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Looking at Light Cubes

Light cubes, light tent or flash cubes, as they are sometimes referred to, are fold up box shaped structures usually made of hoops that when unfolded allow a covered cube to be set up.  It folds up like most reflectors and stores in a small carry case, making it transportable. The material they are covered in is translucent and durable and is usually white and acts as a cross between a diffuser and reflector so light can be flashed or shone through from the
outside but once inside reflects all around providing soft lighting. You can also put a light within the cube pointing towards the outside if you have sufficient room. Some have a combination of white and black panels.

Why use a Light Cube

Using direct lighting for flower or product photography can cause harsh dark shadowing and unpleasant reflections particularly on shiny objects. The light cube can minimize shadows and isolate the subject from the background. The material a light tent is made of can acts as a diffuser and therefore softens the light and reduce glare, and the light can come from any direction, using most forms of light. Because of their range of sizes it also means you can get a cube for just about any situation from a table top studio to something large enough to hold people. They also offer a way of making your lighting studio self-contained and portable.

Cubes are often used with pet photography not only to ease the lighting but to keep the pet within a manageable area. Models where the front can be partially fitted allow you a fully walled area for smaller pets. In the past I have seen special models produced for pet photography with a more resilient and cleanable base, but have not seen any of these recently.

A light cube is a self contained studio often with its own background, so is particularly convenient for all types of product photography and for photographing items to sell on eBay.

A Range of Sizes

Light Cubes come in a range of sizes, the smallest we have is about 12inches in each direction suitable for photographing jewellery, while the largest we have is 5ft in each direction. Larger ones are available but given that you and the lights are outside the cube you would need quite a large room to use a much larger one. Most have removable door, with a slot allowing a camera to look through the door. Some come with velcro fitted backgrounds in a variety of colours. Other versions have bottoms that come out to stand over plants and other removable panels.

The following table gives some examples of sizes on the market and an idea of what item you could take a photo of in them.


Useful for

30cm (12")

coins, watches, jewellery photos

50cm (20")

toys, die-cast model photography

80cm (32")

ceramics, food photography

100cm (39")

fixed objects, plants, pets

120cm (48")

small furniture photography

200cm (79")

clothing, portrait photography


Another variation on the light cube/tent is Lastolite's Studio Cubelight that comes with a built in table. It is a two-storey structure where the upper half being the studio area and the lower one acting as a table to raise it to a decent working height. This is all held in place with rods similar to tent poles. Between the two layers an acrylic shelf can be fitted to give strength and rigidity. It is small enough to set up in a corner of a room. It can be used like any other cubelite, but also can have a light from below. One application is to give 360 degree lighting to the contents using two lights one underneath inside the table section and the other from the top pointing vertically downwards into the tent. The latter of these two is encased in a softbox (supplied in the kit version).
It also comes with a curtain for the front so that the camera/lens can be hidden from reflective objects. The light it produces is very soft and shadowless and you can retain the white-out back and foreground while simultaneously creating deep, rich blacks. By changing the position of the lower light, it is possible to change the quality of light inside too. It comes in two sizes  70cm x 70cm x 155cm and 100cm x 100cm x 185cm. As the rigidity of this is far less than working with a light cube on a table you need to see one before deciding to put larger items or items like flower vases that may tip within in it. The major benefit is the elimination or reduction of shadows on the base.


You could make one yourself, but as economy models are widely available its probably not worth the effort. You can get similar effects by using a number of reflectors and diffusers.

Light cubes are a useful tool and I use one for flower and product photography. You can get them from photographic equipment suppliers, and specialist photographic studio suppliers, but you will also find a large range of them in their various sizes on eBay.


By: Keith Park Section: Lighting and Reflectors Key:
Page Ref: light_cubes Topic: Flash, Studio and Reflectors Last Updated: 04/2009

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