Tutorial: Cheap Photography Lamps — Fo Reals Life

December 20, 2012 December 20, 2012/ Morgan Eccleston

Cheap Photography Lamps

Hello! For those of you that haven’t figured it out yet, I live in dark and wet Oregon. We even have flood warnings today. And since it’s winter it gets dark at 5pm. This all was really putting a big cramp on my food and craft photography.

I did some research and many people use some lights that cost about $300. And that’s cheap for professional lighting, mind you. I’m cheaper than that. 

I figured out how to do this for 90% off! (Around $30!) It’s not the pro lights, no. But it works FANTASTICALLY.  

It works well for food but also for handmade objects or things that you may be selling online. 

Go ahead and check out the tutorial below (Click the keep reading link!) 

What you need (makes 2): 

  • 2 ceiling light bulb bases (Like these!) – Find this at Home Depot, Lowes or other hardware stores
  • 2 extension cords (Like these!) – Find this at Home Depot, Lowes, or other hardware stores 
  • duct tape
  • utility knife
  • wire strippers (optional! We used the utility knife. Just be safe.) 

  • 2 sheets Translucent Yupo Paper 23″ x 35″ (104lb weight) (Like this!) – Try to find this at a local art store, or university book store. Ask if they can order it. The link above requires you to buy 10 sheets so try to find it local! 
  • white electrical tape (or whatever you’ve got. It’s going to be more durable than clear scotch tape but if that’s all you have you can use it.) – Find this at Home Depot, Lowes or other hardware stores
  • 2 Fluorescent Light Bulbs – (Like this!) These are the things you want it to be: 23 watts, 1600 lumens, and most importantly 5000k Light Appearance. (These are listed as Natural Daylight but you still need to check the package because that description varies ) Check the back of the panel and it should look like this: 

Here’s the front of the package:

Make the bases: 

1.) Gather your supplies. You will also want your utility knife, duct tape and something to cut on (cutting board or other hard surface.)

2.) Start with cutting the outlet end off the extensions cords with your utility knife. (Just throw the outlet end away.)

3.) Now split the cord in the middle between the two plastic coated wires. Cut down about 1.5 inches. (Look at the pictures to see what I mean.) 

4.)  Now strip the plastic off the wires. You can use a wire stripper here or just carefully do it with a utility knife.

(The Mr.’s thumb got busted in a work related incident! He’s fine but it just looks yucky here. Just so you know…)

6.) Get your base and turn it over. There should be two sets of screws. One is gold and the other is silver. The silver side is also called the

white side

7.) Now look at the plug of your cord. The large end is connected to the wires that you want to attach to the white side. Commonly the large side of the cord will have a different texture than the other side so you can easily follow that down to the end. Our cord was ridged on the large (white) side. 

8.) Now take the “large” side wire and twist it once around the base of the “white” inner screw. Gently tighten the screw down onto the wire.

(She loves helping daddy! We make sure she is super safe, of course.)

9.) Now attach the other side of the extension cord wire to the gold side. Tighten the screw on this side. 

10.) So that you don’t accidentally touch the bottom while it’s plugged it (and get shocked!!!) cover the bottom with duct tape. You can also screw these light bases into a small piece of wood if you’d like to add a heavy and safer base. We did this as a temporary fix but we are attaching them to bases and I think you should too. And yes, I was the one that touched the bottom and hurt myself. Eeek! 

11.) It’s done! Repeat with the other cord and base. 

Make the Lamp Covers: 

1.) Cut the Yupo into 4 sheets each measuring 13″x 17″ 

2.) Tape two sheets together along the long (17″) sides. 

3.) Repeat with the other 2 sheets of Yupo.

4.) You’re done! Open up the over and rest it over the lamp base. Plug in your base and start playing with your camera. 

Now when you are done you can take the covers off and store them flat. Put the light bases in a safe place where they won’t get accidentally broken (I’ve done that twice so far by just being bad about putting them away! You do not want to break these light bulbs!!!) 

If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments section! I will respond as soon as possible. Or if you make them let me know (and let me see your pictures!) Enjoy!!!

December 20, 2012/ Morgan Eccleston/