Building a Poor Man’s Lightbox

Cross-posted from Eldritch Engines, my new blog.

Last week, I got it in my head to build a lightbox for taking pictures of miniatures, toys, and other things like that. That way, when I post these things, people can complain about my lack of photography or painting skills instead of complaining about the poor lighting. Real lightboxes cost a fair chunk of change and use high-grade photographer’s lights (most real photographers wouldn’t be taking pictures on a phone, either, but that’s beside the point). My version is cheaper and less effective, but serviceable enough to use.

The cheapest lightbox you will ever see.


At the heart of the lightbox (which, you’ll notice, isn’t so much a box as a three-sided backdrop) is a piece of two-fold foamcore board. Below that is a piece of white posterboard (really, I should’ve used foamcore for that, too).

You’ll notice the three desk lamps clamped around various places, pointed at the table. These cost about five bucks each, and just might be dangerous. You see, these desk lamps aren’t meant to handle more than a 40-watt bulb, but because I like fire hazards, bright lights, and Ferris wheels, I’m using 60-watt bulbs. Right now, they’re the "soft white" kind; this set-up will probably do better once I swap those for daylight-style bulbs.

Total cost for the set-up? About $18, not counting Tennessee’s exorbitant sales tax.Not professional-grade, but it works well enough for my purposes.

As for the backdrop I’ve been using for shooting miniatures, the walls are from the Mage Knight castle series, some of the better-made and cheaper buildings I’ve seen for miniatures games. The floor is a sheet of textured styrene that I sprayed in gray primer and gave a brown paint wash. Probably should have put a tan basecoat down first, to match the walls. But it’s good enough.

About The Chef

The Chef was born 856 years ago on a small planet orbiting a star in the Argolis cluster. It was prophesied that the arrival of a child with a birthmark shaped like a tentacle would herald the planet's destruction. When the future Chef was born with just such a birthmark, panic ensued (this would not be the last time the Chef inspired such emotion). The child, tentacle and all, was loaded into a rocket-powered garbage scow and launched into space. Unfortunately, the rocket's exhaust ignited one of the spectators' flatulence, resulting in a massive explosion that detonated the planet's core, destroying the world and killing everyone on it.

The Chef.
Your host, hero to millions, the Chef.
Oblivious, the dumpster containing the infant Chef sped on. It crashed on a small blue world due to a freakish loophole in the laws of nature that virtually guarantees any object shot randomly into space will always land on Earth. The garbage scow remained buried in the icy wastes of the frozen north until the Chef awoke in 1901. Unfortunately, a passing Norwegian sailor accidentally drove a boat through his head, causing him to go back to sleep for another 23 years.

When the would-be Chef awoke from his torpor, he looked around at the new world he found himself on. His first words were, “Hey, this place sucks." Disguising himself as one of the planet's dominant species of semi-domesticated ape, the being who would become known as the Chef wandered the Earth until he ended up in its most disreputable slum - Paris, France.

Taking a job as a can-can dancer, the young Chef made a living that way until one day one of the cooks at a local bistro fell ill with food poisoning (oh, bitter irony). In a desperate move, the bistro's owner rushed into one of the local dance halls, searching for a replacement. He grabbed the ugliest can-can dancer he could find, and found himself instead with an enterprising (if strange) young man who now decided, based on this random encounter, to only answer to the name “Chef".

His success as a French chef was immediate (but considering that this is a country where frogs and snails are considered delicacies, this may or may not be a significant achievement). Not only was the Chef's food delicious, it also kept down the local homeless population. He rose to the heights of stardom in French cuisine, and started a holy war against the United Kingdom to end the reign of terror British food had inflicted on its citizens.

When the Crimean War broke out around France, the Chef assisted Nikola Tesla and Galileo in perfecting the scanning electron microscope, which was crucial in driving back the oncoming Communist hordes. It would later be said that without the Chef, the war would have been lost. He was personally awarded a Purple Heart by the King of France.

After that, the Chef traveled to America, home of such dubious culinary delights as McDonald's Quarter Pounder With Cheese. He immediately adopted the Third World nation as his new home, seeing it as his job to protect and enlighten it. When the Vietnam War began, he immediately volunteered and served in the Army of the Potomac under Robert E. Lee and General Patton. During the war, the Chef killed dozens of Nazis, most of them with his bare hands.

Marching home from war across the floor of the Atlantic Ocean, stark-naked and freezing, the Chef wound up on the shores of Mexico. He spent several years there, drinking tequila with Pancho Villa and James Dean. He put his culinary skills to the test when he invented the 5,000-calorie Breakfast Chili Burrito With Orange Sauce (which is today still a favorite in some parts of Sonora).

Eventually, the Chef returned to his adopted home of America, where he met a slimy, well-coiffed weasel who was starting up a new kind of buffet - one dedicated to providing the highest-quality unmentionable appetizers to the online community. The Chef dedicated himself to spreading the word of his famous Lard Sandwich (two large patties of fried lard, in between two slices of toasted buttered lard, with bacon and cheese), as well as occasionally writing about his opinions on less-important topics than food.

Every word of this is true, if only in the sense that every word of this exists in the English language.