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What You Need to Put Together a DIY Lighting Kit
Professional photography and video lighting kits tend to be rather pricey, but it’s entirely possible for enthusiasts who are on a tight budget to assemble one for less than a hundred dollars. For beginners, a good starting lighting kit typically consists of the following:
- Reflector Board/s
- A multi-box, extension leads, and power cables
- Lights with stands, at least three (more if possible)
Now let’s go into more detail on each aspect.
To control or add light in your scene, you will need professional reflector boards. The good news is, you don’t have to buy one if you’re savvy enough to create your own. However, the exact reflectivity and color will have an obvious effect on your lighting, so choose your materials well. With that said, here are some suggested materials for improvised reflectors:
- A stiff cardboard, or a cardboard layered with tin foil (to achieve various effects, try using both sides of the foil)
- A polystyrene sheet
- A windshield sunshade
- A whiteboard
- A foamcore sheet
- A survival blanket (silver on one side, gold on the other)
Of course, you can always buy pre-made reflectors to avoid the hassle of making one. You can try hobby shops or online auctions sites since these often offered reflectors at relatively cheap prices.
To start operating, you need to prep your power sources. Purchase multi-boxes that have trip switches built in them. You will also need power extension cables with different lengths. In addition, it would more convenient if you acquired a carry case for your power cables.
If you’re on a budget, then you can go for halogen work lamps, which can be purchased for as little as $10 at amazon.com. They can also be found in almost any hardware stores. Their wattage ranges between 150 watts and 500 watts and they can be acquired with or without stands.
- Units without stands. These can be placed on tables, floors, or any other solid surface and they usually have small handles. However, they are not ideal as main lights, although they can be utilized for background lighting, fill, lighting, etc. It won’t hurt to buy a two or more of these as they are usually very cheap.
- Units with stands. Preferably, you should have two or more of these, though one would probably suffice. Of course, they are more versatile in terms of functionality compared to their stand-less counterparts. At the very least, they should be 2 meters in height, but it would be far better if you could get those that exceed 2 meters.
For even more versatility, it would be better if you acquired lights that can work with or without stands.
However, while you can easily find and buy cheap lights, these lighting options have one downside – the light’s color is usually yellow. Of course, this wouldn’t be too much of an issue if you can give your camera some white balance. With that in mind, you can use the following solutions to achieve high-quality lighting:
- Alter the color by placing a colored gel on the light (in front)
- Acquire a 32-kilowatt white bulb (can be found in hardware stores; ask your supplier for advice)
Another downside of cheap lights is that you probably won’t be able to alter their spread (say, from spotlight to floodlight). Although this isn’t too big of a concern for most people, you should opt for professional lighting kits if the time came when you’d need such functionality.
A NOTE ON SAFETY: Lights, when they get too hot, can set fire to stuff or cause burns. If the heat your bulbs generate become too much, take a break and turn them off.