I shoot a lot of still life and product photography, where a good light source is essential.

On-camera flashes are almost useless, even bounced off the ceiling. Off-camera flashes and triggering systems are expensive. Natural light is unpredictable, uncontrollable and often unavailable. With the advent of cheap, low-power bulbs (‘Compact Fluorescent’, ‘CFL’, or ‘energy saving’ bulbs), continuous — as opposed to flash — studio lighting has become quite affordable, but a two lamp system with tripods will still set you back £200-300.

So I thought I’d make my own lamp using cheap CFL bulbs you can get from any DIY store or supermarket. These aren’t the more expensive ‘daylight’ bulbs that aim to match the white balance of natural light, but they’re a lot cheaper and can be swapped out for daylight bulbs at a later date.

For the full background on this project, see my previous version.

I wanted to try another one because one light just isn’t enough, and I thought I could improve on my previous design.

  • This version has a switch on the cord so it’s easier to control.
  • It is white inside rather than being lined with foil, which reduces the amount of conductive metal (and therefore risk of electrocution).
  • It has proper fixtures for the perspex screen which make it secure, but still removable.
  • And it’s black, which makes it less prone to showing up as a reflection in my shots, and looks cooler.

For all the original photos, see my flickr set here.

Functional overview

Essentially, this lamp consists of 4 × 15W energy saver bulbs (about 75W each equivalent in tungsten bulbs), wired in parallel and enclosed in a reflective box with diffusion screen.