Jan Christian

How to make a $2 softbox in 5 minutes


I had a shoot to do but my “real” softbox hadn’t arrived yet so I had to improvise. I had everything at my house except for the diffusion material, which was only $2 at a local fabric store. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Large cardboard box. A cube will work best but use what you have.
  • Aluminum foil
  • Spray adhesive and a little duct tape
  • Diffusion material. I used white nylon that I found with the wedding gown fabrics at Jo-Ann Fabrics

First, you’ll need to remove one of the sides of the box. This open end will be referred to as the front. Then, using the cardboard you just removed and/or something else stiff, tape it inside the box so that it creates a 45 degree angle going from the top back of the box to the bottom front. Next, spray the inside of the box with your adhesive (I used 3M Super 77, which I had lying around, but anything will work) and line everything in foil. Cut a rectangle the size of your flash head, roughly centered, on the top of the box. I cut a rectangle large enough for two flashes but one flash turned out to be more than enough. Finally, cut out a piece of diffusion material that’ll fit over the open end of the box and tape/staple/glue it on. You’re done! With your flash head in the down/”L” position, the flash will rest right on top of the box with the head pointing down into it. The angled piece inside of the box creates nice, even lighting, as opposed to firing the speedlite from behind, directly into the diffusion material, which would produce a hotspot.

The portrait below was made using this cardboard softbox.

Cardboard softbox

Portrait using cardboard softbox


7 Responses to “How to make a $2 softbox in 5 minutes”

  1. Karon Says:

    What a great idea to share. I found this very interesting. Thanks.

  2. Robert Freeman jr Says:

    Jan, I really need to see a picture of where the flash head should go on the soft box.
    I’m a novice but I learn really fast. Do you have more pics of the soft box that you can display all four sides?

  3. Jan Says:

    Sorry, Robert, those are the only pictures I have. Look on the top of the box, see that rectangular cutout? That’s where the head of the speedlite goes. WIth the flash head down like this, set the flash on top of the box so that the part of the flash that emits the light points down into the box and the front of the flash body is resting on the box.

  4. Robert Freeman jr Says:

    Thanks Jan, I got it now. Great idea and great effects from such a homemade contraption that really works just as great as the commercial made Softbox.
    Thanks again for responding.

  5. carla Says:

    Hi Jan,

    What kind of lighting/light bulbs do you use?

  6. Jan Says:

    I use Speedlites mostly.

  7. macktyson.com Says:

    I understand how you made the softbox but would love to see a video of you constructing this softbox.

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