Feb 13, 2014

How to Build Your Own DIY Photography Light for Under $15.00

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This ManMade guest post was written by Tj Cosgrove of Explosivo Network

If you’ve ever done any kind of videography or photography, you’ll know that having enough light on your scene and your subject is the key to a good image. On a nice sunny day, that’s not much of a problem, but when shooting indoors (or if you, like me, happen to live in the Northwest of England) you’re going to need a little artificial assistance.
A Kicker light and a Hair light are both used to accent the light that falls on your talent. Though technically two different things, this DIY project creates a lamp that is with careful placement suitable for use in either situation. A Kicker light is typically used to separate the subject from the background, and is often placed at the back or side of the subject creating highlights on one side, and shadows on the other. A Hair light is placed above and behind the subject, giving them a nice subtle halo of light around their hair, some pretty highlights and further defining their figure.
Professional lights like this Lilipit Tugsten 650W (Calumet UK - £165/$270) or DeSisti 650W Focus Flood (B&H US - $254/£154) are excellent and certainly preferable if you have the dinero. For indie filmmakers like myself however, they are expensive and not top of my shopping list. I’d much rather spend the money on new lenses or audio equipment. With that in mind, I put together a cheap DIY version using a simple Security light you can find at your local hardware store. In total, I spent £6.48 (Just over $10) and built it in about 25 minutes. I am not an electrical engineer, and I don’t even pretend to be one on the internet. Depending on your nationality, your power outlets, voltage and wiring might be very different than shown here. Always consult local regulations when doing electrical work, and seek someone qualified if you aren’t confident doing the work yourself.
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Tools and Materials: 
  • 150-watt floodlight
  • 13 amp electrical plug
  • heavy duty 3-cord wiring (rated to your light)
  • screwdriver set, X-acto knife, scissors
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1. Unscrew the lamp casing and insert the bulb.
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2. Open the back panel
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3. Open the plug and prep the wire.
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4. Wire the plug safely, noting the live, ground, and neutral wires. (If you don't know how to do this, search for "How to wire a lamp"-type posts. This one's pretty good.)
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5. Close the plug.
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6. Thread the other end of the cord into the lamp housing through the cable clamp.
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7. Wire the lamp. I've included my wiring colors above, but be sure to consult your light's manual for the proper scheme. 
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8. Close up the lamp casing, and you're done!
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I took all these photos in my converted dining room green screen studio with a Canon T2i, one fluorescent umbrella light and the DIY Kicker/Hair Light. The lovely model is my ever patient girlfriend Megan. You gotta work with what you got, until you’ve got all you want.
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Now go forth, and maketh pretty images with your awesome DIY equipment.
Tj Cosgrove is a Director, Filmmaker, Entrepreneur and Unabashed Optimist. He owns & runs Explosivo, an Independent Media Network. When he ain’t making movies, he’s watching ‘em. He has a passion for Horror, Science Fiction, Good Coffee, Vintage Military Equipment and Zombies. Oh, he love Zombies. 
Tj Cosgrove
Explosivo Network


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Africashot on Feb 21, 2014:

Thanks for sharing! I Tried working with this sort of lights a while back for shooting an interview and after only 5 minutes the subject was completely covered in sweat as the lights produce so much heat (adding to the fact that it was here ineast Africa on top of that...) therefore it is good to keep that in mind when shooting in closed spaces with little ventilation... 

Craig on Feb 20, 2014:

Thanks for this. I actually had a pair of these lights a while ago but found the light was a bit too strong and harsh. Would it be poissible to add a diffuser to soften the light?