Picture of Lamps Set for Objects Photography
Months ago I gave to my sister a lightbox so she could make a nice gallery of her hand-made jewelry, but to make the lightbox works at the best she needs also two powerful light sources.
Two external flashes are of course perfect, but it's an expensive choice, and some radio transmitter are also needed to syncronize the flashes with the camera. A cheaper solution should be make yourself two lamps which fit your requests. Here it comes the instructable for this light set!

Step 1: The CFL lamps

Picture of the CFL lamps
These lamps are 22 watts neon CFL lights (cold light, but you can buy both warm light, with right digital camera settings it's the same), they're powerful enough and have a wide surface which diffuses light and makes soft shadows. NEON lamps are not right for photography because their frequency could interfere with shutter speed.
You need a container for them. I've discovered that these two steel food bowls have the exact dimensions to keep them inside.
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alcurb1 year ago
Very nice! I never knew those lights existed.
jott_12 years ago
Where did you buy the lights?
andrea biffi (author)  jott_12 years ago
In a big DIY store chain shop, I'll pm you the name.
valveman2 years ago
Nice instructable. I built a pair of these based on this instructable. I did make a few changes. My lights use 5500K Circline Fluorescent 22W. My lights also can be adjusted for angle and I am not using a diffuser because I have no hotspots and the light spreads nicely and uniformly. Most of the components I bought at the dollar store. Here are some pics of my lamps taken from my iphone so shots are not great but gives you the idea.
Tried to upload pics and didn't seem to work so here are the URLs:



andrea biffi (author)  valveman2 years ago
They're great! Very good!
Thanks and thanks for the idea :O)
I made one of these 30+ years ago using a simple clamp on chicken coop lamp holder from the farm and fleet store and a circular florescent (which is what you are using NOT neon). I found it adequate for black and white or casual shooting but the CRI (color rendering index) is not high enough for critical work. And color balancing while printing was difficult. (This is back in the days of color film and color printing.) CFL's have much better CRI and light output, using a ready made reflector requires much less effort on my part.
andrea biffi (author)  darkroommike2 years ago
Thanks, I didn't knew the difference between neon and CFL...
A ready made reflector would have never come on Instructables ;-) Anyway it wasn't hard to built except the holes, but as I said it shouldn't have been difficult with right tool. Also we know that photography equipment is usually very expensive, also if it's only a pair of CFL lamps..
Daylight type CFL's might be best, and they usually have the CRI right on the package, better are "plant gro" labeled lamps or bulbs specified for photography. Stainless is usually "tempered" when made into bowls, etc. You might have luck with local annealing with a small propane or butane torch.
andrea biffi (author)  darkroommike2 years ago
Thanks for your help, I've corrected lamp type. I also discovered that real neon lamps produce strange unwanted effects with fast shutter speeds (about 1/1000s). Useful to know about tempered steel, I'll certainly try with a torch next time.
killbox2 years ago
I have found at these low tempratures, white grocery bag plastic can work for CFL, you can even use a heat gun or hair drier to shrink it tight.
zorwick2 years ago
Great instructabel! Nicely documented and photographed. Congrat!
Wroger-Wroger, in my personal experience not all LEDs stay on all the time. We have some "Christmas light" LEDs in a closet which show an annoying 60hz strobe effect when we glance quickly. The offending LEDs are running on an AC power cord without any capacitors or other inductive circuitry. But I do believe that DC LEDs remain on unless their batteries are powering a high frequency power supply.

If my wording is a little off, or my concepts are incorrect, I welcome the chance to learn from anyone who is willing to teach me. 
oppie2 years ago
I used incandescent PAR floodlights in the past. OK for film but IR output messed with my digital camera. Yours is a nice idea.
Btw- if we are referring to the same thing, we call them fluorescent lamps.
ppastorek2 years ago
great job! How far would you say the throw is for each lamp? could they be used for portrait photography also with backdrop?
andrea biffi (author)  ppastorek2 years ago
sorry but I don't think that, they're not very powerful, maybe you need a ring flash for portraits...
With portrait lighting you should have in addition to your front lights, a key light overhead. This helps improve contrast. Can also side light the background to soften shadows. If you get really creative try using color filters over the lights. Roscoe is one theatrical lighting source.
kiran762 years ago
Very cool instructable. Beautiful pictures, well written and well presented. Thank you, will be making a pair.
maxhuey2 years ago
when our daughter needed more light for her photography session, we bought her a bunch of these clamp-on lamp using 23 watts cool white and yellow CFL's combination . we painted the inside of the bowl white for light diffusion. Its been 2 years and it still shining as bright as the day we bought it.
Donio2 years ago
Does the brace across the center of the bulb cast a shadow. Looks like to me it would. Wouldn't be any big deal, I would just use different bulbs. Very easy instruct.
Donio Donio2 years ago
Forgot to say this is a VERY good instruct. I've never thought of using steel bowls for lights when I was needing more light for portraits.
andrea biffi (author)  Donio2 years ago
thanks! :-)
about the brace, it shouldn't make any shadow, but maybe youcould see it reflected in some metal surface in the photos... see here:
how you should see the lamps turned on.
Paint the brace black, it should nearly disappear.
jtmcdole2 years ago
Nicely done! You should try building some Westcott Spiderlite and putting them in a tall softbox. The bottle would then have tall vertical highlights. I'm going to have to make some of these for my studio some time as well.
glennpat2 years ago
With colour film photography the colour temp of the lightsource is critical 5500kelvin, you can get daylight tubes that are balanced to 5500k, of course with a digital camera you can usually set up the camera to match the light source and/or make adjustments on a computer editor...
A lightsource of anything less than 1000w is totally useless for portraiture since you need the shutterspeed to freeze any movement, suggest you go purchase some high wattage floods, you can diffuse these off any white surface but be careful they can kick out a lot of heat.
The little reflector bowls are ideal for still life subjects, but my guess is the exposure times are quite long and you need a tripod to gain steadines and depth of field.
Stainless is a devil to drill, you need brand new bits or your going nowhere, ally if far easier to drill, and by the way always earth out if possible, you could extend your cable and attach it to the bowl with a small bolt fitted through a hole...
Good luck, nice instructable
danzo3212 years ago
Andrea this is a handsome job, but I don't understand why you went to the work of creating light bowls when everywhere are the light, cheap aluminum bowls. Then you say the neon lamps could not tolerate being so close to them. Then it looks like you cut up an expensive pan to make a diffuser ring.. what am I not understanding?
It used to be vital to know the color temperature of white lights to match your film, but now digital cameras do this automatically..
Thank you
andrea biffi (author)  danzo3212 years ago
Hi Danzo, yes the temperature was very important for films, so you could choose the right film. Anyway when you buy lamps you know exactly wich temperature they're, these are 840°K, I say that you can use warm or cold ones, obviously both of the same temperature. The bowls I've used are VERY cheap (about 2 each) and are much more solid, the only problem is how to cut them... ;-)
thing 22 years ago
Wouldn't making holes in the bowl work well for ventilation, or am I mistaken?
andrea biffi (author)  thing 22 years ago
Yes I had to, but steel is very hard and I don't have proper tools...
danzo3212 years ago
I like the guitar shape too, but you need to also have no guitar shape when you don't want it.
andrea biffi (author)  danzo3212 years ago
:-) you're right, that's why I wanted to make a diffuser, but I think it should work better with that LED lamps I indicated before..
valveman2 years ago
Nice Instructable. I want to build a set of these.
andrea biffi (author) 2 years ago
yes RickHarris, I'm looking for one like this one or this other one...
Tomdf2 years ago
I'm having a real derp moment because of this. I've needed more lighting for pictures for months and that entire time I've had all the materials that you used, even the bowls :p

Thanks for pointing out the forest to me, I couldn't see it with all those trees in the way.
andrea biffi (author)  Tomdf2 years ago
I'm glad to listen that :-) don't lose yourself in the forest!
profpat2 years ago
nice instructables! will make my own using LEDs!
One of the modern 7 watt (60 watt equivalent) would be good I think. Or even a 10 or 20 watt LED flood light could be utilised - These are the equivalent of 100 and 150 watts.
andrea biffi (author)  profpat2 years ago
cool, let us know about it!
rickharris2 years ago
Nice idea - Technically for safety reasons you should earth the metal bowls and stands.
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