DIY Cardboard Umbrella Light for Photography & Film Made From Old Umbrella




Introduction: DIY Cardboard Umbrella Light for Photography & Film Made From Old Umbrella

I am an actress/model and right now our industry like so many others is pretty much shut down due to the pandemic. Auditions are now done by us submitting "self-tapes", so it's important that we have a proper home studio to film/take pictures. Having the right equipment is key, and for me lighting was the biggest challenge. So looking online, I figured out that a reflective umbrella light would work best giving me a soft but still 3-dimensional look.

But of course, with online deliveries slowed down to a crawl in some instances as well as nearly all photography stores being closed due to the pandemic, I realized that it might be a while before I got my hands on a proper umbrella light. Not being fond of the idea of waiting around while audition after audition passed me by, I decided to get crafty and create my own!

The only bummer about this DIY umbrella light is that it is not collapsible, so you do need some room to store it. It also takes some time to complete, but it is well worth it when a professional umbrella light is out of reach.


  • An old umbrella, mid-size. Mine was about 42” across. RIP 90s Fishy Umbrella. You had a good run.

  • Cardboard. I used an old Amazon box. Make sure you have enough flat pieces for your umbrella panels.

  • Reflective tape or some sort of reflective material. I used some insulation tape that I happened to have on-hand but I saw some reflective tape in the craft section at Walmart that would probably do the trick. Aluminum foil could probably work as well, you would just have to be careful not to tear it or wrinkle it too much.

  • Hot Glue.

  • Small Ring Light. Preferably, you want one that you can dim and that has different color options. Also, it's nice if it has a clamp on it for easy mounting. I just took an old selfie ring light and looped it through the center pole. I believe they sell items like this at most drug stores and places like Walmart.

  • Tripod or some other sort of mount. I ended up using an old microphone stand and just used clamps to mount the umbrella light. It was pretty much a jury-rig, so get creative with whatever you have lying around the house.

Step 1: Unfold Umbrella and Measure Areas for Cardboard Pieces.

I started by figuring out the size of the cardboard panels I would need to cut and how I would arrange them. Due to the shape of my umbrella, I decided to have two different types of shapes for each section: an isosceles trapezoid for the outermost panel and an acute triangle for the innermost panel.

Remember this: measure twice, cut once. Best way to avoid wasteful mistakes.

Step 2: Cut and Arrange Cardboard Panels to Make Sure They Fit.

This part was the most tedious for me, and difficult if you don’t have a sharp box cutter. Here’s a tip to make it go faster: once you have one panel of each type cut, use it as a pattern to cut out the rest. Just make sure you place them to confirm that they all fit. That way you don’t have to measure it each time.

Do this for all eight sections of the umbrella.

Step 3: Add Reflective Tape to the Cardboard Panels.

Again, tedious, but luckily you’ve made it to the easier part! Make sure one side of each cardboard panel is covered with reflective tape (or whatever reflective material you are using). Try your best to keep the reflective tape as smooth as possible.

Step 4: Glue Down Taped Panels to the Inside of the Umbrella.

Using a hot glue gun, attach the freshly taped cardboard panels to the inside of your umbrella, with the reflective side visible of course. Just make sure everything is secure, holding the panels down while the glue is drying when needed.

Step 5: Add Reflective Tape to Seams.

Again, do your best to keep the tape as smooth as possible. Any large wrinkles may cause some unsightly shadowing, so beware.

Step 6: Loop Ring Light Onto Center Pole, Mount on Tripod, and Done!

Attached a selfie to show the results. Pretty dang good for jury-rigged light!

Now go take some fabulous pictures!

Step 7:

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    2 years ago

    Love ya work

    Very ingenious


    Question 2 years ago

    This looks like a solar cooker to me! :) If you go out in the sun does it reflect to one point that gets hot?


    Answer 2 years ago

    Hahahaha I actually haven't taken it outside yet.
    I told my parents that I was building a laser. Now I just need to wrangle up some sharks... xD