Build a Better Lightbox for Your DIY Film “Scanning” by Stacking Your Glass

More and more photographers are attempting to build their own DIY lightboxes these days as they look for ways to easily digitize their film at home using a digital camera. However, a common problem that plagues these lightboxes is vignetting — lighting is uneven and shadows form gradients near the edges of the surface.

Photographer Rafał Nitychoruk of Gdynia, Poland tells us that he has solved the problem with his own custom lightbox. The trick? Make your lightbox short, and stack multiple layers of glass.

Nitychoruk’s lightbox is mainly composed of sheets of frosted glass, a sheet of anti-reflective glass (to avoid Newton rings), and white PVC foam board. The thing is built up in layers, and slightly resembles a wedding cake.

For the base layer above the light source, Nitychoruk took two large squares of frosted glass and stacked them on top of each other using translucent film canisters as spacers:

This evens out the lighting quite a bit when compared to using a single sheet of glass, but there are still a very noticeable light falloff along the edges:

Before adding the second layer of the “cake,” Nitychoruk first fixed an additional sheet of glass to the base layer to serve as a placemat. It evens up the lighting a tad more before the second — and final — layer:

To have the light bounce around before reaching the surface on which the film rests, Nitychoruk created four walls using the white PVC foam board:

He then stacked more layers of frosted glass on top, capping everything off with a few layers of anti-reflective glass. Here’s what the final “wedding cake” lightbox looks like:

As you can see from this top view, the lightbox is very good at providing extremely even illumination. There isn’t any noticeable vignetting or shadows, even on the very edges:

Now you can simply place your film on top of the lightbox and photograph it using your digital camera to digitize the analog photos:


Here are some sample “scan” photographs Nitychoruk shot to show the effectiveness of his lightbox at providing proper lighting:

Komora-mieszania-swiatła-przykłady-2 copy

Komora-mieszania-swiatła-przykłady-3 copy

Komora-mieszania-swiatła-przykłady-7 copy

Here’s an example of one of his film photos going from “scan” shot, inverted shot, to final digitized photo:




You can find more details and photographs explaining/showing how Nitychoruk built his lightbox in this blog post on his website. It’s in Polish though, so you might need to rely on the photos and some computer translation to understand what’s going on. The main concept is easy to understand, though: stack multiple glass sections for better lighting.

Image credits: Photographs by Rafał Nitychoruk and used with permission

  • Tiago Santos

    “easily digitize their film at home” … yeah… this seems really easy…

  • chris

    My iPad makes a decent light table – uniform light for most roll film sizes.

  • Manuel

    OMG! would you believe that i was working on an idea like this? This freaking rocks and you get the sprocket holes with this!

  • Samuel

    easier than buying a £1500 scanner and setting it up for every frame you want. Its just glue, foamboard and ground glass, its hardly rocket science.


    it’s easy… cheap and quite portable;)
    I shoot 35mm, 120 rolls and 9x12cm so just think how much will cost me a scanner… and now, ask anybody how long it takes to scan regular 35mm film at the Epson V300/V500 …
    I was able to scan (in good quality whole) 35mm film i less than a minute :)

  • Tom Waugh

    Just wondering why no-one has mentioned using a Zoom Slide duplicator. This takes the place of your interchangeable lens and some models have the option to zoom in to crop the image. The slide / negative is held behind white plastic. I simply point mine towards a light bulb or even the sun and press the shutter. No worries about camera shake either because the slide is always held relative to the sensor / film plane.

    I’ve seen them for the equivalent of £20 – $30.


    It works fine only with 35mm slides… You need to cut film and slill, you never know how it will work… you can use every lens you want with every film format you need… If you will use regular sigma/canon/nikon lens, you will be able to use lens profile correction – I’ve never seen lens profile for this kind of adapter;)
    also quality of lenses inside, coatings etc

  • David Parker

    I set my laptop desk background to white. Then place my negs on the screen and photograph them using the macro setting on my camera if needed. open in photoshop and invert to get a positive image.
    And it costs nothing.

  • Christoph

    You can’t just use an LCD/LED monitor or iPad screen set to a white background for illumination because it is made up of component RGB pixels and not pure diffuse white light. Even with a high pixel density (PPI) they will show up in your background. You will see something like this (not sure if it’s big enough to show)…

  • Christoph

    See my post above.