you have good eyes

Light Ring Setup (Easy to Make!)

Interested in a little variation on your normal portrait photography? Well, here is cost effective (just under $50) way to make a ring of lights to customize the look of highlights in your shots. What makes this lighting solution unique is the ability to quickly turn lights on/off with a tap of a light to alter the look of the light on your subject.

Curious how this all came about? There are a whole bunch of light rings and beauty dishes on the market, some at a good price. Most of the inexpensive ones leave little room for modification. I knew I wanted to make a light ring, but not sure what items would be best to construct it. While shopping at target, I was looking for a light to put in my apartment’s dimly lit bathroom. (Shaving has been a challenge these days…) I came across some tap lights and suddenly thought this could be used to build a light ring. I ended up leaving the store with a cart full of them. Then I made a quick run over to Michael’s Arts and Crafts to get a couple wreaths as an armature for the light setup. The check out guy asked if I was into making wreaths, and I sadly had to disappoint…

Ok, on to the setup. Here are the supplies you will need listed below.


– Energizer Tap Light 2 Pak  – $6.89 (x4)

– Batteries 24 Pak – $10.89

– Box Wreath Frame $2.99 (x2)

– Duct Tape $3.74

Total Cost: $48.17

The first pass at the design was simple (as it should be!) I wanted to test out the effectiveness of the lights and if the angle of the lights need altering for the best results.

After some test shots, I felt the lighting setup would be benefit from angling them in towards the subject’s face. To do this, I altered a metal (wreath) ring to make the slope necessary for mounting the lights. Duct tape was used to hold everything together. The rigidity of the compressed cardboard ring made a solid shape for the metal ring. Otherwise it would have been quite flimsy.

This close up shot shows the approximate angle of the light inward toward the center of the ring. It is probably about 10-20 degrees. Also, the duct tape makes a good place for attaching the lights to the angled surface.

That is basically the setup for the light ring. Not too bad! What makes this setup uniques is it’s ease in customization. It is easy to change the lighting design. I have provided some examples towards the end of the post. Here is the equipment used for the photo booth session.

Photography Equipment Used:

– Nikon D300

– Nikkor 60mm Micro 2.8

– Flash SB-900

– Floodlight

– Tripod

– Lightstand

Software for image capture/processing:

-Soforbild (Free!)

-Adobe Lightroom

Check out the shot of us in action (below) that my wife snapped during our photo session.

Yes! The photo booth is our bathroom! Sometimes you gotta go with what works!! You can see in this shot, I am shooting through the light ring with the 60mm at the subject in the bathroom. The key light (flash) is mounted to a light stand to the right of the shot. The flood light (illuminated in the photo) is assisting with some fill on the background and puts some rim light on the subject. Out of the shot to the left of me is an iMac tethered to the camera via USB. I am using Sofortbild to get immediate feedback after each shot. Additionally, it saved every shot to the hard disk as it was taken. Nothing new, but a convenient way to work when it is available…

Finally, I will leave you with a few different light layouts that I took the liberty of naming. From the left: Half Dome, The Turtle, and Bird Foot!

(give it a second, you will see it!)

I hope you find this post useful and can find new ways to modify your light setup. And of course, thanks to the lovely models: Dorothee, Adam, Kimo, and Lynn, who patiently take the time to participate in my photo experiments! It was a blast!

Adam looks like one of our favorite plumbers in this one.  🙂

Click here to see photos from the shoot!

Enjoy, Jay


3 responses

  1. this is great. i did something like this several years back, with a bunch of halogen lights. subjects felt like they were being roasted…

    thanks for sharing 🙂

    March 26, 2012 at 3:57 am

  2. Jay that’s so cool! I really need to learn more about photography:)

    March 27, 2012 at 9:26 am

  3. Pingback: Atomic Fiction » Light Ring Portraits

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