Photo Box 14

I have been working on improving the quality of photos I take of my miniatures for a while and have found a great method used by “the pros” that most any hobbyist can pull off at home for a nearly no cost at all. That method is using a photography light diffusion box and I am going to teach you how to build one using items you probably have around your house (and if you don’t, they are rather inexpensive to procure).


First off, I need to give credit where credit is due. My photo box is a variation on a photo box I saw presented in a tutorial by Tinweasel at Painting by Tinweasel. I modified his methods to make use of materials I had around my hobby room and to increase the photo box’s durability and portability.

Using diffused light as opposed to direct light is a common method employed by professional photographers to obtain light conditions more conducive to photography. In the simplest terms, when it comes to photography, direct light is bad; it can be unflattering, cause harsh shadows and make bright spots too bright. To avoid this, professional photographers send their lights through diffusers to scatter the light and make the light appear as ambient instead of direct. A light diffusion box is a handy tool to obtain diffused light on a small object (such as a painted miniature!). What does using a light diffusion box mean to you?–better looking photos of your painted miniatures! This tutorial will show you how to unleash this photographic magic using items you probably have around your house.

If you do a search on Amazon for a photography light diffusion box or portable photography studio (all of these things have a handful of different names that you can search for and find the same stuff), you will find that these professional products come with a professional price tag. This is totally okay if you are a professional photographer, but my assumption is that if you are reading this tutorial you are a not a professional photographer but instead are a hobbyist looking to take better photos of your painted miniatures.

Here is a list of materials I used for this project:

  • Empty sprue—I used 5 full sheet size sprue saved from larger GW models. I save all of the empty sprue from models after I build them, it makes great armature for green sculpting miniatures or as support pieces in large conversions; it can also be very handy in terrain projects.
  • Parchment Paper–I always keep this around the house for baking (no need to clean you cookie sheet if you use it!); many hobbyists also use parchment paper for a wet palette, although I have never done this myself. I used parchment paper instead of tissue paper (as recommended in Tinweasel’s post) because parchment is what I had around the house and it’s more durable. If you don’t have parchment around your house, you can find it at the grocery store for just a few dollars per roll; if you’re only using it for this project and not baking with it, a roll will last you a very long time.
  • 20 Binder clips–If you don’t have these around your house, you can pick up some for super cheap at any office supply store (or even the grocery store while you’re getting parchment paper).
  • 3 Lamps–I already had these for use when painting (and you should too because better lighting means better painting!). As in painting, if you’re using incandescent bulbs, you’ll want full spectrum “daylight” bulbs. I use white LED lamps for their low cost, low power usage, and low heat output; they have a narrower spectrum than the good (expensive) daylight bulbs, but are the equal to most of the ones you’ll find at non-specialty stores. The lights I show here are from Ikea and are available for about $10 each, they work equally well as photography lights and painting work light. Using three lights helps to get good light coverage on your model and setting them up in an overlapping pattern eliminates most shadows.
  • Clippers–All hobbyists should have a good pair of clippers for cutting model parts from the sprue. If you use a hobby knife for this purpose you are doing it wrong; go get yourself some clippers, you can thank me later.
  • Scissors–You’ll need these to cut and trim your parchment paper.
  • Backdrop–A piece of white printer paper, a piece of black cloth, or a print of some kind of unobtrusive pattern; having a variety of backdrops convenient is handy as different models look better on different backdrops, just make sure you keep the photos for one set all on the same backdrop. You can find hundreds of free backdrop images on the internet and then print them out at home or a copy shop (depending on the quality of your printer)

Photo Box 1

And now that you have gathered your materials, it is time to build our photo box!

Cut the centers out of four of the sprue sheets to make frames to hold your parchment paper. Leave the interior sprue pieces in one sprue sheet; that sheet will become the back wall of the photo box. I left the interior sprue pieces in the back wall of the box so that I can attach the photo background to it at varying heights and positions.

Photo Box 2

Cut the parchment paper to size using your sprue frames as a guide. I’ve found that the built-in cutter on the parchment paper box works to get close to the size you need, but you’ll want to clean up your cuts with your scissors. You will need 3 pieces of parchment paper–two for the sides and one for the top. Looking at the orientation of the photo below, the two pieces of parchment for the sides of the photo box should have enough extra length to the left and right of the frame wrap around the edge of the frame and should be trimmed at the top and bottom to be even with those edges of the frames. The piece of parchment paper that will be used for the top of the box should be sized as below. Set aside the pieces of parchment for later.

Photo Box 3

Connect the frames together using binder clips. The side and front walls should be positioned in “portrait” orientation, the back wall should be positioned in “landscape” orientation. I used two binder clips for each edge of the frame. Do not attach the top frame to the box.

Photo Box 4 Photo Box 5

Attach the parchment to the inside of the side frames using binder clips. You can trim your parchment sheets as needed to help them fit better inside the box. Remove the silver handles from the black portion of the binder clips on the top edge of the frames so that the top frame with be able to sit flush with the top of the box (hang onto the handles though as they are needed to remove the binder clips if you have to replace your parchment sheets). Although it doesn’t show it in this picture, I did go back and attach the parchment to the bottom of the frame; I also removed the silver handles from those binder clips. Attach the parchment to the top frame as well.

Photo Box 6 Photo Box 7

This is what your photo box will look like so far if you set your top frame on top of the box.

Photo Box 8

Attach a photo backdrop to rear frame; it is easier to do this without top frame on the box. You can use various methods to attach your backdrop to the rear frame; scotch tape works great if you are using a paper back drop, binder clips can work for something a little more robust, and if you are using a cloth backdrop you may just be able to drape it partially over the back wall of the box. Make sure you position the back drop so that it curves down from the back wall to the floor of the box. This helps to create a seamless background for your miniature. If  the backdrop you are using is particularly large and difficult to position it inside the box, you can detach the front frame from the box. Different backdrops are better for photographing different things, so choose whatever you feel looks best for a particular miniature.

Photo Box 11

Place the top frame back on your photo box. Position your lights around your box; one should be above the box pointing straight down, the other two should be positioned to the sides of the box angled back toward the spot the top light is focused on. Your lights can be moved around to various angles and heights depending on what you are photographing; this is why I really like the goose-neck style lights, they are great for positioning without getting in the way. When photographing a model, you can move the lights and model around to get the best looking set up for each angle of the model you want to take a photo of.

Photo Box 13

And now we come to the last step–take awesome photos of your miniatures!

Photo Box 14

Here are some side-by-side comparison shots of pictures taken before I made my light diffusion box and after I made my light diffusion box.

Lucius the Eternal from Warhammer 40,000

Lucius 1 Lucius photo box 1

Lucius 2 Lucius photo box 2

Miss Ery from Malifaux

missery1 MissEry photo box 1

missery2 MissEry photo box 2

Clearly the photos taken with the light diffusion box showcase the miniatures much better than those photos taken without the photo box.

A great advantage that this method for creating a photography light diffusion box (other than being free or nearly so) is that it offers flexibility–the box can be modified to accommodate larger models or full units. It also can be collapsed quite easily to transport to events and if your parchment sheets are damaged in transit, they are easily replaced.

I hope this tutorial helps you to take better photos of your painted miniatures. Let me know you have any questions or other great ideas as to how you can modify your photo box. I would love to see pictures of your completed light diffusion boxes!


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  1. VoltRon says:

    Reblogged this on Miniature armies, huge time sink. and commented:
    You painted those models up super nice, make sure they have the pictures to show them off! (yes, I’m guilty of the grainy phone picture myself…)

  2. gameoftravel says:

    wow! thanks for sharing this. recently I bought new camera with better macro lens (just to make better minis photos) and the obvious next step is light box. good tips fore me:)

    • gusladogames says:

      Glad you like it; I would love to see some of your pictures once you get all set up! I need to pick up a nicer camera myself, all of the shots in this post were taken with my iPhone.

      • gameoftravel says:

        Camera helped a lot, but still I need lots to learn about taking macro photos. And this light box… I’ll set it up right away when I’m back from Mexico, and post some new photos here for sure.

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  5. […] of light box – recently I read nice blog post by Guslado’s Games called ‘Hobby Tutorial: How to Make a (nearly) Free Photo Studio for Your Painted Miniatures!‘.It really nice ‘step by step’ guide how to build light diffusion box. I like the […]

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  7. […] on Amazon you’ll find they can get a little expensive, that’s why a while back I put together this handy tutorial (It’s a tutorial inside a tutorial! It’s tutorial-ception!) on how to make your own from cheap […]

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