Photography is an expensive hobby or career. When you’re just starting, this can be a problem for some photographers because they don’t have the extra money to put into purchasing necessary equipment, like lighting devices. However, we’re here to save the day with fifteen DIY photography lighting hacks.
When you start getting into photography, you begin to learn that there are a lot of DIY lighting projects you can use to help improve your photos, including fake backgrounds, homemade reflectors, and even lighting.
The cost of professional-grade lighting equipment is enough to make an amateur photographer cry. Although lighting equipment is a good investment if you’re serious about making photography a career, sometimes, it’s just not feasible on your budget.
Here are fifteen DIY photography lighting projects that have been tried and tested by photographers. Most of these DIY lighting tips require some assembly and maybe even a few trips to a hardware or hobby store. But just about anybody should be able to make these DIY lighting sources with a little work.
1. Build Your Own Bounce Wall with Household Items
Experienced photographers know that using a bright flash or light during a photoshoot can cause your images to be flat and unflattering. Bounce walls help diffuse the flash lighting by reflecting the light onto the subject for softer, even lighting.
You can design a DIY bounce wall for less than a dollar. You should have most of these items already lying around your house.
- One wire hanger
- Piece of cardboard
- Aluminum foil
- Duct tape
- Old tripod or adapter screw
To assemble a DIY bounce wall, start by covering your piece of cardboard with the aluminum foil. Now, to attach your light diffuser to your camera, you’ll bend the wire hanger in the middle.
Cover each end with a thick layer of tape. Put the screw through the tape and attach the hanger to the camera. Then, put the reflector on the free part of the rod with the clothespin and adjust to a 45-degree angle.
2. Grab a Burger, Get Echaroux-Inspired Light
Philippe Echaroux, a French photographer, designed a DIY lighting source out of a Big Mac box and straw to resolve his lighting problem of taking photographs of strangers using just an iPhone.
It costs less than five dollars. Free if you can get the box from someone else.
All you need for this is:
- One empty burger box
To create this, get an empty burger box, like a Big Mac, and cut a little hole in the front on the bottom side of the lid. You could also just tear a little piece of the cardboard, so it folds down for the flashlight to rest.
Poke a little hole through the top of the box for the straw. The other end of the straw will push against the bottom of the box to keep it open.
For extra light, the inventor of this design recommends spreading oil from your fries over the top of the box, so there’s more sheen when the flashlight shines on the top.
3. Highlight Hair with Pringles Can Light
Pringles are yummy to eat, and there’s a ton of fun DIY things you can do with the can once you get it empty. Including using it to create a light source for your photography lighting.
In photography lighting. , a snoot is used to create a beam of light that you can move around as needed. Snoots are frequently used to highlight hair, so a model stands out from the background, or to take hotspots.
To create a snoot out of a Pringles can, all you need to get is:
- Pringles can
- Scotch tape
- Flashgun or flashlight
To create a Pringles can snoot, cut the bottom off an empty Pringles can. Next, set your light to shine into the top of the can and secure it with masking tape.
Point your snoot light at your desired target and start shooting photos.
4. Get a Vintage Look with a Plastic Baggie
Doing post-photo edits can get time-consuming and expensive if you don’t already have photo editing software. However, this neat DIY light hack allows you to have exciting light effects in your photos with little to no photo edits.
All you need for this project is:
- One clear bag (zip-locks work great)
- Markers if you want color leak effects
The purpose of this lighting hack is to add great leak effects to photos to create a vintage look. All you need to do is cut an uneven hole at the bottom of the bag. Make sure it’s big enough not to cover the center of your lenses.
When you get ready to shoot, just slip the bag around your lens. Move the bag around as you’re shooting to get different lighting effects but always make sure the center of your lens stays clear so your model is in focus and just the edges are blurred.
5. Soften Your Light with a Plastic Milk Jug
Photographers like to use flash diffusers to keep the flash light from being too harsh during a photoshoot. Too much harsh light can make your image dull and washed out.
Diffusers, take some of the light from the flash and soften it so the light is not as bright and in-your-face.
To make this DIY light source, all you need are:
- One empty milk carton (plastic)
- Scotch tape
Take your empty jug and cut off the top portion. Now, place the bottom part of this one jug over your flashgun. You may need to trim the base down until it’s small enough to fit over a flashgun. For tiny light flashes, you can use the handle instead of the bottom of the jug.
Once you have your jug in place, secure it with scotch tape. Now, you have a DIY flash diffuser that will make all of your portraits softer and warmer.
6. The White Balloon Softbox
Another simple and cheap DIY flash diffuser that works great for portraits is a balloon softbox. This type of diffuser shines a narrow beam of light that can easily change in size for different looks.
All you need is:
- A white balloon
- Small flashlight
This has to be one of the easiest DIY projects we have on our list. To make your balloon softbox, all you have to do is blow up the balloon and fit the neck over the top of your flashlight.
It’s recommended to try shots with the balloon at different sizes to find which one works best for your situation. Experiment with different colored balloons for a shaded light effect. Lighter ones work best because the light comes out more naturally.
7. Printer Paper Flash Diffuser
If you’re in desperate need of a DIY photo flash diffuser to use with your camera, but you don’t have anything on hand, you can always scrounge up a piece of scrap white paper. Try to aim for a standard piece of blank white printer paper.
For this project, you’ll require:
- One piece of blank white paper
To produce a photo light diffuser, hold your paper over your flash and make two slits, one on each side of the flash. Now, fold the paper over the flash and tape it securely.
Viola! You have a DIY photo flash diffuser for pennies or no cost at all out of your pocket.
8. Creative Color Light
If you want to add some colored light to your photos, this is a nifty DIY photography lighting source that can be designed for less than ten dollars. If you happen to have the materials at home already, it won’t cost you anything.
- Clear empty plastic bottle
- Colored cellophane or gels
To assemble this color lighting source, add your chosen colors of cellophane or gels into the container. Gels work better, but cellophane is cheaper and often on hand with many crafters.
Start with red and blue colors but fiddle with different shades as well. Now, put your flashlight into the hole. As you’re taking a photo, rotate the bottle in different ways to get various color renditions.
9. Honeycomb Flash Grid
Flash grids are a useful DIY photography light tool for putting over your flash to keep the light targeted on your photo subject and not hitting the photo background to create bright spots.
To design your honeycomb grid, you’ll need:
- Black straws
- Masking tape
- Sharp knife or scissors
To make this grid, use a ruler to cut each straw into the same length. Use black card stock to create a frame to house your straws.
Experiment with different straw lengths to get various photo light effects.
10. Build-Your-Own Bokeh
Bokeh is the out-of-focus blur that appears in the background of many photos. Many photographers like to create custom DIY bokeh shapes for their photoshoots.
To create your bokeh photo cutouts, you will need:
- Scotch tape
- Black paper
- Box cutter
Measure the size of your camera lens, adding a few extra millimeters, so you don’t have to worry about light leaking out. Now, measure a circle of the same size and apply your cut on a piece of thick black cardboard.
Mark the center. This spot is where you’re going to make your custom shape for your bokeh, either freehand or with a stencil. Now, you’ll use your boxcutter to trace out the designs.
Once you’ve removed your pieces, tape your stencil onto your lens, and start experimenting with your DIY photography light. Many people like to start with photographing night lights.
11. Create Shadows with Cardboard
If you want to experiment with DIY photography lighting that causes shadows, try this creative and simple DIY photography lighting project.
To create this DIY light technique for your photos, all you’ll need is some cardboard and a pair of scissors.
Cut shapes into the cardboard, such as slits, gaps, or holes. When you’re ready to shoot your photos, hold the cardboard in front of your light source and aim your camera.
You’ll end up with some interesting shadows on your model. Experiment with different shapes, patterns. You can even tape some colored cellophane over the front of your card to cast pigmented shadows.
12. White Light Tent
DIY light tents are often used by photographers for product photography light or capturing models on a white background. This technique often makes the photo like the product is floating.
It’s super easy to establish a lighting setup using a DIY light box for product photography on your own. All you have to have is:
- A box (sized appropriately for what you’re photographing)
- White fabric
- Masking tape
- White Bristol board
- Box cutter
- Measuring tape
To create your light tent, start by measuring a square or rectangle around the inside of your box. Leave a 2” border from the edge. Repeat this on all sides.
Next, cut out the drawn boxes. You’ll also cut off the top of the box or just remove the flaps. Do not touch the bottom.
Next, cut your paper into sixteen strips, two inches thick. Glue these strips into the box. Now, use another piece of Bristol board the same width as the inside of the box but longer.
Add the Bristol board to the box so that it curves to the bottom, without creasing it. Cut off any paper that sticks out of the top.
Measure and cut your fabric so that it covers the holes on three sides. Add another piece to cover the top of the box. Tape each side, so the material stays in place. Your light box is now complete and ready to be lit up with your lamps.
13. Create Your Budget-Friendly Ring Light
Ring lights are often used for self-portrait photography, as they evenly illuminate your subject. Many photographers prefer to use DIY ring lights because store bought ring lights are quite pricey. These devices attach across the lens of your camera.
A DIY photography lighting ring project will run you around $25 for materials, and it can take a bit of time. You’ll need:
- Aluminum foil
- Wax paper
- Zip ties
- LED rope light
- Wire wreath
To complete this DIY photography lighting project, check out this helpful step by step video. Do your research before choosing rope lights for your DIY photography lighting as some LEDs work better for photography than others.
A cheaper and quicker variation is to create a beauty dish, which is also a popular photography lighting tool for beauty photography. You can make a beauty dish with an aluminum turkey pan. Disposable tin pie pans also make for a good beauty dish substitute. Try this tutorial on making your own beauty dish.
14. Flashlights and Foil for a Futuristic Light Saber
Create some great, fun futuristic effects with lightsabers. You can use one you purchase from the store or Amazon, like these, or you could create a fun DIY lightsaber with just a few simple materials.
To design your own lightsaber, you will need:
- White paper
- Scotch tape
- Aluminum foil
To create the saber part of your DIY photography lighting, wrap your paper around the tip of your light, and secure it with tape. If you want a longer saber, attach another piece of paper at the end of your attached sheet.
Once you have your desired length, cover the end of the tube with a paper circle. If you want brighter lighting, cover the tip of your lightsaber with the foil.
15. Homemade Softbox with Pro Results
Softboxes are a convenient studio lighting source, and you can make a DIY photography lighting softbox easily with a few items for less than $10.
To make a great DIY lighting softbox, you will require:
- Box cutter
- Aluminum foil
- Binder clips
- Velcro tape
- Shower curtain
To start, measure your lighting, then cut four panels of the necessary size using cardboard or foam core board. Then, measure and cut your aluminum foil. Glue the foil to the cardboard panels.
Next, you’ll connect the panels. The shower curtain will work as your diffuser but use caution not to let the plastic get too close to the lightbulbs. The diffuser is the film that covers the front of your DIY lighting softbox.
Try These DIY Photography Lighting Sources
We’ve provided fifteen DIY lighting sources to help you build your photography studio lighting for a low cost if you want lighting for product photography.
It can be challenging to produce great photos without the right tools. But not everyone has a ton of money to spend on photography accessories. Using DIY equipment is a great way to save money and still have excellent photos.