The LEDs Lighting Project
A while ago I was chatting with a colleague and he showed me a web site of a guy who had built his own led lighting array. Given the advantages of continuous lighting, especially as more DSLR’s have pro video capability, it was worth taking a look and that is what did. It did take me a while though…
Now to build an led light panel you need…. LEDs! I checked out amazon.com and found a 5 meter (16.4 feet) reel of ‘warm’ white LEDs for a ridiculous price. Here is the link warm white LEDs
So that was the LEDs taken care of, I know they are not daylight balanced and I found that daylight LEDs did appear to be a lot more expensive. Given that I always shoot raw I knew I could white balance in post.
Next was what to put them in. I have an electronics store nearby so I went browsing their shelves and found a small metal project box, something like this project box. I think mine was a little cheaper though, wink!!
I found a deal on Amazon where you’d get the LEDs and a power adapter for a very reasonable price and then I had to get a soldering iron, wire, and solder.
Yep, you have to do some delicate soldering to get this thing to work. In my past, my WAAAAAY back past I used to ‘do’ electronics but its probably been at least 25 years since I soldered anything. However, it’s like riding a bike, right?
Well, I’d got all the bits assembled but with one thing and another, and summer, I really didn’t get around to this project for a few months. The parts were kicking around on my desk and it was getting embarrassing. Something had to give! Last weekend I had finally had enough and got to work.
The nice thing about these LEDs is that they are self adhesive so sticking them in the box was a breeze. I also got some black spray paint and painted the outside of the box black and the inside silver to reflect as much light as possible. I also had to drill a hole in the side of the box to accommodate that power lead. Now it was a case of sticking down strips of LEDs. You can easily cut the reel into a minimum of 3 LEDs. I found that I could use strips of 6 comfortably in the box and that 8 strips would fit giving 48 LEDs total, plenty of light!
The strips have tiny solder pads for the positive and negative terminals and I got the thinnest wire I could find but it is REALLY fiddly in there! A girls tiny hands would have been immensely useful instead of my great big mitts! However….
This was the initial progress! Looking okay so far, right? Another 45 mins or so… Oh, gotta tell you that drinking a lot of strong coffee while doing this project was NOT the right thing to do. Surprising how your hands bounce around when you’re trying to be cool and collected! Anyway, 45 mins later…
I know this picture is a bit jumpy, blame the coffee. I think my iPhone was struggling to figure out how to expose that shot. Also I think it was sulking about the iPhone 5 release!
So there you have it! These things cost at least $90 and up so I figure I built this for about $35 and have enough LEDs left for at least another one.
I’ve tested the panel and so far it works great. I’ve run it for several hours and it barely gets warm. I deliberately chose a metal case to act as a heat sink, just in case, but maybe a plastic case would have been fine. However metal should last longer!
I intended this to be used as an ‘accent’ light that I could throw into a scene somewhere to light a foreground or background interest. To use it as a light you’d need to add either a hotshoe or lighting stand adapter to the box. Buying a defunct strobe and cutting the hotshoe adapter off to screw or glue to the bottom of the project box would work, same with a light stand adapter. I think I might need a drill stand to attempt that.
Also I am thinking of a completely self contained version, using two project boxes screwed together with the second containing a battery pack, that would be cool!
Also adding some kind of frosted diffuser to the front would be nice if I were to use this as a primary lighting source for portraiture. The fact that there are 48 light sources spread over a 4 inch by 6 inch area means that it does not behave like a contrasty point light source which is good!
I would apply a layer of varnish or protection to the outside as we’ll as I suspect the paint is going to scuff up a bit!
The Other Stuff
I’m very happy to announce that I’m going to be attending superstar wedding photographer Jasmine Star’s November workshop in Irvine, CA.
I am VERY much looking forward to it, of course there will be extensive reporting in my Nov 11th blog post. Jasmine, I have many questions! 🙂
All being well in three weeks my wife and I will have the keys to our new house. It really is new, it’s been under construction since May of this year and we’ve monitored every inch of the construction! When we move in ill post a little montage of the whole process. It’s been fascinating to watch!
It will also open up a few more interesting possibilities photo-wise for me! I have some more construction projects I want to tackle for my own personal work (hint, distressed copper sheeting and acrylics anyone?).
Now, off to Triple Scoop Music to pick out my prize music all thanks to Tamara Lackey and my terrifying dance performance at Photoshop World. Tamara, I do hope the nightmares have stopped by now? 🙂 Thanks Roy!
Finally, finally, in the next two months (don’t hold me to that, it could be three) I intend to offer a custom framing service. It’s something I have always wanted to do and it’ll mean I can produce as many funky sized prints as I want!!