The Intimate Video Light/ Handheld Photograpy Light.




I know what you're thinking. By "intimate," I meant close-up lighting under difficult light situations--not necessarily for "intimate situations." (However, it can be used for that as well...)

As a New York City videographer--or guerrilla filmaker--it's sometimes difficult to have the necessary lighting. As a solution, I built this compact, portable device.

This light is a great way to get a really unique, soft light that works great as both a fill (in daylight) and aesthetically-pleasing primary light in lower-light situations.

The design is a nice alternative to what's on the market, as it gives a more even spread of light than some of the shoemount spot lights available--especially for close-up situations. This particular design is for the Canon GL-1; with some ingenuity, however, the design can be modified to fit many existing video cameras. (Plus it makes a great handheld fill light for still photos.)

I've tried to make this as simple as possible for anyone to make one of these lights. I've tried not too get too technical (to scare off the less-technically-inclined) or too basic (to bore the techies). I've created a resource page and parts list at the end. The build time, with minimal tools, is around 3-4 hours.

Step 1: Tools and Supplies.

Tools needed:
Ruler or measuring tape
Saw (bandsaw preferred, but can be mitered by hand)
Drill press (preferred; drill okay as alternative)
Drill bits (size based on specifics of components you buy)
Wire strippers
Soldering iron how to
6-32 Tap (can be substituted with self-tapping screws)

Materials needed:
Four Luxeon K-2 LED's
Two 2-AA battery holders
Four AA batteries
Two 5-inch aluminum picture frame kits (Note: only 2 rails come in each kit)
Four 1 and 1/8th-inch makeup pots if you get 5 you'll have a carrying case for extra screens and diffusions.
Four 1/4-inch 8-32 barrel nuts
1" wire screens to be used if needed to cut down light in the diffusers
On/off switch
1.5-Ohm resistor
4 6-32 U style clips
4 6-32 x3/8 screws

Sandpaper (200-grit)
Red and black 22-gauge wire
JB Weld (I used the fast set JB-kwik)
Solder & flux
Doublestick foam tape
Heat shrink or electrical tape

Optional materials:
Beleza Pura Cachaca
Potato chips
Sour cream
Lipton onion soup mix

For the record, by no means am I an expert when it comes to electronics. I know just enough to get by. With that in mind, please use caution when using my recommendations on wiring, resistors, heat sinking, etc. I am also open to advice, feedback or criticism (constructive or destructive).

However, when it comes to the booze, trust me.

Step 2: LED Preparation

The Luxeon LED's you are using are very high-powered; because of that, you need to use a heat sink to prevent them from burning out. When you attach them to aluminum barrel nuts, it will wick the heat into the aluminum frame (hopefully, anyway).

In order to ensure a good bond between the LED's and the aluminum barrel nuts, use sandpaper to delicately rough up the back of your LED's and the backsides of the barrel nuts.

Mix up a small quantity of JB Weld.

Carefully glue each LED to a barrel nut. This, in conjunction with the aluminum frame, will act as a heat sink.

With fast-set JB Weld, you will be able to handle LED's within the hour; however, it's best to let it fully cure before handling.

The time spent waiting for this to set up is the perfect time to make yourself a cocktail. Today, I will be serving up a Basil Pepper Caipirinha...

Step 3: Preparing the Frame

For the frame, you will start with four rails of even length. Two will be the top and bottom (which I did not need to cut for my camera), and two will be the sides.

Measure the size (height and width) of the hood on your video camera, and miter the rails to fit. (For the side rails, keep in mind that the batteries need to fit into the inner channels, and will stick out the thickness of the foam tape.)

You can probably forego the mitering if it's something that intimidates you; however, your frame will be larger than the hood and may require more rigging later when attaching it to your camera.

For my camera, the 5-inch frame worked out to be the ideal length for the top and bottom. For the height, I mitered two of the pieces down to 4.5 inches. (This also worked out to be a perfect length for the battery holders.)

Drill holes on the ends of the top and bottom rails of the frame, where the barrel nuts will attach the LED's. Keep in mind where the batteries are going to lie in the side rails. This hole should go clean through the entire frame to create a screwdriver access hole in the back of the frame. This will make attaching the LED's much easier.

Drill a second hole 3/16" in from the first holes for the wires to thread through. This one only needs to go through the face of the frame.

On the back top rail of the frame, drill a hole two inches in for placement of the on/off switch. Measure the threads on your switch to figure out the size of the bit. You may need to drill a bit larger to give yourself some play in order to get the switch into the frame.

This next step can be done one of two ways. Using a #36 bit drill a hole centered on the outside egde of the top and bottom rail. These will be to place spring clips to hold the frame on the hood of the camera. Now this will need to be tapped to accept a 6-32 screw, but the easy alternative is to buy 6-32 self-tapping screws, available at most hardware stores.

Place doublestick foam in the channels where the battery holders will be placed later.

Now is a good time to test-fit the frame to make sure it fits around the hood of your camera.

Slide one set of the included angle hardware into each side of the top and bottom rails. Lightly tighten the screws. Next, attach the two sides to either the top or bottom, keeping the screws slightly loose as this will help fit the last part of the frame into place.

Place batteries in the holders and place them temporarily in the channels as well. Once you are certain everything works around the hood, you can disassemble. This will make wiring a whole lot easier.

Step 4: Prepping Diffusion Holders

If you have purchased clear makeup pots, paint them to prevent light from leaking out the sides. (I used silver paint for aesthetic reasons.) Be sure to mask off threads on bottom of each pot before spraying.

On base of each pot, drill a hole in the center to snuggly fit your barrel nut.

Drill a second hole 3/16" away from center hole; these holes will align with the second holes drilled on the frame for threading the wire.

Cut one-inch circles out of diffusion of your choice. In addition, Precut screens can be ordered to cut the amount of light... just like with studio lights.

Next, cut small one-inch discs of the diffusion of your choice. It's best to pick one that will soften the light but not cut it down too much. You can also do the same thing wth colored gels in the event you wish to add some color to your close-up lighting scheme.

Step 5: Wiring

On each LED, solder a red wire to the positive terminal and a black wire to the negative terminal.

For each diffusion holder, unscrew the top and insert an LED (with its barrel nut) into the center hole at the bottom. Thread the wires through the second hole.

Attach the four LED's to the respective frame rails, securing with accompanying screws. Before securing, thread the wires through the aligned frame holes. A little loctite threadlocker is recommended on the threads since you may be screwing the diffusion caps on and off from time to time. This will help prevent the barrel nut from loosening.

Now would be a good time to start assembling the frame as you did during the test fit.

Now you can remove the protective paper from the foam tape. From the bottom rail, run your red and black leads, coming from the LED's, up the foam tape to store them behind the battery holders.

Insert the battery holders on the doublestick foam, making sure that you end up with the black wire from one and the red wire from the other at the bottom of the frame. It will be a tight fit so make certain they are the right position before pressing them down on the tape.

On the bottom rail, connect the red and black wires from the two battery holders. Seal connection with electrical tape or heat shrink.

Connect all the red wires from the LEDs, and connect all the black wires to the negative lead from the battery holder.

Solder the positive lead from the battery holder to the on/off switch.

Solder a lead from the on/off switch to the LED's. However, in this line you need to wire a resistor in line on the lead coming from the switch. (For my LED's and power source, a 1.5-Ohm resistor was required.)
LED calculator

This will now connect to the four positive LED wires.

Insert switch in top rail through pre-drilled hole. Secure with nut.

Using electrical tape or heatshrink tubing, cover any and all exposed wires. Neatly tuck the wire into the frame and tape down.

Insert batteries and test!

Step 6: Finishing Touches

On the small u-clips I've used one of the holes going through to act like a nut accepting the screw threads. The other hole is larger, allowing the clip to flex. The threaded side will be against the frame, allowing it to flex upward. Screw the spring clip onto the frame on both the top and bottom rails. Don't tighten too much; otherwise, the clip won't flex open. The screw can be locked down by placing a nut on it inside the frame. The clip may wobble but is secure when the hood is installed.

Now it's time to play with your new toy.

You can add different densities of diffusion or colored gels to achieve a variety of lighting effects.

You now have a portable, self-contained lighting tool!

Step 7: Shopping List and Resources

Here is the first footage I shot using this light. My camera was set on auto exposure and you can see the difference when the light goes on and off. I'll be adding more footage later this week.

As many of you are probably aware, McMaster Carr is a great source for much of the stuff for a project like this. On McMaster's website and Ebay, I was able to find everything I needed rather easily. I've created a detailed shopping list with McMaster's product numbers. Hopefully this will make building a light for yourself even easier.

McMaster (Use part numbers in bold below and the build your order tab.)

7712K15 Battery Holder, Polypropylene, End To End Style For 2 AA Cells

7347K53 Miniature Toggle Switch, Spdt, On-On, 6 Amps At 125 Vac, Quick-Disconnect

7598A975 Light Duty Polyethylene Foam Tape, Acrylic Adhesive

93121A315 Aluminum Binding Screw, 1/8"L Barrel, 7/16" Head Dia, 8-32 X 3/16"L Thread

7605A13 J-B Weld Epoxy, 2 Oz, Begins To Harden 4 Min

9317T553 Corrosion-Resistant 304 SS Wire Cloth Disc 60 X 60 Mesh, 1" Diameter

9317T551 Corrosion-Resistant 304 SS Wire Cloth Disc 20 X 20 Mesh, 1" Diameter

9317T551 Corrosion-Resistant 304 Ss Wire Cloth Disc 20 X 20 Mesh, 1" Diameter

94808A105 Standard U-Style Clip-On Nut 6-32 Sz, .045"- .062" Panel, .296"HOLE Ctr To Edge

69835K711 Irradiated Stranded Single-Conductor Wire Ul 1429, 26 Awg, 150 Vac, Red

69835K311 Irradiated Stranded Single-Conductor Wire Ul 1429, 26 Awg, 150 Vac, Black


Lumiled K-2 LED's ( )

Make-up pots ( )

"Pearl Paint"
Nielsen Bainbridge metal frame (They have a few models; it's important you get the right one. It measures 1-1/4" deep and 5/8" thick.)Product #f90502 (f90602 is a six" frame)

Alternate Resources



LED calculator

Here are some images of the effects of still shots with this light. I shot each of these with no extra light, just the built in flash, just the LED light held of to the left, and finally flash with lED of to the left again. Let me know what you think... more video coming soon.


I recently upgraded the frame to accept a 1/4-20 screw in the base for mounting onto a tripod. Quick easy setup for extra lighting effects.

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    28 Discussions


    3 years ago

    What exactly is "JB-Weld" Does it conduct heat like thermal paste?

     I am thinking in moding this design to fit my Reflex camera for taking portraits, sort of DIY Ring flash. I think that i could mount all the electronics in a spare Lens hood. I just wanted to know, do this rig get's along with faces? Probably ill diffuse it a little, Waddaya think?


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Great instructable. I've been looking for a cheap video light. I'll definitely give this one a try. Thanks

    1 reply

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Good luck and thanks, my only suggestion is to find a better clipping mechanism to the hood. If you're willing drilling a couple small holes in the side of the hood and tapping the inside of the frame might be the solution. When I get time I'm going to be building version 2.0. using different LEDs and a cast frame system. Cheers!


    11 years ago on Introduction

    I was wondering how well this light can be adapted to 16x9?


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Pretty cool, but I'd suggest putting the lights on something so they can pivot. Maybe not a full range of motion, but at least along the Y axis (to pivot horizontally). In some of the situations, the lighting is kind of flat, so this may help give the whole key light/fill light effect. Other than that, really cool.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    I was just thinking since it sounds like you might be using this for still shots, thread a 1/4-20 (self drilling screws should do it if you don't have a tap) hole in the bottom. And if you have a spare tripod instant light stand.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    I used the cool white, which burns at 6500k. It's a little on the hot side but with white balance it works fine. Not to mention you can cut color corection gels to put in the make-up holders. Next one I build I'll probably try the neutral (4100k LXK2-PWN4-U00). Actually the neutral is the one I initially wanted to use but I found the others for a steal on ebay so.... Let me know how it works out for you.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Just learned of this instructable. Wish I would have had it a couple of years for a special photo project I did! How about noting which lighting is which on the bottom set of stills? I'm having trouble distinguishing which is which.

    1 reply

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks. If you move the cursor over the photo a pop-up should tell you what lighting condition each was shot at.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Fantastic instructable! Your step-by-steps are so very clear (and well-written), and the terrific photos illustrate the process and make it non-intimidating. The video examples of what this light can do have motivated me to get started on this project right away... Good luck!

    1 reply

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    I'm currently working on some upgrades for it so check back. Thanks


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Excellent instrutable...Great concept,idea,detail, photos. Just a very cool project... You have got my vote. I Hope you win.

    1 reply

    11 years ago on Introduction

    Are you smarter than a 5th grader? Well if not you still might be able to build this. Very clear, easy to read and understand. Aside from the soldering I know a few of my students could build this with these directions. Bravo! As far as instructions give this person an A++. Just found this site, I love it.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Very Cool!!! I've been wanting something cool to build and I have a GL1. Is there a model name or number for the frame you used? I don't want to get the wrong one. You've got my vote as of now.

    1 reply

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    There is a number on the box that I assume would be the product number "f90502". The Pearl Paint Frame Store in NYC carries it. They had it in black and maybe gold as well. In hindsight the black probably would have looked pretty good.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Good stuff! The January '07 issue of Nuts and Volts had a similar lighting ring project.

    I'm curious how heavy your rig is -- the frame looks pretty bulky, to accomodate those batteries right inside itself. But it looks like your camera's not slipping into an Altoids tin any time soon, anyway. ;)