 and 3 for a depth of 7-1/2 inches (Do it this way for less depth. Be aware that the photos shown are for a 10-1/2 inch depth).
At Step 2 - With the primary piece of board placed in front of you, measure 7-1/2 inches and mark a vertical line with a pencil, and then score. From that line, measure 9 inches, and score another vertical line. From the second vertical line measure 7-1/2 inches, mark a vertical line and cut through it. The end piece should be 6 inches wide, which you can save for the inside corners. At this point you can open up the flaps. Set the panel aside.
At Step - 3 Get the second piece of foam board and cut off 2 pieces, each 7-1/2 inches cut from the side. The 7-1/2 pieces will form the base and the top. (The photo above at step 3 shows only one cut piece.)]
4. Get the 3-section piece and fold it open on the base board, and then open it up the wings to a 45° angle, placing the front flap edges into the front corners of the board. The back should measure 5-1/2 inches on each side, and 1-1/4 inch from the back edge. (Note the photo is deceptive because the panel will be 1-1/4 inch away from the edge. See photo in step 5).
5. Use the pencil to mark the line on the outside of the sections on all sides. Use the ruler to measure out from the panel 1-1/4 inch on all sides. These short flaps will hold the main piece in place. Score with the razor knife along the pencil lines, and then remove and discard the pieces that are unattached.
7. Place the light ring so the dot is in the middle of the narrow end, and then draw around the inside of the ring. (The light ring is the piece that you can screw off of the light cord). Cut out a hole following the tracing lines with the razor knife.
8. Get 3 pieces of foil 15 inches long each. Spread them out over the 3-section panel, on the side that opens in toward you. Tape them together with scotch tape, and then tape the overhang down on the other side of the board with scotch tape or masking tape. Leave a space when taping at the scored lines.
9. Cut through the foil where the hole is to open it up.
10. Set the panel into the base and glue the base flaps up.
11. Set the panel upside down and set it into the corners as you did in step 4 (wings are already open). Pencil mark the top cover base, and then score and cut as you did with the base in step 5.
13. Take the cap off the Hemma light cord and screw the cord side through the back panel hole. Screw on the cap from the front, the wide side of the cap toward the wall. Next, screw in the y socket and the light bulbs. 14. Cut pieces 1-1/4 inch by whatever the length is for the inner sides and corners of the box. Score the pieces down the middle, open them up and glue them to the inner sides and corners to add extra support to the box. I forgot to take a picture of this step but you might get the idea if you peer into the bottom inside of the box in the following picture.
15. Get out the white cross stitch cloth. You want two pieces of cloth measuring 14-3/4 by 23 inches. From the width of the fabric, measure 14-3/4 to the center of the cloth. Use the ruler to make a straight pencil line down the length of the fabric, and then cut. Next cut 13 inches off the side end of each piece (or you could start by cutting 13 inches from the end of the entire piece, and then cut through the middle of the length).
16. Fold the fabric ¾ inch, press down on it so it will hold the fold, and then use the glue gun to tack it down to the box. Repeat on the bottom side.
17. Glue down the sides.
18. Use masking tape on all sides to keep the fabric down.
19. Repeat the entire process for the second box.
20. Congratulate yourself on a job well done!
COMPARE AND SEE THE DIFFERENCE FOR YOURSELF:
Photo A – The photo here was taken with an overhead kitchen light without the lightboxes. It’s slightly at an angle otherwise there would have been a shadow from the camera in the picture. I had to crop it out.
Photo B – The picture below was take with the indoor lights off, and it sat between the two lightboxes. The photo was taken from directly above, and there was no shadow from the camera. If you want more light you can push the boxes closer together.
In conclusion. I think that taking your pictures during the day with natural lighting is the best way to go, but having a DIY Lowel Ego Light unit is a good back-up. It took me about 3-1/2 hours to make each box, but I was also taking pictures and writing. The DIY project was an entertaining way to spend the week-end, and I’ll have fun improving my photography skills with the light boxes, too. If you’re interested in improving your photography skills, check out Lindsay’s ebook Tasty Food Photography. It’s 50% off for Thanksgiving week-end. The sale will run from 12:01 AM on Thursday 11/28 until 11:59 PM on Monday 12/2. Use this coupon code to get the discount: TFP50
What are you waiting for? This is a good week-end to make the DIY Lowel Ego Light unit. And by the way, HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!
P.S. If you are interested in Food Blogger Pro, this week-end it is 50% off for a one year membership. Use coupon code FBP125 at checkout to get the discount.