Learn How to Make an Affordable and Easy DIY Home Light Box for Photography

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Everything You Need to Know About Using a Home Light Box

If you’ve found yourself searching for “home light box,” you’re likely wondering how these light therapy devices work and whether one would benefit you. As winter brings shorter days with less natural sunlight, many people struggle with low mood, fatigue, and lack of motivation—all symptoms commonly referred to as the “winter blues” or seasonal affective disorder (SAD). A light box is a treatment option designed to mimic the effects of natural sunlight and help regulate your body’s internal clock.

How Do Light Boxes Work?

Light boxes emit very bright light that is similar to natural sunlight. The intensity is around 10,000 lux, which is significantly brighter than typical indoor lighting or sunlight on an overcast day. When this bright light enters your eyes, it triggers signals to your brain that help regulate hormones related to mood, energy levels, and your circadian rhythm. Specifically, light exposure stimulates the release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps lift your mood, and suppresses the secretion of melatonin, the hormone that makes you feel tired and promotes sleep.

By optimizing your body’s production of serotonin and melatonin, light therapy aims to reduce winter blues symptoms like low mood, fatigue, anxiety, sleep problems, and cravings for carbohydrates. Most experts recommend using a light box for 30 minutes within 1 hour of waking up each morning. For best results, look directly into the light without squinting or looking away for the entire session.

Types of Light Boxes

There are a few different types of light boxes available:

  • Desktop light boxes – Small and portable units intended for desk or tabletop use. These produce around 10,000 lux and are convenient to use at home or work.
  • Floor light boxes – Larger units that stand on the floor close to eye level for a more natural viewing position. Floor models typically offer higher light intensities of around 10,000-20,000 lux.
  • Light visors – Head-mounted devices that direct bright light up towards the eyes. Some find visors more comfortable than staring directly into a box.

No matter the style, look for a medical-grade light box or light therapy lamp with full-spectrum bulbs that produce both bright white light and broader UV/infrared light similar to sunlight. Additional features like a timer, adjustable light intensity, and an easy on/off switch make light boxes more user-friendly. Reputable brands include Verilux, Carex, Beurer, and Northern Light Technologies.

When Should I Use a Light Box?

Light therapy is most effective during specific seasons and times of the day:

  1. Winter months (September – April in the northern hemisphere) – This is when daylight hours diminish and SAD symptoms typically surface.
  2. Morning hours – Exposure to light first thing in the morning sets your body clock for the day and lifts mood before depressive thoughts and behaviors emerge.
  3. Non-sunny or overcast winter days – Even on brighter winter days, sunlight may not be intense enough to trigger the same therapeutic responses as a light box.

Some research indicates that using a light box 30-45 minutes each morning, 5-7 days per week provides adequate treatment duration to observe improvements in mood, energy levels, sleep quality, and appetite. However, you may only need to use it for 15-30 minutes once SAD symptoms dissipate in spring.

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Potential Benefits of Light Therapy

Numerous clinical studies show light boxes can effectively treat SAD symptoms for many who use them as directed. Some potential benefits include:

  • Reduced sad or depressed mood
  • Increased motivation and energy levels
  • Better quality of sleep
  • Improved appetite and weight maintenance
  • Reduced anxiety and irritability
  • Regulated circadian rhythms and melatonin/serotonin production

While results vary between individuals, light therapy is considered a very safe treatment option with minimal side effects like eye strain. It provides an alternative to antidepressant medications and allows you to independently manage your SAD symptoms each winter season.

Tips From My Experience with Light Therapy

Here are a few tips I’ve picked up from using a light box successfully for the past 3 winters:

  1. Be consistent – Shoot for using it around the same time daily to establish a regular light-dark cycle.
  2. Slowly work up duration – Don’t overdo it at first by sitting too close or for too long to avoid eyestrain.
  3. Combine with other activities – Read, eat breakfast, or do light chores facing the light box.
  4. Track your progress – Note changes in mood, symptoms, and energy levels to evaluate benefits.
  5. Adjust settings as needed – You may require different duration, times of use, or light intensity each season.
  6. Consider a travel light box – A portable version helps if you work somewhere without windows or have to travel during winter.

Light therapy takes consistency and a bit of trial and error to figure out your individual needs. But it’s basically free after the initial light box purchase and can keep SAD symptoms at bay each winter without medications. That’s pretty amazing if you ask me!

Potential Downsides of Light Therapy

While light boxes are quite safe, a few minor downsides to be aware of include:

  • Eye strain – Bright light can sometimes cause temporary eyestrain, redness, or headaches, especially if you have sensitive eyes.
  • Discomfort looking at the light – Avoidance behaviors may undermine therapeutic effects.
  • Mild skin irritation – Some report mild sunburn-like sensations on face from full-spectrum bulbs.
  • Inadequate response – A minority may still require medication or additional counseling for severe symptoms.
  • Cost – Light boxes range from $50-300 depending on size and features. In the long run though, it’s cheaper than meds.

Overall, the risks are quite low compared to lifestyle improvements and symptom relief achievable from consistent light therapy use. And most side effects cease once the session ends.

When Should I Consider Medical Advice?

While light boxes are very safe as standalone treatment for mild-moderate SAD, it’s a good idea to consult your doctor if:

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  • Symptoms are severe or include psychosis, mania, or suicidal thinking
  • You have eye conditions like macular degeneration or retina damage
  • You take medications that increase photosensitivity
  • Symptoms persist or worsen after adequate light therapy trials
  • You experience concerning side effects from light exposure

In some cases, antidepressents, psychotherapy, or specialized light boxes may provide better outcomes. Your medical provider can help evaluate severity and tailor the safest and most effective treatment plan for your individual needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some commonly asked questions:

Do light boxes really work for SAD?
Yes, numerous clinical studies demonstrate their effectiveness at reducing core SAD symptoms for the majority of users. Consistency is key.

How long until I see benefits?
Most notice improvement within 1-2 weeks, but it may take 4-6 weeks for full therapeutic effects. Stick with it for adequate trials.

Can blue light from screens be a substitute?
While blue light has alerting effects, screen intensities are generally too low and distance too great to effectively treat SAD. A medical-grade light box is recommended.

Will it disrupt my sleep if I use it late?
Light exposure should occur in the morning hours before 9am to gently shift your circadian rhythm earlier without interfering with sleep. Evening use could induce insomnia.

Can children and teens use light boxes?
Pediatric light therapy may help for SAD in older kids and teens, but consult your child’s doctor first due to developing neurobiology and eye health concerns. Supervision is recommended.

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What’s the cheapest option?
You can find basic desk models for $50-100. Invest in a

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Home Lighting Box

Feature Description
Material Plastic boxes are lightweight but prone to cracking over time. Metal boxes are heavier duty and long lasting.
Size Larger boxes can hold more lights and decorations but may be difficult to mount and store. Consider your storage space and the scale of your display.
Mounting Hardware Boxes with built-in mounting brackets or eyelets make hanging easier than ones requiring additional hardware.
Door/Lid Boxes with hinged doors are best for securely storing valuables. Snap on lids are quicker to access but risk losing small items.
Weather Resistance Look for boxes rated for outdoor use if displaying lights in inclement weather or storing decorations year-round.


  1. Why do folks use a home light box?

    Folks will often use a home light box basically to help with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD is a condition that happens when there’s less natural daylight during the winter months. The light box exposes the person to a greater amount of bright light to try and make up for the lack of winter sunshine.

  2. Do light boxes truly work for SAD?

    According to some experts, light therapy with a home light box can truly help relieve symptoms of SAD for many people. In medical trials, light therapy reduced symptoms of sadness, lack of energy, and sleep problems in over half the folks who used it. So it appears light boxes may provide some amazing benefits for SAD sufferers. Maybe you’ve found them helpful too?

  3. How long do you use a light box every day?

    Most experts suggest using a light box for 30 minutes within an hour of waking up each morning. Trying to get as much light exposure as possible in the mornings seems to be key. The duration may vary a bit depending on the person’s specific needs, but usually 30 minutes is plenty to start seeing potential benefits.

  4. Can you get eye strain from light boxes?

    It’s possible to experience mild eye fatigue or strain from long sessions with very bright light boxes, mostly if you don’t take occasional breaks. The lights are very strong! However, following the recommended 30-minute daily sessions has not been shown to cause harm to eyes. Be sure to check with your eye doctor if you have any concerns about overuse or have an eye condition. Safety first!

  5. Are all light boxes about the same?

    While most light boxes deliver around 10,000 lux of bright white light, some may be more powerful than others. Pricier brands often boast higher lux levels or extra features. But cheaper models seem to work fine for many people too. It mainly comes down to finding a box you like within your budget. Perhaps ask friends for suggestions on popular light therapy devices that have given them relief.

  6. Is using a light box the only option for treating SAD?

    No way! There are definitely some other choices for managing seasonal depression beyond just a light box. Talking therapies like counseling, certain antidepressant medications, lifestyle changes involving exercise and diet, and even just getting outside more in the winter sunlight have showed promise. A multimodal approach combining light therapy and other strategies could potentially be the most effective strategy. But for mild to moderate SAD, a home light box seem kind of be a affordable first line treatment to try.

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  7. Should you discontinue light therapy in the springtime?

    Most experts recommend using light box treatment until spring when there is more natural sunshine and daylight hours are increasing. By around late March or April, outdoor light exposure is typically sufficient again for the average person. Nevertheless, some people who experienced very severe winter depression may need a few extra weeks of light therapy transitioning into spring. Listen to your own body and taper off the home light box use slowly if symptoms begin recurring. Overall though, seasonal light boxes are intended largely as a temporary winter wellness strategy.

So in summary – home light therapy apparently offers quite a stunning solution for many who battle the “winter blues” each year. The bright light imitates the sunlight we miss outdoors when skies are gray. Who would’ve guessed a simple light box might help lift your mood? Thanks for considering some thoughts on this interesting topic! Please let me know if any other questions come to mind about using light therapy at home.