Why pay a bunch of money for a set of lights when you can just build your own? Watch these ten tutorials showing you exactly how.
Say you’ve got a little nest egg that you are going to use to fund your first gear purchase. So, what do you buy first?
Signs usually point to getting a camera, then some lenses, and maybe a few accessories for the two. By then, you’ve blown most of your budget. You’re also going to need something to light up your shots. So what options do you have on a small budget? Lucky for you, we’ve rounded up ten of the best tutorials out there that will show you how to get handy and build your own DIY lighting rigs for a fraction of the price of normal studio lights.
1. Roger Deakins Ringlight – Shutterstock
I put this one first because it may be my favorite one on the list. We set out to create a tool that Roger Deakins famously loves using: the ring light. The ring light is an incredibly cinematic key light, and it creates a visible ring around the iris of the eye when directed at a subject. The softness of the tungsten bulbs is incredible, and the versatility of being able to shoot through the center of the ring is really handy when trying to find the best lighting angle.
This DIY light rig is composed out of twenty-five 60-watt tungsten bulbs strung together with lamp cord on a circular wood cut-out. You might need to pull out the power tools for this one. For a full build guide, check out Todd’s article.
2. DIY Studio Lights – DIY Perks
DIY Perks is one of the best places on YouTube to get your fix of fun projects to work on at home, ranging from studio gear to creative hacks. He’s the king of DIY lighting since his builds are a little more complex, but still incredibly well built. These studio lights are created from cutting metal sheets and rigging LED strips made out of different color-balanced lights to create a diffused light that can be color-shifted using knobs. If you don’t have too much experience in working with metal cutting or intricate builds like this one, maybe get a few other projects under your belt before you move onto this one.
3. DIY Wireless China Ball – Premium Beat
You ever just wanted a nice, diffused light that you could strap to a pole and carry around in a backpack? Well, then the DIY wireless china ball kit is made for you. It’s the perfect companion for a night time shoot that may not have electric outlets available to you. With only a minimal amount of materials needed to create this rig, this is one of the easier builds on the list. This rig can easily just be plugged into the wall, but if you are looking to go wireless, this tutorial teaches you to create your own battery converter rig that you can place in a backpack.
4. DIY “Feaux” Quasar Lights – Make Anything
If you are looking for a Quasar or Kino-Flo type light, but don’t have the budget for one, this rig might be the one for you. It utilizes a LED shop light like you would see hanging in a workshop, but transforms it into a riggable light by adding a tripod attachment to the base. It might not have the best CRI, but it will get the job done.
5. DIY Balloon Light
You ever just want a balloon light to solve all of your nighttime exterior lighting problems? Before, you would have to rent one from Airstar, which can reach thousands of dollars per day for a rental. This tutorial teaches you how to rig up string LED lights inside of a shower curtain, air seal it, and send it sky high with some helium (or, you could just rig it up with ropes. Helium is expensive). We were incredibly surprised with how bright the balloon turned out.
6. DIY Light Bar – Film Riot
Film Riot is like the Simpsons of filmmaking YouTube. If it’s something interesting regarding DIY filmmaking, chances are there’s a Film Riot video about it. In this video, they teach us how to create a light bar that uses a vanity lighting mount to create a row of bright bulbs to cinematically accent or key in your set’s light.
We even have one of these in our office that we built years ago. And it’s come in handy ever since!
7. 7 Useful DIY Film Hacks – Shutterstock
For number seven, we’re coming at in hot with a 7-in-1 video chock full of excellent, cheap filmmaking hacks for you to use. This includes turning an LED tube strip into a key light by coiling it around a pizza pan, turning a candle into an actual lighting source by hollowing out the middle and placing an LED inside, and even creating your own dimmer out of a extension cable and a dimmer switch. If you are looking for a day project that won’t cost you too much money, this video should be your first play.
8. Creating Shapes with Lights – Shutterstock Tutorials
Now this one isn’t really a “build” per se, but it is a really creative use of really cheap lighting wire. The light is called EL Wire (electroluminescent wire), which you can use to creatively brighten up any kind of set. You can also create cool shapes using the bendable light.
9. DIY 800W Equivalent Light – Indy Mogul
Coming in as one of the oldest videos on this list (that’s still on here since it still holds up) is the 800W equivalent light from Indy Mogul. This little Frankenstein’s monster of a light is a creative solution for someone looking for a powerful, directional key light who doesn’t have the budget for a typical 800w fresnel light.
10. 6 Cheap Ways to Light your Photos – Shutterstock Tutorials
We saved this one for number ten since it’s the only photography-based video on this list, but it’s still got some really useful tips in there. This includes using Christmas lights to fill out your scene, or even investing in some really cheap hand-sized lights from Aputure to spruce up your photos.
Bonus: 10 Things I Know About Lighting
Want to know a few tips on how to put your DIY lights to the best of their abilities? Make sure to check out Todd’s 1o Tips for Lighting video, which is a great resource for anyone that may be new to lighting sets and scenes.
Want even more tips on lighting? Check these out.
- Color Temperature and 3 Point Lighting Basics
- 13 Photographers on Lighting Techniques for Small-Budget Shoots
- Cinematography Tips: How to Use Additive and Reductive Lighting
- Video Tutorial: How to Get Cinematic Lighting in Small Spaces
- Video Breakdown: How to Minimize Your Lighting Setup on Set
Cover image by Garjita Wiguna Suryakanta.