DIY studio lighting with everyday materials?

Discussion in 'Lighting Equipment' started by andy_evans, Jun 15, 2010.

  1. Hello,
    I'm a high school photo teacher, looking to set up the most basic studio for my students to photograph each other. Just a backdrop, a primary light, and a reflector. Or two lights if they're cheap.
    1. Is there a way I can do this with ordinary off-the-shelf lighting -- just find a strong, even light, and improvise a diffusion material? We'll be shooting B&W, so no worries about the light temperature. And I'm thinking lighting for portraits, shoulders-up, or still lives, so I don't believe I need a huge amount of wattage.
    2. Alternately, what's the most basic light on the market? I tried navigating the B&W options but just couldn't make any sense of the results I was getting.
    For a backdrop, giant pieces of white or black paper will do, right?
    Thanks in advance,
  2. hey Andy,
    there is plenty of ways to get the "basic studio" with diy materials... when i started a few years ago i found this website:
    it's great for that kind of stuff. amazing ideas for pretty much everything you can think about. i think they have full section about diy studio...
    regarding basic studio lighitng, everything depends on how much you can spend on it - i started with Portaflash (i don't think it's exists any more), but you can get Interfit for almost the same money. Going up with your money you could get Elinchrom or AB...
  3. I've improvised "studio" lights with grow-lights in those clip light holders you get from the hardware store for a few bucks. They can be attached to a tripod. Made a "reflector" out of white foam core. Made diffusers out of white plastic trash bags and bamboo sticks. I think the grow lights are about 5500K to mimic sunlight: hope they don't give your kids other creative ideas.
  4. No hot lights, safety is the issue with students and fire marshals.
    You are going to need a budget for a couple Alien Bees and a couple umbrellas and a couple stands. You can go for an AB kit i didn't cause my couple lights go back farther than that product line...No used lights, again, the school and its fire responsibilty and its electrical supply...strobes do not suck up power like hot lights of any kind...see what I am getting at...a tripped fuse can ruin a whole set up..
    Backgrounds, no sweat area, a play by ear thing, can be cooked up by any of the students and their parents.
    Suggestion: Get the budget fixed for your minimum aspirations and do a fundraiser!, Why not, cheaper than some summer field excursions ...Background?. Any shade of paper, Fomecore, muslin, whatever the local seamstress and Walmart have on sale.
    If you can track down Lawrence Keeney ( goes by forum name lkeeney) on this linked page ,and perhaps take the time to e mail him he will be able to help as Larry has done a ton of research on minimalist strobe lights. Real world thinking.
    My non up to date speculation. Expect the school and kids to spend a thousand dollars and feel lucky to get off that cheap...Hey , think of all the computers in the computer lab that cost almost that much a pop.
    A link to start you off to find out how to reach Larry Keeny ,a retired engineer in Las Vegas, (slide down the page,) his wonderful article of two years back is lost in space.Still he is amenable to questions ..and has a technical and frugal dispostion and did your shopping research for you already.
    I wish you well. Teaching on a slim or non existent budget is the challenge nowadays I suppose. While following all the fire regulations. And not having backdrops drop on the young leaders of tomorrow.. Happy researching...
  5. Well,if your students know that heat burns,you could start with the cheap 500watt worklights sold at most hardware outlets.
    Continuous lighting has one advantage over flash : you can easily study,and modify your setup to obtain the effect you want.
  6. I fully second the suggestion! Their solutions have solved pretty much all my problems when I was starting to experiment with studio light and had very little (read that as "no" money....!!! Check it out and you will find a treasure trove of useful information, ideas and videos...
  7. Andy, at least one article from that just now perused linked DIY site is quite good, one on first page re jury rigged reflectors. I have not prowled all the other stuff. I make do with a lot of home made crap that I would not impose on a school board controlled environment.
    Q:What is the amperage load for you classroom? Have you checked? Go with strobes for an easier life. And oh yes when you next go to Home Depot to look at the pair of halogen work lights, notice the label, 'for outdoor use only.'
    ... Wondering,this still and maybe you will confide same. Why is not your department open to buying a minimalist strobe rig or is a studio out of the question. If latter, why press it ?
    Another research idea. E mail the Adorama Customer Service Ambssador rep just to solicit more than our couple ideas ...
    See if Helen can recommend a basic school kit and maybe offer a student price package. Helen can vbe helpful with such matters. (Also her company is an advertiser here at PN you notice)
    Reflector article, free, online, and not half bad for a freebie.
    Happy trails, gs
  8. One other thing, Andy, low priced strobe but workable strobe lighting monolights now come with a standard 100 watt or so tungsten bulb modeling light.. so the students can get a feel for the result as they play around with headshooting each other. Talk to whomever does the yearbook and graduation photos. Company may have some old light stands to donate to your non profit and take tax light brainstorming never hurts.
  9. In his book "Studio Lighting Made Simple" Scott Smith explains how to create a simple studio set up using ordinary household bulbs, a bed sheet for a backround, mirrors for the hairlight and clamps that you can purchase at any hardware store. Unfortunately the book is $39.00 which is not that cheap.

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