So, over the past several years, I’ve been asked about my own light tent. For those of you who know me, you know that I will spend good money on stuff that “matters” – like lenses, memory cards, tripods, etc. Stuff where owning the best you can afford matters. But there is another category that falls under the phrase “light don’t care.” This is where a lot of my DIY ideas come into play. No need to spend a lot of money on an official photography accessory if I can make it myself for a fraction of the price and have it perform equally as well. My light tent is one such project that I love to show off.
You can make your own light tent for about 1/5 of a commercially-produced item. Here’s a 36″ square light tent from B&H. It’s the Interfit Cool-Light tent with lightsand costs $250.
Don’t get me wrong, if you want to spend the money, this is definitely a worthwhile light tent to own. But why not make your own and, at the same time you’re saving all that money, you also get to learn the way light behaves as it passes through the nylon.
For all of you who have asked my to share the materials list for my light tent, here you go.
Light tent material list:
- Three 10′ pieces of ½” PVC pipe from your favorite home improvement store. These should be about $1.25 each for a total of $3.75.
- Eight 3-way ½” PVC corners. I couldn’t find these locally, so I bought them online from Flex PVC for $0.97 each. They’ve gone up a bit in price and are now $1.12 each. I paid a total of $7.76.
- Two yards of a quality black velvet from a fabric store. It only needs to be 48″ wide and, armed with a 50% off coupon, I paid about $15 for this.
- Three yards of a white nylon that’s 48″ wide. Again, using a 50% coupon, I got this for about $2.50 a yard or a total of $7.50
Total material cost was about $34. That’s over $200 less than the Interfit model. Ah, but that model includes two lights. Fair enough. Let’s continue the material list:
- Two 75W clamp lamps for about $6.50 each, adding $13 to the total.
- Two 300W (equivalent) CFL bulbs for about $5 each for a total of $10.
Alright, so the added $23 for lighting brought the total up to $57. That’s still a helluva lot cheaper than $250!
Light tent instructions:
- Cut the PVC pipe into 12 30″ lengths (Fig 1)
- Assemble the PVC pieces and corners into a cube (Fig 2)
- Drape the white nylon over the sides and top, securing it with something like large binder clips (Fig 3)
- Hang the black velvet from the inside of the frame at the top of the rear and let it sweep down and out the front of the frame (Fig 3)
- Clamp the lights outside the box on the sides to provide even light coming in from both camera left and camera right.
And that’s all there is to it. I bought an inexpensive tripod bag for about $10 on clearance and that’s what I keep the whole rig in. I fold the material and store it in one-gallon plastic food or freezer bags to keep the dirt off.
The whole thing takes just a few minutes to assemble but I get some absolutely beautiful results from my homemade light tent. Definitely a “light don’t care” moment and I get professional results while saving almost $200.
Okay, I don’t save the $200, I just spend it elsewhere!
Do you have your own DIY ideas? I’d love to hear them, just leave a comment.