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How to make a DIY photographic light that doesn't use electricity or batteries

In this article, I’m going to show you how to make a DIY photographic light that doesn’t use electricity or even batteries,
it’s cheap (under £10), light, portable and scalable.

I’ve been using military grade white light sticks (30 minute ones by Lumica, link below) for another photographic project which I’ll share next month.  They cost £1.20 each, are bright and give a really night white milky light.

How to make a DIY photographic light out of glowsticks - www.Lig

So, I thought I’d experiment with these glow sticks and make a simple DIY fill light as a prototype to see how they lit a subject in a portrait.  I wanted to share this with you as I really like the results and it’s very easy to make.

This light is really a fill light, so I’d suggest you’d use in ambient lighting conditions, use your light meter to get the correct setting on your camera and then bring in the fill light to pick out your subject….This light gives off a glow a bit like the new Ice Light, but the beauty of it, it doesn’t cost £500 which the Ice Light does.

I did really like the effect of using a long tubular light instead of the usual formats.

I pushed it much further by shooting it in total darkness and I had planned to power the light with 6 x glow sticks, but only had 4 left. This resulted in me having to push the camera settings a bit (iso 3200, f2.8, 1/8, auto white balance & no colour correction) but, if you use it as above you won’t have to.

This solution is scalable, so you could build it from a bigger pipe and use more glow sticks.

I used white pipe and cable ties so as not to pollute the colour of the light (the colour temperature)
If you really want an Ice Light, you could spray it matt black.

 

What you’ll need:

4 x (or more) military grade 30 minute white light sticks: £1.20 each
1 x Length of white plumbing pipe: £2
1 x white pluming pipe end cap: £1
4 x tie wraps (ideally clear): £1
A saw, a drill, small sheet of sand paper and a pair of scissors.

 

Step 1:
Measure the rough length of two light sticks and mark the pipe.

Step 2:
Decide how long you want the handle, if you use a tripod or an assistant when you use it can be short. If not have a long handle as this light does need to be quite close to your model.

Step 3:
Cut the pipe to the desired length.

How to make a DIY photographic light out of glowsticks - www.Lig Step 4:
Cut the pipe in half down its length until you reach the point that you marked, then cut on the mark to remove a slice of pipe. Tidy the edges with sandpaper.

Step 5:
Drill and fit the tie wraps to hold the glow sticks as shown.
I used cable ties to secure the two rows of glow sticks (maybe florists foam could replace the middle two and the bottom row could be inverted for a more elegant solution)

How to make a DIY photographic light out of glowsticks - www.Lig Step 6:
Pop some glow sticks in and pop the end cap on.
(It’s easiest to snap them first before you fit them)

How to make a DIY photographic light out of glowsticks - www.Lig

 

Tips:
  • When you snap the glow sticks, give them a really good shake to mix the liquid.
  • Start with the light close to the model and back off to adjust the brightness.
  • Try using the length of the light to highlight one side of your subject to create depth & shadow.
  • Try using horizontal(ish) above the model.

 

 

For a bunch of other FREE lessons for you to try,
Start here:

 


 
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10 comments to “How to make a DIY photographic light that doesn’t use electricity or batteries”

  • JIm, February 15, 2013 at 8:03 pm

    Great Idea. Perfect for a GoPro in the water also.

  • Pedro Alvarez, February 27, 2013 at 9:46 am

    Great idea…

  • only_moin, March 7, 2013 at 8:17 pm

    but but but ..whats the point of it, when a chinese made 16 led rechargable flash light gives much brighter light for about 4 hours on a single charge and cost only $3 or about 2pounds ……? i mean i understand that Not everything we does need to have a ‘point’ and we many a times do stuff just for fun..but to me this seems just too much hassle for nothing…well thats my 2cents..

  • k.rowedy, March 10, 2013 at 4:51 am

    The point is you have a soft glow, flashlights are too harsh.

  • Anonymous, March 11, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    Very good post! We are linking to this great content on our website.
    Keep up the great writing.

  • Tom, April 20, 2013 at 8:19 am

    So… how did you cut the pipe. I tried to day but made a mess of the pipe and im grumpy now. I tried turning the jigsaw into a bench saw but it slowly rotated and made an uneven cut. I dont have a band saw.

    Im going to try using some white sign board I have lying around.

    • lightism, April 20, 2013 at 9:19 am

      I just used a handsaw and sandpaper afterwards to clean up the rough edges. Si

  • Joshua Hurni, April 21, 2013 at 7:33 pm

    I’ll bookmark your blog and check again here frequently.

  • MARY, June 29, 2013 at 8:38 pm

    Never would’ve thought of using glow sticks will try this in the states there like a dollar each at the dollar stores -

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