DIY Lighting Kits

DIY Lighting Kits
By Rod C Washington

Your video shoot is off to a great start. Although you are on a strict, no frills budget, you are getting the quality shots that you desire. A problem arises when you plan for the next phase of your production, a shoot at an indoor location. Your budget will not allow you to pay for professional lighting. Renting pro lights is an alternative, but, that too can get expensive if your indoor shoot is over a course of a few days.

Don’t fret, a cost effective alternative that is available to you just by taking a trip to your local shopping center.

Over the past decade, there have been major developments and breakthroughs in lighting with the introduction of both Compact Fluorescent (CFL) and LED bulb technology, and now with the entry of these alternatives, the sky is the limit.

In the past it was taboo to even think about using fluorescent lighting in video production because the lighting of old cast a sickly green hue that you had to spend so much time white balancing out. This has changed due to these new technologies. Many current professional lighting kits and light boxes use either CFLs or LED lighting.

The facts that these new bulbs do not burn hot, have low power consumption and have a long life span is just a few of the many benefits to productions of most any budget.

The lighting output of these bulbs can be compared to traditional incandescent bulbs and can satisfy your illumination needs without breaking the bank.


The most inexpensive lighting alternative that I will present to you is called the Incandescent Clamp Light. The price range of this fixture is between $7.00 and $20.00, and consist of a bowl-shaped lighting hood with a mounting clamp attracted to it so that it can be hung easily. You can find these unit and bulbs at places like Lowe’s, Home Depot, Ace Hardware or any home improvement center or hardware store.

Although incandescent is in the name does not mean that you are limited to use traditional light bulbs. CFL and LED bulbs can be used with these fixtures, but, make sure you are following the power rating of the fixture, just like with incandescent bulbs, you cannot go over the limits of what is required for that particular unit. Usually these fixtures can accommodate up to a 150 watt light.

Another benefit is that you can clamp the fixture to almost any surface without damaging it. These units can easily be used as key lighting subjects as well.

I personally own a tungsten professional lighting kit, but because they run so hot and need cool down time before dismantling on the set, I prefer to use my CFL lighting which consist of some professional incandescent light fixtures, stands and umbrellas. I still use my clamp lights and they are still effective.

Although, you are missing features like barn doors to adjust the lighting, stands for mounting the fixtures and other elements that you find in professional kits, you have a useful alternative. You can slowly upgrade to more professional lighting when you budget allows.

Three of these fixtures, plus a pack of CFLs would be under $30 on the low end. For an extremely effective lighting kit, you can’t beat that price.

Another alternative for lighting is work lights. You will also find these units at home improvement centers or hardware stores. The price range of these units are between $19 and $300. These unit use either halogen or in the more recent units, LED.

The benefit of these lights are that they come with their own adjustable stands. They can be added to your clamp light kit and still keep you within your budgetary restraints.

The drawback of this choice is that the least expensive units are halogen and can run hot. They will be brighter than your CFLs, so adjusting them to match your lighting would be more of a challenge.

Choosing the LED version is an option, but be advised, if you get multiple units to make a kit, you will be approaching the price point of a low end pro light kit that will have barn doors, stands, scrims, etc.

Whatever type of lighting that you chose, you can feel confident that your production will not lose the luster that you have worked hard to maintain throughout the shoot. With the recent entry of these lighting alternatives, professional lighting can be attained by video producers of any budget. There is no longer a need to fear losing your audience due to bad lighting.

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