DIY Lighting Hacks for Digital Photographers

Translations of this material:

into Russian: Сделай сам: осветительные приборы для фотографа. 52% translated in draft.
Submitted for translation by Ready 27.01.2009

Text

Lighting can be the difference between a good shot and a great one.

Walk into most professional photographer’s studios and you’ll be confronted with truckloads of lighting equipment. To the average hobby photographer it’s enough to make your mind boggle - and for your stomach to turn as you think about the cost of it all.

Most of us can’t afford a full lighting rig - however what if there was a way to experiment with the type of lighting gear that pro photographers use without spending too much money? What if you could make it yourself.

In this post I’ve found 10 DIY Flash and Lighting Hacks that put some of these lighting techniques within the grasp of the rest of us. Some are more involved than others but all are fun and will provide you with some new lighting gear to experiment with.

1. Multi-Super-SB-Ring Light

What can you make with six speedlight flashes, a coffee can and a little spare time?

You get a multi-super-sb-ring-light! (pictured left).

You could probably also blind a small village if you’re not careful!

Find out what it is, how to make one and what the results are like here.

This one looks like a lot of fun to play with - even if it’s just for the challenge of it and the looks you’d get when you pull it out next time you do a shoot..

2. Poor Mans Ring Flash

All you need for this one (pictured left) is a used milk bottle/jug and some scissors.

The result is that you’ll have a Poor Mans Ring Flash.

A ring flash is one that fits around the lens - it creates a wonderfully unique lighting effect. They will usually lighten your wallet by a couple of hundred dollars.

It’s so simple that I whipped one up for myself today in 5 minutes.

It worked out pretty good too - not bad for the cost of a couple of liters of milk!

If you want to experiment with other methods of making DIY ring flashes you also might want to check out this post for another method. This one is a little more involved, but I think will probably get better results.

Subscribe to our newsletter to get more weekly Digital Photography tips like this

3. Inexpensive Light Tent

Have you ever wanted to replicate the crisp clean product images that you see in catalogs with the products seemingly floating on a white background?

If you do - you need some kind of light tent/light box.

As usual, light boxes can cost you quite a bit - but thanks to DPS reader Jeffrey Bail you might be able to achieve the results without having to spend much at all.

In our Inexpensive Light Tent tutorial Jeffrey shows you how to turn a box, fabric, tape, glue board and light into a great little light tent.

4. Party Bouncer Card

Another cool DIY Hack is this Party Bouncer Card (pictured left) which is so simple yet promises to be so useful and effective.

This one is for those of you with a camera which doesn’t have the capability for an off camera flash.

It allows you to bounce some light off the ceiling while also diffusing the light going forward - this will enable you to get a less harsh flash effect that many flashes leave images with. I like this one as it pushes the light out from your flash in two directions which can lead to a more even light rather than just diffusing it - a little more sophisticated.

Another quick DIY on diffusing a flash is to put a little translucent magic tape over a flash (or a piece of white tissue paper can do it too).

Any of these methods will decrease the amount of light getting out from the flash onto your subject - hopefully resulting in a more subtle light and a less blown out image.

5. Turkey Pan Beauty Dish

Beauty dishes are wonderful pieces of photographic equipment to experiment with - but they can be very expensive.

Not any more (at lest if you use this DIY trick).

In this hack learn how to use a simple Turkey Pan to get some pretty amazing beauty dish results! The comparison examples in this tutorial between the turkey pan version and the real thing are pretty convincing.

I must remember to add Turkey Pans to this week’s shopping list.

Check out this tutorial here.

6. DIY Ghetto Flash Extender

I’d not heard of this type of device before - but since I found this tutorial I’ve discovered a number of photographers who for one reason or another want to be able to extend the reach of their flash.

This is particularly useful for wildlife photographers who want to supplement natural light in tricky lighting with fill flash. Of course sometimes it’s difficult to get close to that animal and a normal flash would have no impact.

Enter the Flash Extender (one popular one is the ‘better beamer’).

Want to make one for yourself? This tutorial for the DIY Ghetto Flash Extender will tell you how.

7. Disposable Camera Flash Slave

Lately I’ve had more and more questions from readers about how to set up shots with multiple flash units to light a subject from more than one angle.

It’s not difficult to do if you have the budget to buy yourself an extra speedlight flash or two (or more) but if you don’t have the budget is there a way?

In this tutorial and author shows you how to use a disposable camera to act as a remote slave flash.

OK - this tutorial isn’t for anyone looking for a quick simple solution - but it is a challenge that I’m sure some of you will be up for!

8. Flash Mounted DIY Softbox

Another way that professional photographers diffuse the light that comes from a flash and gets a nice subtle and even light on their subject is to use a softbox

A softbox sits over a light (it’s a big box with white walls) which ensures the light is spread out evenly.

This DIY Softbox tutorial is great - it requires card, a white sheet (silk if you can), velcro, scissors, glue and the template that the tutorial provides you with.

The results look pretty good - but if you want more DIY softboxes the same site also has another tutorial for an alternative softbox.

Again - this one looks pretty good.

9. Flash Bouncers

There are a lot of DIY flash diffuser hacks and tutorials around but this one from our friend Chris at DSLRBlog is pretty cool.

It costs £1, takes 5 minutes, requires craft foam, a little elastic and some scissors.

The tutorial even includes a template for you to print out on your printer and then cut out - what more do you need?

Even the technologically challenge could make this one (speaking of myself of course).

Nice work from Chris with that one.

Another similar Flash Bouncer/Diffuser can be found over at DPReview here. This one is foam also.

Lastly - another card/paper version of the flash bouncer.

10. Full Budget DIY Lighting Studio

It’s time for one last DIY lighting hack - this one attempts to bring it all together with a full DIY Budget Studio setup.

The author of it takes up the challenge of creating a full studio lighting system for under $75.

It includes lights, reflectors, diffusers and flash diffusers - all using items that you could pick up at hardware and craft stores.

It also shows you a few test shots at the end of the tutorial that compare different lighting options.

You will need your own flash unit to use the flash diffusers on - but the rest is all included in the tutorial.

I particularly light the suggestions around globes for the lights. I know a couple of DPS forum members have had similar success with these sorts of lights.

11. UPDATE: The Fring - a DIY Flash Ring

I saw this one recently and I think it makes a worthy addition to this post.

It is a DIY Fibre-Optic flash extension for your DSLR’s popup flash!

It uses the light from your camera’s flash to light your subject using fibre optics arranged around your lens to give a more even light.

Of course it’s not the easiest to make (there are 37 steps) but it’s an ingenious idea and the example images taken with the setup are pretty cool considering it cost just a few dollars to make.

© ФМ².