Z-Rack Light Wall




About: I'm Zane, co-founder of HackBerry Lab, a magical place at Berry College in Rome, Georgia, where all sorts of wondrous prototypes are built.

Have you ever wanted to harness the power of the sun for your photo studio? The Z-Rack Light Wall doesn't do that exactly, but it is a really easy way to bring a lot of light to your photos! We built this using readily available materials from Amazon and Lowe's and you can build one too.

One of the great things about the light wall is that you can take photos from behind it or in front of it without casting a shadow on your subject. This makes it great for taking up close and personal photos of your friends and projects without having to mess around with lights.

the Z-Rack Light Wall is also scalable, meaning you can have as many (or as few) lights as you want to fit your photography needs and/or budget. This mega version cost us about $200 because we had some of the parts laying around our lab, but a new one wouldn't cost much more.

Step 1: Tools & Materials

This Instructable will make a large light wall and a backdrop. You can scale the light wall as much as you want depending on your photography needs and budget.

  • 2 Z-Racks ($59.95 each on Amazon)
  • 12 4ft. Fluorescent Shop Lights ($12.98 each at Lowe's)
  • 24 T-12 6,500 K Fluorescent Lights ($27.98 for a 10-pack at Lowe's)
  • 2 6 Outlet Power Strips ($3.97 each at Lowe's)
  • Zip Ties
  • Snips (or scissors)
  • 12 yards of White and Black Backdrop (from Hancock Fabrics, but can be bought on Amazon)
  • 12 Nylon Spring Clamps ($0.99 each from Harbor Freight)

Step 2: Zip Tie Chains to the Z-Rack

Unpack all of your fluorescent lights and gather all the hanging chains from the box. Zip tie 12 of these to the top bar of the Z-Rack and 12 to the bottom. Tighten each and trim off the excess tails from the zip ties.

Step 3: Assemble Lamps and Hang on Z-Rack

Carefully install each of the bulbs into the lamps and hang each on the hooks hanging from the Z-Rack. This can be easier if you have a friend to help steady the lamps as you hook them in. Secure each to the bottom of the rack with the bottom hooks. Evenly space the lamps and double check your connections to make sure everything is tight.

Step 4: Tighten All Connections

Make sure your zip ties are tight and put gentle downward pressure on the bottom bar of the Z-Rack. Tighten the nuts on the cross brace to make sure that all lamps are taught and don't move around too much.

Step 5: Wire It Up and Turn It On!

Zip tie two power strips to the bottom of the Z-Rack and plug in all the fluorescent lamps. Zip tie the loose cords together and turn it on to check for any burned out lamps.

Step 6: Make a Simple Backdrop

Use another Z-Rack and the cloth to make a simple backdrop. We layered black and white fabric together and used the spring clamps to attach them to the Z-Rack. That way you can easily change the background by just turning the rack around.

Step 7: Photo Time!

Enjoy the fruits of you labor by inviting all your friends to come get their photo taken! If people have sensitive eyes (the lights can be quite bright!), have them close their eyes and open them on the count of three right before you snap your photos. We really liked the results, but you can judge for yourself!

One of the great features of having this many lights is that the photographer can stand in front or behind the wall and won't cast any shadows. This makes it great for taking close up and detail shots of people or projects without having to mess around with the lights. Happy shooting!

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    8 Discussions


    For the construction images I just used my cell phone (the photos are okay, but not great). For the final images where we were testing the Light Wall, I used my Nikon D40 (which takes much better photos than my phone).


    Slightly random question: did you use an HD camera for the pictures in this 'ible?


    Reply 3 years ago

    Thanks! We have a lot of students trying to take good photos of their projects in the lab and we needed something that could light up big projects, but wouldn't take up too much space.


    3 years ago

    if you keep a watchful eye some department stores will discard old garment racks and florescent fixtures when they upgrade. that's I came across mine.

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago

    That's an awesome idea! I'll keep a look out :)