DIY Lighting Kit
Professional lighting kits for video and photography are very expensive. Fortunately for the budget-impaired enthusiast, it is possible to put together a perfectly adequate lighting kit for less than $US100.
A good beginner's lighting kit should include:
- Three (or more) lights with stands
- Reflector board(s)
- Power cables, extension leads and a multi-box.
The standard budget light is the halogen work lamp which can be found at any hardware store or purchased at amazon.com for as little as $US10. These come with or without a stand and range from around 150W to 500W.
The stand-less units have a small handle and can be rested on any solid surface such as a table or the floor. This is not ideal for your main lights but it can be useful for fill lighting, backgrounds, etc. In any case these units are so cheap that it can't hurt to buy a couple.
Lights with stands are more versatile and you should have at least one of these (preferably two or three). Try to find a stand which goes up to around 2 metres (the height of a tall person). Taller than 2 metres would be even better but this type of light stand doesn't normally go that high.
Some lights (like the W12665 unit pictured) can be used with or without the stand, making them even more versatile.
One drawback of these cheap lights is that the colour of the light is quite yellow. As long as you white-balance your camera this isn't a huge issue, but if you want the best quality lighting you can try one of these solutions:
- Purchase a 32K white bulb (ask your hardware supplier).
- Place a coloured gel in front of the light to correct the colour.
Speaking of gels, the other big drawback of these lights is that there is no built-in system for mounting accessories like gels and diffusers. You can improvise by creating a wire holder or separate stand for accessories.
You will also find that you can't alter the spread of these lights, i.e. from floodlight to spotlight. This is not a big concern for most people but if you do need this functionality you might need to consider a professional video lighting kit.
Professional reflector boards are used to add or control light in a scene. You can make your own from just about any large reflective object, although the exact colour and reflectivity will obviously affect your lighting. Common suggestions for an improvised reflector include:
- Windshield sunshade (pictured)
- Sheet of foamcore
- Polystyrene sheet
- Stiff cardboard, or tin foil on cardboard (try both sides of the foil for different effects)
- Survival blanket (gold on one side and silver on the other)
Hobby shops have a lot of items which may be of interest. Online auction sites are also worth checking as reflectors can often be found fairly cheap there.
You will need a few power extension cables of varying lengths, plus one or more multi-boxes with built-in trip switches. It helps to have a separate carry case for power cables.
- Lights get very hot! Seriously, you can burn yourself badly or set fire to things.
- Lights can draw a lot of current so be careful not to overload power sources.
- If you're working outside, use an isolating transformer on your power.