Introduction: Build Ring Light for Your Camera

Picture of Build Ring Light for Your Camera
I am not a professional photographer, not even into marco photography that much, but quite often I find difficult to take good detailed shots of my railway models. The flash on my Canon camera casts deep shadows over the ridges so I often end up bringing 5-6 light to the subject to get as many light sources as I can.

I did not want to spend several hundred pounds of professional equipment, hence I was happy to find the following site:
This was simple enough for me to build, made from components that are easy to get.

You need the following:
- T10 21-LED White Light Car Angle Eye (70mm Diameter) from Dealextreme
- T10 24-LED White Light Car Angel Eye (90mm Diameter) from Dealextreme
- T10 39-LED White Light Car Angel Eye (120mm Diameter) from Dealextreme
- Big Altoids peppermints box from local supermarket
- Old laptop power supply “borrowed” from work
- 3.5 mm stereo plugs and socket, 3 each. I used a socket which has screw mount, so it is easy to fit into the box.
- 2.5 mm DC socket that fits your power supply plug
- TS7812 1A 12V fixed voltage regulator
- 9V battery clips
- Adapter ring, my Canon ESO 300D has 58mm ring
- Some cable

The Altoids box is big enough to fix two 9V batteries which give enough voltage when connected in series. The voltage regulator keeps the voltage on 12V which is required for the LED rings. In most cases I would use the ring light when mains is around hence I opted for the external power supply.

The adapter ring I used to mount the ring light on is a 58-58 mm Marco Reverse Adapter Ring that I bought from this store: This has a nice rim where I could glue the base on.

The electronic components are either Maplin or Farnell. There is nothing special about them. The voltage regulator heats up during use, especially if the “in voltage” is high. I am using an old 19.7 V laptop power supply. Just to be on the safe side I put a small heat sink on the voltage regulator. Note that in my ring light I was using the base ring of the 3.5 mm jack for ground and the outer connector of the power supply is also ground. These terminals are connected through the metal mounting screws and the box. So if your power supply has the positive outside and the negative inside it can cause short circuit.

See the video from the build:

Step 1: LED Rings

Picture of LED Rings

These ring light were designed for automotive use (to create BMW like light rings I presume) hence they are running from 12 volts. The rings are 8 mm wide so you can only fit the D80 around D60, or D90 around D70. They give a very homogonous white light, not blue and not yellow either. My rings draw 100, 130 and 170 mA respectively. With all three turned on it is still less than half amp which is under the voltage regulator’s 1 A threshold.

Step 2: Assembling the Light Rings

Picture of Assembling the Light Rings

I used the cover of a 10 pcs CD/DVD case as the base. I am using the biggest 120 mm ring which fits comfortably in the case. Cut a circle in the middle to fit the adapter ring. It depends on the type of your adapter ring, but the CD case should site on the rim of the adapter ring giving enough space to glue the two together. I used regular superglue (CA) to glue these two parts together. Cut back the side of the CD case. I was originally planning to cover the front face of the ring light, but so far it is open. Keep the side the same height as the whole assembly (adapter ring depth and LED ring depth) in case you wish to cover it with a semi transparent material to help diffusing the light. With all LEDs on, the light diffused enough. I can’t see the individual LEDs in the pictures unless shooting something highly reflective.

Using a soldering iron I removed the leads from the LED rings and soldered my own cable on. I had some 3 wire cable around, from which I used 2 wires. I left the cable around 1 m long which would be the distance between the box in my pocket and the camera in my hands. I soldered the other end of the wire to the 3.5 mm jacks. I used the bottom ring for the ground (marked as “-“ on the back of the LED ring) and the tip for the positive voltage (marked as “+“ on the back of the LED ring).

Before soldering the jacks on, I drilled small holes on the case one for each ring push the cable through the hole. I tested that the connections are working and the all 3 rings are working. This is important before gluing them on the base. After that you will not be able to access the back of the LED rings. I used two part epoxy to fix the rings to the CD case. I used tape to fix the cables to the back of the case 5 centimetres from the holes. I glued (with CA) the cables to the back of the case to fix them in place. Then I put some more epoxy over the wholes and the first few centimetres of the cable to lock them in place further.

That’s all there is to it. As I said you can think about mounting a screen on the front if you wish to diffuse the light. I might do it in the future, but I am happy the way it is at the moment.

Step 3: The Juice Box

Picture of The Juice Box

Use a big Altoids box. There are a couple of reasons I used this. First of all I saw the same application on the original ring light page. Secondly two 9V battery fits comfortably inside and even leaves space for the sockets and the voltage regulator. Thirdly it was very easy to mount the sockets in them.

I drilled 3 holes for the 3.5 mm jack sockets on the short side and one bigger hole for the 2.5 mm DC socket on the long side under the hinge. Just push the components through from the inside and fix them with the screw. Now the electronics.

Take the two battery clips and solder them in series: solder the red wire from one for the clip to the black wire of the other clip. Now you will have 9+9 volts between the free red and black wires. Now connect the free black wire, the ground terminal of the DC socket, all 3 ground terminals of the 3.5 mm sockets (pin closest to the box in the middle in my case) and the middle terminal of the voltage regulator together (black wires on my picture). Connect the free red wire from the clip, the positive terminal of the DC socket and the left pin of the voltage regulator (letters on the regulator facing you) together. Now connect the right pin of the voltage regulator and all 3 positive pins of the 3.5 mm sockets (pin on the right in my case) together.

Note that there is roughly 2 V drop on the voltage regulator. So you need at least 14 V from your external adapter for full light. If you happen to have a 12 V adapter, you need to connect the positive DC socket terminals to the “out pin” of the voltage regulator – to bypass it.

That’s it, it should work now. Put the batteries in and connect plug the rings in. Don’t use the batteries when the external adapter is connected. Either use batteries or the external adapter. Just to repeat what I said earlier. The screws on the DC and the 3.5 mm socket are connected to one of the terminals. If these terminals are not both ground you can create a short circuit. I also put a tape around the battery clips to make sure that they don’t touch the box from the inside which again can cause short circuit if used with the external adapter.

Step 4: Results

Picture of Results

See a few examples below. Mines are not as dramatic as on the link in the beginning of this article. But you can see that there are much less highlights and cast shadows using the ring light. The railway pictures show that nicely. You can see all the details there are no harsh shadows. Exposure is more uniform. These pictures have not been altered. White balance is as the auto white balance function determined it. I am not saying that it gives an artistic result, but it is the best for documentation purposes where too much shadow makes the image hard to interpret.

Step 5: Conclusion

These are the things that I learned while building and using this light ring. Consider them while designing your ring light.

- My Canon camera other ring which the light goes on rotates as the camera focuses. The focus motor can easily rotate the ring light but make sure that you have plenty cable around and it can rotate freely. You don’t want to burn the focus motor in your lens.
- It is not always easy to screw the ring light on the lens with all the cables around. You might consider mounting a lightweight socket on the back of the CD case. Screw the ring light on the lens without the wires and plug it in afterwards.
- You can hook all rings to the same cable. Reason I have one for each so I can unplug any of them if I don’t need so much light.

Have fun and happy shooting.


Yonatan24 (author)2015-12-09

Hi, I've added your project to the "DIY LED Camera Ring Lights" Collection

This is the link If you are interested

segar21 (author)2015-04-03

Hello, very good project! Thanks, for shring!

But can i have a question? If i use a 12V 1,3Ah gel battery, like this:

or 12V 2,3Ah gel battery, still i need a regulator? Or i can connect the leds direct to the 12V battery?

nygma2004 (author)segar212015-04-03

Hi, thanks for your comment. With the above battery you can connect the light rings directly.

jakkarwan (author)2014-11-05
RAZRus made it! (author)2014-03-23

Good project!
That's my version :)

nygma2004 (author)RAZRus2014-03-23

very nice, thanks for sharing. Is that happens to be a voltage regulator from dealextreme?

RAZRus (author)nygma20042014-03-24

It's switching voltage regulator from aliexpress :)
Сertainly, on dealextreme it also available

Chee Seng (author)2014-01-06

Here's my version I made to clip on to my GoPro.

nygma2004 (author)Chee Seng2014-01-06

Thanks for sharing. I like your project, battery is definitely a better choise than mine.

Chee Seng (author)nygma20042014-01-06

Cheers, i'm pretty happy with the build :)

The battery is portable enough but i'm in the process of attaching 4 x 3.7 V batteries into the ring itself, so that I can have one integrated piece. I noticed you used a voltage regulator to cut your voltage back to 12 V. Is a voltage regulator the best way to do this? I'm a bit of an electronics beginner....

nygma2004 (author)Chee Seng2014-01-06

I am not an electronic expert either, but I think voltage regulator is a good choice. Especially because it requires minimal components. If the input voltage is close to the regulated voltage, the heat dissipation is minimal. But the voltage regulator certainly uses up some power. Alternatively you can use diodes in series as there is a 0.6V drop on each diode.
I would say stick with the above component, it is a single piece, no mess. Test if you need a heat sink for your design. Since your blackplate is metal, just mount against the metal with a bit of thermal paste.

kweh (author)2013-04-27

'nother great tute from 'nother greater Aussie!
love your work. I'm guessing most parts came from Jaycar?

diy_bloke (author)2012-11-09

sadly DX does not seem to sell these anymore, at least I can't find them and links i found in another article go dead :-(

You may want to try again. I just opened all three links. They work fine.

dsnowdon-uk (author)2012-09-02


Your camera is a 58mm lens, what adapter ring did you use? I have a 58mm lens too and was thinking of getting a 58mm to 72mm step up ring.



yaly (author)2011-07-21

You can use two cables only one for power and one for the leds. The one for the leds can be four terminals one terminal for ground preferably the base and the others one for each ring so you can add switches and potentiometer to controll each and ring individualy.

bobbywaz (author)2010-09-21

Here's what I got out of this instructable:

Several hundred fractional pounds.

nygma2004 (author)bobbywaz2010-09-25

Wow, I am always suprised to find out that whatever you need, it is probably being produced in "non-name" factory, somewhere is China. Thanks for sharing this.

Alienjones (author)nygma20042011-02-20

There is a problem with these bought ones that is easily overcome by making your own... The diameter of the light housing is too small for a zoom lens or a wide aperture fixed "auto Focus" lens.

I bought one and although it showed promise light wise, I wouldn't count on it for much past a few feet. I'd have loved to have found this project before I bought a flash accessory for my outfit.

Thanks for taking the time to show us how it's done.

nygma2004 (author)Alienjones2011-02-21

Yes you are right. This is good for me to take shadow free close shots, but does not have the strength to work from further away.

Joenavy85 (author)nygma20042011-06-28

Have you had any problems with the LED rings yet, I'm looking into making one of these and am curious about the longevity of the LED's. I'm also looking to install a few partial rings in the dashboard of my Jeep to illuminate the instruments, and want to ensure i won't have to replace them within the next year.

nygma2004 (author)Joenavy852011-06-28

Honestly, I hardly used it since I built it, so I would rather say anything. Check the comments and the forum posts on Dealextreme to see if anyone has issues with these lights. Quality looks OK, no complicated electronics, so I would expect them to last.

yetanotherfakedname (author)2010-08-30

Great instructable, fantastic video, and awesome idea. Congratulations. How long will the all three rings run off of 2 9-volt batteries?

About 3 hours , i think 9V's have 1.1aH , since he puts it in series . And because the VR decreases the voltage to about 2/3 , it should last another ... 9V battery x 1.1AH = 9.9W , 12V x 0.4 ? 3W . About 4 hours i think ? Those SMT LED's is always cheap when bought in stock :D

No, PP3 9V batteries have around 0.56Ah. The regulator is linear, so excess voltage is wasted as heat.
--> you'd get about an hour strong light off two PP3 Alkaline batteries
+ then a very long slowly decreasing curve of light.

You could always get a 8x AA battery holder and run it off 8 Alkalines direct with no regulator (~5 hrs run time off good alkalines), or a 10x AA battery holder and run it off rechargeable Nimh.s (~4hrs run time).

I thought he was talking rechargables .
I see . I forgot the regulator is linear .

nygma2004 (author)jarvist2010-09-17

Hi Jarvist, thanks for this comment.

Thanks for the response. The battery operation was always a backup for me, as I am using it indoors when mains in available. But that sounds about right.

You could use it for some time , try using rechargeables ;)
Or else you would have to buy new ones everytime it runs out .
I hate that stuff .
But , where else will we use except for outdoors ? ;)
We don't use it always Inside , of course .

brianchambers (author)2010-09-14

i dont understand the adapter ring. Does it have a particular name? aside from this, what purpose does it serve?


nygma2004 (author)brianchambers2010-09-14

I am not sure either. One side screws onto the end of the lens the other side has those groves that is normally used to fix the lens hood. But I have the same groves on the camera as well, so I would not buy and adapter ring just for the lens hood.

jakovn (author)2010-08-29

Do you think this is strong enough for portraits? If yes, what would be the maximum distance?

nygma2004 (author)jakovn2010-08-30

Well... not sure what is enough. If you tell me what ISO and f number to use, I can test how the camera works out the exposure. If this helps.

jakovn (author)nygma20042010-08-30

Well I would hope for a nice photo at ISO 200 and 1/60 at f4 at 55mm?

nygma2004 (author)jakovn2010-08-31

I have done some tests, I let you evaluate the results. I set my camera to ISO 200, f5.6 and the zoom set to 55mm (full zoom on my standard 18-55mm optics). That's around 1.5 meters from the subject. This is with a Canon EOS 300D. With the ring light turned off (inside the living room 9.30pm so quite dark) the exposure time was 2.5 seconds. With all 3 rings turned on it reduced to 0.6 seconds. I hope this answers your question.

jakovn (author)nygma20042010-09-02

Thanks for the info! I'd say it is not perfect for portrait photography but could be used as fill light and for nice circular highlight in the eyes.

-chase- (author)2010-08-30

Nicely done nygma2004 - Out of curiouslty, have you attempted to fugure out the guide number for your Ring light yet? also - an after thought - It might be interesting to add a switch or switches on a future build that would allow for each ring to light independantly of the other or in varied combinations or using variable switches to allow dimming of each ring independantly as well. Hmmm, that actually it make me think of some other useful variations as well. Got the gears turning now, ... lol Anyhow, thanks for posting. - chase -

nygma2004 (author)-chase-2010-08-30

Thanks. I was considering switches as well, but with the two 9V batteries added there was no more room in the Altoids box. So my switch is the plug at the moment. My main use of the ring light is to document my various projects, take pictures of my models where flash is not the best option. For me it is not absolutely necessary to control the amount of light to infinite degree. Unplugging one or two rings is just enough. I know there is no red ring, but think about having white and red rings and dim the red ring to simulate sunset colour temperature?

-chase- (author)nygma20042010-08-31

Ahh - i see - you just un-plug them - still a means to control them independantly. Actually you'd be surprized at the colors available. as well as UV. I'm sure there are the tri colored rings using super bright leds as well. lol then things start to get interesting as for color choices using a programable chip controler i would imagine. So have you tested for the guide number yet - it's pretty simple to figure out if you take a moment. Wiki has an in-depth witing about it and how to figure out the guide numbers for flashes etc. It can be pretty involved but to get a general idea - Simply do this: INdoor shot at night - you want only the ring light to light the subject at say 10 ft. Use manual control on you camera - no flash obviously Mount your camera on atripod and keep it the same ten feet for all pics Use about a 50mm or equivelant setting for the lens. ISO 100 Start taking pics at the widest apature down to the smallest apature. load all the pics on your comp to view them pic the best one for exposure and overall lighting of the subject. findout which apature it was taken at ( should say in the exif or even in the camera if you still have that pic loaded. Multiply your best exposure's aperture by the distance you used (10 ft in this example) and that's your personal GN for this light ring on your particular camera. you can do this for each "ring" that is pluged in and for any combination there of. Then, to figure out how far your Light ring will illuminate with which ones plugged in, divide your GN by your aperture. This will be the maximum distance that your Light ring with x-number rings plugged in - can cover at that aperture. post your findings if you have a moment - it'll give you an excuse to use it some more and give the rest of us an idea how powerfull it is. - chase -

jamwaffles (author)2010-08-29

The flash/ringlight comparison photos are inspiration alone! I wish I had a DSLR now - the ringlight makes macro photos so much better, and I do a lot of macro stuff (mainly wallpapers for my site - and this would help loads!

Thanks for the instructible :)


nygma2004 (author)jamwaffles2010-08-30

It would definitely help your macros. I think you can still build one and fix the ring directly onto the camera body around the lens with blue-tec or double sided tape.

jamwaffles (author)nygma20042010-08-31

blue-tac - thanks! I was thinking for quite a while how I'd fix the ring to the camera and now I know - thanks again :)

nygma2004 (author)jamwaffles2010-08-31

Or, make an arm and fix it to the body with the tripod screw mount. Than fix the rings to this arm. More high tech than the blue-tac :)

jamwaffles (author)nygma20042010-08-31

Good idea. I'll give it a go sometime when I have money to buy some LEDs :)

AAndy (author)2010-08-29

Great find in that supply company...thanks The idea is super...I already ordered the parts but I think I'm going to add a switch or 2 to allow switching one or more rings out of the circuit to allow a little more control. Thanks again & keep up the great work!

nygma2004 (author)AAndy2010-08-30

The switch was on my original parts list as well, but there was not more space on the box. My switch is the plug :)

AAndy (author)nygma20042010-08-30

ahhhhhh sooooooo....good idea....that's a great resource...I ended up buying a bunch of project bits.....just what I need...more project bits.....

murrayatuptown (author)2010-08-29

The second coolest part is how the caption stay attached to the objects as you move them in the video! I may have missed any comments on evolution from one ring to two to three. I guess the total cost is still dirt cheap with three so why not leave what works well enough alone (my process of forgetting about 1 or 2 rings...

nygma2004 (author)murrayatuptown2010-08-30

Basically it was the price. I thought I should have more rings, and if I don't need so much light, I can just unplug one or two.

Divet (author)2010-08-16

What editing program did you use for the moving graphics?

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