In the Box Photography Challenge

Chances are you have seen the "In the Box" photo grids. They seem to be more popular around the holiday season, when the boxes can be decorated and props used in a variety of ways like the one below. How adorable is this?!

If you've always wanted to try this fun, creative photo challenge, but haven't known where to start... never fear! We have compiled a bunch of resources to get you on your way. Whether you want to try a quick and easy version using only Lightroom, or learn the secrets of how to make a clean, cohesive box in Photoshop, we've got you covered. Read on and get excited to try your own!

Sarah Bednar: The Quick and Easy Lightroom Version

For the last couple of years during the holiday season, these "In the Box" grids have piqued my interest. I wanted to try making one of my own, but I had one big problem... I've NEVER cracked open Photoshop and didn't have the time or energy to figure it out during the busiest season for this photographer/mom.

Through the inspiring GRADS photo challenges in the last couple of months, I learned that we can make grids in Lightroom! Wow... mind blown!

So if you're like me and don't know a thing about Photoshop, using a quick and easy Lightroom version of "In the Box" may be your gateway into this creative challenge!

First things first...

You'll need to download and import templates into Lightroom for your grid. Find the templates below, and follow the steps shown in the video.

Quick Tips:

  • Plan your grid in advance. Having your subjects interact with each other adds to the appeal and novelty of "In the Box". I did not plan ahead and had trouble thinking on the spot of things that my boys should do. After I showed the completed grid to my oldest son, he started planning out actions that the boys could do in our next "In the Box" shoot. So get your subjects involved!
  • Use the grid in live view to line up your box most accurately.
  • Shoot with a narrow aperture (small f/#) to ensure everything in the box is in focus.


  • Square box - I used a shallow box that, when turned on its side, measured 28" squared. It was just the right size to fit my younger boys. I was ready with scissors and tape in case I had to make a bigger box for my older boys.
  • Table/something to set box on - I wanted to have the bottom flap of my box hanging down so that I had some extra room to work with while editing.
  • Tripod - Keeping the camera and box in the same exact place for all of the pictures is essential. If the camera is handheld and moved just a few inches up or down, left or right, it would throw off the whole cohesive feel of the grid.
  • 50mm lens - I found this focal length to work well in giving me the correct amount of space around my box when I framed it in camera. My guess is that a slightly longer focal length would work well, also.


  • Since this is the quick and easy version, I used natural lighting by setting up my box directly inside my garage door, facing out. My camera was in the bright sun, but the box was in open shade. Using this method, there will be some shadowing within the box. If you'd like to use artificial lighting to get rid of some of the shadows, I'd suggest using two lights at a 45 degree angle slightly above your subjects, shining from different sides. Many of the bright "In the Box" grids that you may have seen are lit using two lights to reduce shadows.

Check out the video below to see how I created the grid in Lightroom.

Bonnie Elliott: How to Shoot and Edit "Inside the Box"

Peek over Bonnie's shoulder as she shows how she shoots using artificial light.

Now watch as Bonnie completes her box in Photoshop.

Download Bonnie's 9-cell template below!

Veronica Bareman: "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Box Photos" Blog Post

On Veronica's blog, she gives us great insight into how to create an "In the Box" grid using Photoshop.

Read it HERE!

Veronica welcomes your questions about "In the Box" photography! Contact her on her facebook page HERE or via email at

Other Resources:

"In the box" Education Facebook Group

Inside the Photo Box Photography and Photoshop Facebook Group

@camera_mama on Instagram recently did an "in the box" challenge as shown in their highlights and features.

We hope that you give this photo challenge a try this holiday season. If you do, share with us on the Facebook pages!

Image by Beth Reed

Image by Mary Foreman

Image by Kerry Goddard