Introduction: Low Budget Photography Lights
When starting out as a studio photographer, lights are a necessity. Unfortunately the standard cheap dish lights don't look terribly professional when dragged out to a location shoot. This instructable aims to help you create a set of simple lights that won't look out of place at a location shoot.
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Step 1: Safety Equipment and Layout
This instructable uses power tools, so safety is critical. Remember that gloves are a very stupid idea when using anything that spins. If your workpiece gets too hot while grinding put it down.
Angle grinders should always be set on the bench with the wheel up. This prevents them from flying across the shop when you don't let it stop before setting it down.
LIGHT is IMPORTANT! If the lights aren't good enough to photograph, then they aren't good enough for power tools!
Step 2: Materials:
For each of the lights in this project you will need:
1 count 1/4" - 20 nut
1 count 1/4" washer
2 count wire nuts (small)
I didn't have the proper size wire nuts, so I cheated and substituted solder and heat shrink tubing. Wire nuts are much simpler and require less practice.
1 count full spectrum lightbulb
1 count standard 2 prong plug
10 ft or so of 2 conductor lamp cord minimum 12 gauge
Some kind of industrial strength glue or epoxy is required, but I leave the choice to you. I used loctite 495 instant adhesive because I had some lying around. Something with a bit more body (higher viscousity) is better.
Step 3: Tools:
These are the tools I used over the course of this project. Only a couple of them are required, the rest can be substituted.
wire wheel for grinder
dremel with wire wheel for touch up
(The grinder and dremel can be substituted with a wire brush, but it becomes much more labor intensive)
diagonal wire cutters
wire stripping tool
(soldering iron and heat gun are used because I had the wrong size wire nuts lying around)
dremel with grinding tool
(welder can be substituted by industrial glue or epoxy mentioned in materials step. I had a welder so I used it.)
Step 4: Cleaning the Light Cans
These light cans are covered in plastic sheathing that has turned yellow with age and gotten a bit sticky. The first step is removing this plastic so that the lights look good. By using a wire wheel in an angle grinder we can also give the metal cans a pleasing brushed look. Remember to clamp the cans to your work surface when grinding. A dremel with a wire brush can be used for fine detail, but is not required.
Step 5: Disassembly
In order to complete the rewiring and attach the mounting system to the light we need to take the electrical box off of the u-frame.
This can be accomplished by removing the two screws from the sides of the black plastic box on the bottom of the u-frame. Because this was a track light, you must clip the wires running to the cap you just removed before moving forward.
Step 6: Wiring the Box
The first part of wiring is the removal of the ground wire. This is a safety feature that I am removing, but I had two conductor wire instead of three and I am confident in my wiring ability. If you decide to also remove the ground, I am not liable for any electrocution. Please don't get zapped.
Once you've decided about the ground, strip the common and hot wires about a quarter inch down. Next you need to put a hole through the side of the black box. The best way to do that is to measure the OD of your wire and pick the best fit out of your drill index. Mine happened to be 7/32". Then drill a hole through the side of the box.
Thread your wire through the hole you just drilled and use your preferred method of wire joining to link the wire to the light. Because this is an AC light the order doesn't matter if you ignore the ground. Again, I suggest wire nuts for this operation, but mine didn't fit in the box. This is where the soldering iron comes in if you would prefer.
Step 7: Wiring the Plug
This project uses replacement plugs that can be found at stores like Home Depot. These plugs are designed to be opened and have a lamp cord threaded through. The wire is looped around a screw inside the plug and tightened in place. Remember to loop the wire clockwise around the screw so that it is tightened into place when you screw it down.
Step 8: Altering the Track Mounts
Now we need to carve out a space for the tripod mount bolt in the old track mount for the light. I used a dremel with a cutting wheel to cut the mount flush to the cap. Again, remember to clamp your workpiece down while using power tools. Next measure the OD of the 1/4" - 20 nut you purchased earlier. Mine was approximately 13/32". Drill a 13/32" hole through the cap you cut flush earlier. This will be used later.
Step 9: Making the Tripod Mount
Now we need to connect the 1/4" - 20 nut to the 1/4" washer. I used a welder because that's what I had, but you could use some kind of adhesive as well.
Step 10: Closing the Box
Now dry fit your washer/nut piece into the plastic cap you drilled out earlier. If they fit snugly you can proceed to glue them together. Follow the directions for your adhesive and remember to keep the joint clean.
Step 11: The Finish
Now replace the plastic cap into the electrical box and replace the screws. Stick a full spectrum type bulb into your light can and plug it in.
This light is designed to be attached to a standard photography tripod, but if you want to create a stand out of alternative material, it can be attached to anything that uses 1/4" - 20 bolts for attachment points.