The Octo-Light is a camera ring lamp which is made up of LED light strips. It's cheap to make and perfect for beginner macro photography and video!
This lamp is excellent at flooding scenes with uniform light, which softens hard shadows and removes grain. Its' uses range from close-up to medium shots and it works great as a primary lamp in a dim environment (like a room).
It can be powered from a DC wall adapter or a battery, which makes it extremely portable. An upside of using LED light strips is that there are many different kinds to choose from. I went with some regular LEDs, but you can use extra-bright LEDs which will provide even more light!
Step 1: Gather the Materials
Here is a list of materials you'll need:
- 2.5 mm plywood
- Tripod mount
- 12v White LED light strips
- Hook-up wire (stranded wire)
- Solid core wire
- 12v dimmer (PWM)
- White spray-paint
And either a:
- 12v DC wall power supply
- 11.1v lithium battery (3 cell)
- Compatible connector for the battery
- Soldering iron
- Hot-glue gun
Where do you get the LED lights?
These LED strips are sometimes called LED tape and I got mine at eBay for about $0.80 per meter. It's so cheap, it's almost a ripoff!
And the dimmer?
The dimmer I used is a PWM 12v dimmer which are also commonly available from eBay for about $3.50. Here's a search link.
Step 2: Calculate Plywood Dimentions
Before cutting the plywood, I wanted to plan out the general design on paper. I went through a couple of rough drafts before ending up with these dimensions. In total, I went with 4 pieces: one octagon, one rectangle, and two triangles.
The base is a rectangle with the same width as the lens, plus 2 cm on each side. The length is the distance from the tip of the lens to the tripod hole, plus a bit extra for the tripod mount and the dimmer; in my case, this extra distance was about 10 cm.
The front had the same width and height as 3 times the diameter of my lens. There should also be a hole for the lens in the center. If you divide each side by 3, you can trim off the ends to form an octagon.
I re-purposed two of those triangles that I cut off the octagon by using them as supports between the face and base.
Also, keep in mind that all cameras are different and you may have to modify the design to fit yours.
Step 3: Cutting the Plywood
Once I had all of the dimensions calculated, I hopped over to the garage to cut everything out with a jigsaw.
To drill the holes for the tripod mount I drew a line through the center of the base, then placed the camera with the tripod mount onto the centerline and traced around it (see pictures above).
I then removed the camera, measured the distance between the two screws on the tripod mount, and drilled slightly larger holes than needed; 15/64" and 5/32".
Now if I screw the tripod mount through the base and into the camera, the base will be secured to the camera, allowing me to mark out exactly where the octagon needs to be glued onto the mount.
Step 4: Gluing It All Together
I started the gluing process by attaching the triangles 1cm from the edges of the lens onto the base. Then I glued the octagon onto the base using those triangles as support.
Don’t forget to leave space between the base and the lens! In my case, this was about 7mm.
After the glue dried I quickly tested the fit by threading the tripod mount through the base, then threading the camera on. Everything fit like a glove!
Step 5: Spraypainting It White
White paint reflects light better than wood, so I decided to give the entire thing a couple of coats.
Step 6: Applying LED Light Strips
Once the paint dried, I stuck as many LED strips on as possible, line-by-line, onto the face of the octagon using the removable sticker on the back of the LED strips. Make sure you flip every other strip so that the plus and plus are side-by-side, and same thing with the minus. Do the same thing with the strips on the side of the lens.
Step 7: Connecting the Strips Together
To connect the LED strips together, I stripped and cut a bunch of 6mm and 20mm wires and bent them like so. Then I heated up the soldering iron, tinned all of the connections, and then soldered those wires to connect every single LED in parallel (that’s plus to plus, minus to minus). Be sure to use a new soldering iron tip for this; it made my life a whole lot easier.
I also had to make some longer jumps using wires with the insulation still on.
Step 8: Connecting the Dimmer and Applying Power
To connect the dimmer to the base, I applied some Velcro and simply slapped the dimmer onto the underside. Then I soldered some hook-up wire to the end of the LED array, tinned the ends, and connected it to the dimmer by screwing the wires into the terminals. Some hot-glue was applied for strain relief.
I then took the 12v power supply and extended the ends using the same hook-up wire. I connected it to the dimmer, and it worked great! But it could still be improved upon!
I had an 11.1v lithium battery lying around. Fully charged, these batteries give out around 12.6v, so I slapped one onto the base with some more Velcro, soldered about 8 inches of hook-up wire to a compatible connector, wrapped the connector in electrical tape, and connected it to the dimmer.
Both power sources worked well and produced the same results! However, I prefer using the battery since it's more portable!
Step 9: Extras
I had lots of fun building this project and it really helped make my shots look better. Here’s some before and after photos of some random items. As you can see, it really helps grain disappear, and shadows are now less prominent. For photographs in dark conditions, this light even acts like a giant flash!
I also tested it using the light sensor on my phone, and according to an app, the ocoto-light puts out about 1100 lumens/square meter!
And that’s how to make the Octo-Light!