Lamps Set for Objects Photography





Introduction: Lamps Set for Objects Photography

About: I'm an Italian freelance structural engineer, graphic designer and photographer, and I'm teaching physics in Waldorf schools. I always investigate electronics, robotics and science in general, I'm a passiona...

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

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.

Step 2: The Stands

Then you need the supports for the lamps. These bookends are perfect for our purposes, they're stable and sturdy enough, with a wide base and also an hole in the right position.
You can add some silicone tips on the bottom surface for a better grip. 

Step 3: The Sockets

I've used a lamp-holder which has two nuts and let you choose the right distance at which screw them. You can try also with a different model or color for your holder, cables and switch. I wasn't sure about the color so I've bought them all.
You can try to imagine how the project should be with the different color sets I've bought. If you choose the gold one be sure to have an additional cable of the same color to make connections, or buy two sets so to cut some cable from the second one.

Step 4: Draw the Holes...

My design provides to cut a round hole in middle of both bowls and bookends, so that we should use the lamp holder to keep them together. With the help of the plastic nut draw the circles of the right measure. Be sure to keep enough space for the bowls under the hole on the bookends.

Step 5: ...choose the Tools...

You can cut the holes with a little drill, as I did, but this is an hard and long process, and I suggest to find someone which lends you a specific tool, if you don't have it already.
You can avoid to cut holes in the bookends (whenever yours are the same as mine) buying some nuts and hollow bolts and using them to connect the lamp holder to the bookend's existing hole.

Step 6: ...and Cut Them!

When you've drilled the holes check that the lamp holder fits good. If not enlarge them with a file, or try with a drill with a grind, because the steel of the bowls is a very hard material.

Step 7: Assembling

Place side by side the bowl and the bookend and lock them between the two plastic nuts. Tight hard so it couldn't loose anymore. Try screwing the lamp inside the holder to see if it doesn't  interfere with the bowl's surface. Maybe you want to turn the holder so that the lamp remains with the white arms in vertical or horizontal position.

Step 8: The Wire

Cut the wires at right length and solder the at the wire after the switch, so you can turn on both with the same switch. I decided that one of the two lamps should have a longer cable, so to keep the switch at one side of the table, but this is not always useful, so you've to make your choice.
When all connections are ready mount the backs of the holders and screw lamps again in position.

Step 9: Done!

As you can see the lamps are now ready to test.
I wished to make a better look to them, adding a white surface which should diffuse light better. Unfortunately I discovered that these CFL lights could not work in close locations, indeed one of them burned after some minutes. So, because it's too much hard with my tools cut some ventilation grid in the bowls, I should say that the additional diffuser is useless, especially if you'll use the lamps with a light-box.

Step 10: [optional] the Diffusers

Anyway I'll explain you how to make the diffusers in case you wish to use some LEDs lights instead of the CFL lamp.
You need a white, almost transparent, plastic sheet. I've used it times ago to build a ring-flash and it works well.
As elastic I've found that an hole bike wheel tube is very good.
Cut from the plastic sheet two circles about 2-3 inches larger than the bowls, then cut two stripes from the tube as long as they remain tight around the bowls. Connect the stripes extremities with some staples.

Step 11: Enjoy in Kitchen!

Now place a sheet on a cylindrical container with the same diameter of the bowls, and lock it with the elastic, the begin to glue the border of the diffuser. Finished all the perimeter, depending of the glue type, wait for some minutes, and then turn the elastic so that it makes contact with the sheet border. Repeat this process two other times folding the sheet around the elastic. Let it dry and dress up the lamps. The elastic should keep the diffuser stretched strongly. Your (LED) lamps are now ready!

Step 12: Test New Lamps!

It's time to test your new equipment. In my case I didn't use the lightbox, but I noticed they works great the same (anyway here they both have the diffuser mounted, it was instants before one lamp burned).

Step 13: Results

Here is a couple of fast photos I've shot as soon as I finished the project.
I'm sorry for the empty bottle, but I drank all the beer after the effort to drill the holes in the steel plates!

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    42 Discussions

    Very well done !!!


    4 years ago

    Very nice! I never knew those lights existed.

    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.

    3 replies

    Tried to upload pics and didn't seem to work so here are the URLs:

    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.

    3 replies

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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. 

    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.

    great job! How far would you say the throw is for each lamp? could they be used for portrait photography also with backdrop?

    2 replies

    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.

    Very cool instructable. Beautiful pictures, well written and well presented. Thank you, will be making a pair.