DIY Photo Cube or DIE!!!
A brief rundown of why I made this DIY photo cube, and why it might be beneficial for you too. Now I don’t know about you, but when I photograph things I wanna make sure I have good lighting. A few years ago I purchased a photography set for my girlfriend so she can take photos of her jewelry. Last year when I started making custom toys I also started using it. While this did work, it became cumbersome to set up constantly—this led to a removable lighting setup on my desk.
That too became a huge pain in my ass, and led to the great search for simpler alternatives that wouldn’t occupy so much of my already crowded desk space. That’s where led photo cubes came in, and there are a bunch of them—some so incredibly overpriced that they should come with a reach around and a smile. Bear in mind…this would be used by myself (with my shitty point and shoot or phone), and my girlfriend with her crazy ass Canon 60D that scares the hell outta me.
Cost & Time
This DIY photo cube can be done in as little as under $25 with the main components picked up at your local Ikea, you know the place—you go there for meatballs and to sit on couches. Sounds like a great price, I know, BUT I already own everything else that’s needed. If you need any of the other things it could be around $45-60 total—depending on what you’ve gotta pick up.
Time is precious, I waste most of it staring at a wall so I don’t want things to take forever. For the DIY photo cube you’re gonna need to know how to solder, don’t be scared if you don’t know how, it’s easy. Depending on your skill with a soldering iron, the hard stuff could be done in as little an 30 minutes.
Here’s what your gonna need; a soldering iron, 14g wire, solder, flux (makes life easier), some all purpose super strong glue, wire cutters, your choice of drink and movie to watch.
Below are the two pieces you need to pick up from Ikea, the Drona storage box, and the Ledberg led strip set. I went with the Drona because I want this DIY photo cube to fold up!! The Ledberg was a cost efficient choice, as its only $15.00 and this was meant to be as low cost as possible at the time.
START YOUR ENGINES!
Alright, lets get dirty, test your Ledberg and make sure it works like it’s supposed to then fire up your soldering iron! We’re not doing any fancy series or parallel wiring here, what we’re doing is just creating extensions for the led leads.
Below is a close up of the Ledberg ends that would normally be shoved together to complete the led centipede. You’re going to be close to these guys soon, cause that’s where we solder up the wires to make the chain longer. You’ll notice that the left side of the picture is inside the plastic casing, that makes it a pain in the ass but still doable. The right side of the pic, the backside, is the really easy part to solder.
The center strip is your most important, if you want this diy photo cube to fold up like I did then you’re gonna need to make sure your wires are long enough! The center strip is the only that’s gonna be soldered at both ends, in both ends…like a burning quasar, so make sure you give it the necessary slack.
I didn’t at first lol, that was a fun rework…
Take a peek at the easy part of this solder job, bask in it’s glory, show your family and rub it in their faces that you defeated the Warlocks of Dumgar. That last part prolly doesn’t make sense, but do it anyway!! What your looking at up there is male end of the led strip, for the female end we need to crossover the wires.
This is the same strip just at the opposite female end, this is where flux will make things easier. You’ll notice that the wires are crossed over each other in the picture. I know you were told to never cross the streams, but you gotta just trust me!!
CROSS THE DAMN STREAMS!!
There’s a method to this madness, notice how its female to female, that’s why the wires need to be crossed. When you just connect them like normal, the positive / negative of the male end matches up to the female—not so this female to female. The main reason I did it like this, you definitely don’t have to, is so I can use either end of the DIY photo cube to be plugged into an outlet.
The hard part of this DIY photo cube is done!! Test your lights to make sure you’ve completed all circuits, if it’s not lighting up check everything! Make sure that you haven’t accidentally soldered two points together creating a bridge. Now for the time consuming part…prop up your Drona, shoe box, whatever the hell you wanna put these in and check for positioning.
Here’s the DIY photo cube being tested, you can see I’ve got the lights up in the top completely. This was ok for some pieces, but the majority had bad overcast shadows. At this stage I also assumed I would put the power plug through the back, so I made a small incision in the back to run the plug. The lights are being held up with multiple pieces of scotch tape, this will make life easier for you later on.
Having the led strips setup on the top created some heavy shadows, having them in the front on slight angles created much better lighting. When you set up your leds make sure you put the “bottom flap” that helps support the Drona box up. Doing that you can use the flap to hold your background materials like you can see in the shot above.
After a few tweaks to my camera settings, the DIY photo cube was producing great shots! Once I got good shots with my camera and phone, I got the hell outta my girlfriend’s way to let her test things out with her monster of a camera.
Here you can see my lovely girlfriend Christiebear testing with that beast she calls a camera, along with the absolute disaster I call a work space. With the approval from her tests, and mine the DIY photo cube is 90% finished, now it’s just a matter of keeping the leds in place where you want them.
LETS FINISH IT UP!!
By now I’m gonna assume you’ve gone through 3 beers and that movie is almost done. So lets glue down the led strips and finish up this DIY photo cube!! Keep in mind how you want your lights to sit when you start gluing and use tape to hold em them in place. I wanted my lights tilted slightly so I made sure to tilt the lights before taping down.
You’re work here is done, let the glue dry for the recommended time and go outside, look at the sun, walk your dog—ring a neighbors bell and tell them what you did and how they aren’t allowed to see.
Curious what the pictures looked like while I was testing? These are some of the shots taken during testing, and there are no adjustments on these aside from cropping them. That bottom one is Gouki, my first custom Funko Pop, all the photos on his page were taken with this DIY photo cube!
Again, test it for yourself, find something that works best with the pieces you’re taking pictures of. If there are other people sharing this with you, tell them to get off their asses and test with their cameras too! Don’t forget to adjust your camera’s settings, aperture, fstop, all those things most people never touch. The better quality picture you take means less work during post.