If you're just starting out in video production and you're looking to get some lighting kits, things can get quite expensive. It's easy to get frustrated when a good light kit can cost so much. With this in mind, let's look at how to build an inexpensive studio lighting design.

You could easily start out by purchasing the top of the line lighting only to discover later that this was the wrong technology for your particular style of shooting. Imagine building a complete system of quartz halogen lights only to discover that your shooting style needs intimate studio lighting with the lights extremely close to the subject. Those quartz tungstens might be too hot. Or how about emptying your bank account on an LED light kit only to find out most of your work includes lighting entire rooms as well as your subjects. LEDs aren't very practical for that unless you emptied your savings on lots and lots of LED lighting banks.

Let's entertain a few ideas that allow you to build a competent system, learn about what you want and more importantly, don't want in a light kit, without draining your savings. You can still have a bit of fun in the process.

We're going to do this as cheaply as possible, because you will be using this kit to hone your lighting skills and then eventually replace it with some great equipment down the road.

A trip to the hardware store is always in order when working on your budget light kit. You'll find incredible savings there, which can inspire you to put together a spectacular lighting design whether you're using Halogen bulbs, LED lighting or anything else.

 

Clamp It

Photo A shows a cool little light clamp that cost about $11.00. These things come with various reflectors but the really cool thing is they have an E27 base that accepts standard 100-watt incandescent bulbs, 100-watt quartz bulbs, screw-in fluorescents and even screw-in LED lighting. But wait! That's not all; that reflector is removable and can be interchanged with three sizes or left completely off for a great bare bulb fixture, as seen in the photograph. You can attach the clamp to many things like chairs and doors, as seen in photo B, but it's plenty difficult to attach it to a light stand unless you have a small clamp – also from the hardware store – for about a buck, as shown in photo C. If you arrange the clamp as shown in the photo you can put these light-clamps on any standard light stand as illustrated. This is an amazing system for just starting out because you can experiment with most of the common light kit technologies for very little money.

In photo D you can see a nifty little light fixture that will add so much to your lighting designs. It costs about $7.00 and accepts the same lights as the clamp-lights above. These can easily be attached to small boards and used as background lights or used for an "up light" behind furniture or plants, or you can tuck them away in corners of rooms for a nice "mood lighting" effect. Imagine three or four of these strategically place in a living-room along with the existing lighting. Combine this with your clamp lights and you have a wonderful "Cameo Style" lighting that is far more interesting than blasting the whole place with two or three 500-watt quartz lights. That's the beauty of creating your own lights, it forces you to think instead of "just putting up some lights" and that frequently leads to dramatic lighting. Something to add to your lighting kit.

 

These screw-in fixtures don't accept powerful light bulbs because none of them are rated for more than a few hundred watts, but collectively they can provide plenty of power; that's providing you have enough of them. By themselves, these fixtures will only light up a small area, so the idea is to put several lights close enough to your subject to be effective and light each area separately or you can combine several for more power and since they're cheap you can afford plenty.

DIY Lighting Designs

Suppose you yearn for more power and you don't want a bunch of individual light fixtures. Found on the same isle as the clamp-lights you will find more robust fixtures that accept more powerful lights such as 300-watt quartz halogen shop lights. These fixtures cost more than the E27 bases because they are designed to accept only their intended bulbs and have circuitry especially designed for those bulbs, but they have considerably more power. You can buy a work light kit with two 300-watt quartz lights that mount to the provided 5-foot stand or you can buy single units with floor stands and use a Manfrotto 014- 14 Rapid Adapter (photo E) to mount it to a standard 5/8" light stand. All you need to do is drill 1/4" hole in the mounting bracket your light came with and you're good to go. (See our DIY story on building this particular light at: Do It Yourself Lighting Kit. This article has a lot of good advice on building your own lighting kit for LED lighting, Halogen bulbs or other lighting types.

As you can see, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to come up with easy solutions to the common problems of lighting, and you can skip all the science when it comes to selecting your final lighting kit because you will have tons of experience with your cheapies. Armed with that experience, a bit more cash, and some ingenuity and you can be confident that when the time comes you will make the right decision. Now you're on your way to building your ideal lighting kit!

Sidebar: Disclaimer

As with any do-it-yourself project, unfamiliarity with the tools and process can be dangerous. This story should be construed as theoretical advice. Videomaker, its editors and authors will not be held responsible for any injury due to the misuse or misunderstanding of any DIY project Videomaker publishes. This story cannot be construed as formal advice, Videomaker will not be held liable in any instance of an action resulting from this story, and Videomaker assumes all our readers will exercise good common sense. This disclaimer assigns the readers all responsibility for their own decisions.

Terry O'Rourke specializes in retail advertising photography and videography for clients worldwide.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Tis is an excellent article, the only thing that might have been added was some more info on the bulbs available for the clamp light and the color temps that they provide. I recall seeing something about a lamp bulb combination used by house painters for lighting interiors as a possible video light source any one have info on that?

  2. Great article, I’ve just started out in video and already have acquired a 3 soft box kit which I must admit is a great basic kit for a lot of the work I do, and also 2 product can type lights which are also great for close up work on talent, being as they don’t get hot. However I’m still looking into other types of lighting to extend my kit, and this article has been very helpful . I don’t live in the U.S. unfortunately so I don’t have your usual Walmart and the kind of hardware stores you have over there, but if I look around I can find a lot of the stuff you advise at a cost that’s a little more than stateside but still affordable.

    Wouldn’t mind seeing a more in depth article on various bulbs and how to use them in different situations.

    Thanx great article.

    Rem

  3. What about LED work lights? You can get 2000 lumens at 25 watts. They come in different color temperatures. You can add gels or diffusion material with gaffer's tape, and they can be mounted on regular lighing stands with some modification. Best of all, they look a lot like expensive lights from a distance. That's what I use.

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