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.
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.
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. 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) Step 6:
Pop some glow sticks in and pop the end cap on.
(It’s easiest to snap them first before you fit them)
- 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,