Budget studio lighting for video

Photography & Video
Budget studio lighting for video


I recently put together a small video studio in the guest bedroom (not sure how the in-laws will feel about this) and wanted to design a high-quality, low-budget lighting setup. I wanted a bright, diffuse key light (that’s the primary light off to one side and slightly higher than your head to illuminate the subject) and a slightly less bright, lower-angle fill light. Here’s what I came up with for a little under $200:

  • Two 500W halogen work lights: ~$15 each from the hardware store (get some extra bulbs too while you’re at it).
  • Two cheap-o lighting stands: ~$50 each from Filmtools You could choose to skip this and buy worklights that come with a stand, too. I like the flexibility of being able to eventually upgrade my lights and keep the stands.
  • Two 20lb. sandbags (lighting stands don’t have a wide enough base to be stable without added weight).
  • Diffusion paper. Don’t use paper or cloth, these lights are hot! It’s worth the $6 to avoid setting your studio on fire. I’m shooting light through the diffusion filter for my key light. For the fill light, I’ve pointed the light at the wall and am bouncing the light to make it more diffuse and less bright.
  • Some sturdy spring clamps to clip filters to the light stand and handle – avoid clipping to the hottest parts of the light.


The halogen light is pretty white, which is nice, although you should still do a manual white balance when taping. I mounted each light on its stand by slipping the light’s bracket over the neck of the stand. This could be much sturdier than it currently is.

The cost of replacement bulbs is much less than “real” video lights. No, they don’t have barn doors and other controls of a professional light, but that’s probably a hack for another day. So far, I’m pretty happy with the results.

8 thoughts on “Budget studio lighting for video

  1. Matt Mets says:

    Aha, those look great! Do you have a link for the diffusion paper you use?

    1. John Park says:

      Yes, I got them at Filmtools (they’re near my house) http://www.filmtools.com/leedifsheetx.html

      But you can check elsewhere for Lee Filters Half-white diffusion sheets: http://www.leefilters.com/lighting/products/finder/act:colourdetails/colourRef:C4630710C8ACDA/

      The cool thing about half-white is that you can stack them up to get more diffusion, but the base sheet lets lots of light through. You can never make a full-white piece be less diffuse!

      1. Matt Mets says:

        Cool, thanks! And to think, all this time I’ve been using tissue paper or wax paper as diffusers.

      2. sean chandler says:

        What size are those sheets? B&H Photo has them in a pack – but only 12×12

        would that small size work in a filter holder or would I get the white light spilling around the sides?

        I saw a film crew using the same hardware store lights today but did not get close enough to see how they were diffusing the light

  2. ROFLBOB says:

    What kind of diffusion paper do you use?

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John Edgar Park likes to make things and tell people about it. He builds project for Adafruit Industries. You can find him at jpixl.net and twitter/IG @johnedgarpark

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