You Can Make These 5 DIY Light Modifiers At Home


If you’re into portrait and product photography, you certainly need a couple of lighting modifiers in order to make the best out of your photo sessions. Various lighting modifiers are available on the market right now – some are cheap and some are rather expensive. While expensive lighting modifiers are usually well-made and more durable, they might not be available to you if you’re on a budget.  In this case, you can buy cheaper ones or be creative and build your own lighting modifiers.

In this list, we’re going to cover a few simple lighting modifiers that you can surely build on your own!

photo by dane kelly
Photo by Dane Kelly

Dome Lights Instead Of Beauty Dish

Beauty dish is a lighting modifier commonly used in close-up portraiture.  It provides a focused light source without a hot spot in the middle. The quality of light it delivers is semi-hard – softer than an on-camera but harder than a softbox.

You can mimic the effects of beauty dish by using dome-like frosted globes you can buy basically anywhere, for instance in IKEA.  These domes are really useful because they spread light everywhere very evenly. They come in various sizes – you can buy small or large dome lights, depending on your needs.

In order to use a dome light as a substitute for beauty dish, you need to remove its inner wiring and bulb housing and then rest it atop one of the standard dish reflectors. You should then tape it to make it extra safe and use it in various lighting setups.

Photo by Gurkan Sengun

DIY Softbox

Softboxes, especially large ones, can be very expensive. If you’re still new to portrait photography it can be a good idea to experiment with homemade softboxes before buying a professional one.  It’s quite simple to build a softbox and you won’t need many items – just a lamp with an LED bulb, two cardboard boxes, aluminium foil, clear tape and a white trash bag. From tools, you’ll need a hot glue gun, knife, ruler and pencil.

Video: Make Your Own Softbox

Feel free to follow the instructions in this short video and make your first softbox.

It’s quite cheap to do so – you’ll need less than $20!

DIY Softbox For A Hot-Shoe Flash

In case you want to make a small softbox for your flash – this should be quite easy! Here’s a list of things that you need:

  • A box. The larger your box is, the softer the light will be, but the more awkward it will be to use! Don’t make it too large.
  • A white garbage bag. This bag acts as the diffusion panel. You can use any white material that allows light to pass through.
  • Box cutters or scissors. You’ll be doing a bit of cutting for this project, so be prepared!
  • Tape. You can use any large tape for this project, such as duct tape or painters tape.
  • A marker. You’ll need a marker to create the right size opening for your flash.
  • Finally, a hot-shoe flash. You need a hot shoe flash with a tilting head that can point straight up.
photo by luciano zanollo
Photo by Luciano Zanollo

Windshield Reflector Or Foam Core

The main function of reflector in photography is to bounce existing light and re-direct it back onto your subject.  Reflectors are also handy tools for adding fill light and catchlights in portraits. They usually aren’t expensive, but you can still make your own and save some money. If you do it properly, it will give you a soft bounced light.

There are two ways to make a DIY reflector – by using a windshield reflector from your car (that you probably already have!) or a foam core board.  A windshield reflector is very similar to a professional photography reflector – it even has a shiny silver side!

When it comes to foam core, it is very inexpensive and it works as a perfect reflector. In case you’re shooting in low light, you can improve the performance of the foam core by lining it with aluminium foil.

Additional DIY Reflectors

  • White mount card from an art or hobby craft shop
  • Kitchen aluminum foil
  • Radiator reflective foil
  • White plastic garden table
Photo by Brett Sayles

Makeshift Snoot

A snoot is a tube or similar object that fits over a studio light or flash and allows the photographer to control the direction and radius of the light beam. There are many types of shoots – conical, cylindrical, or even rectangular.  Snoot is a powerful lighting modifier since it gives you more directional lighting and intense shadows.

It’s not that hard to make your own snoot – you can use a Pringles can as a tube since it’s quite sturdy.  If you want to make your snoot more advanced, you can add an improvised grid to it by attaching plastic drinking straws inside a Pringles can (with gaffer tape).

With this type of snoot, you will get a less light spill and more defined edges, which will create a cinematic vibe in portraiture.

Photo by Vit Svajcr

Light Table For Product Photography

If you’re into product photography, you probably know that you need dramatic lighting effects in order to make certain products more eye-catching. There are numberless ways to achieve dramatic lighting, but one that works really great for product photography (especially glassware!) is bottom lighting.  

In case you want to experiment with bottom lighting, you’ll need only two cardboard boxes, thin glass plate and tape in order to make an improvised ’’light table’’. One cardboard box should be large and play the role of the table, while the other one should be small enough to fit inside the large one and support the weight of the light source you want to use.

 You can easily adjust the distance between the light and light table, which can be quite important – variety matters a lot in product photography!

As you can see based on these tips, you don't necessarily need to spend a lot of money on getting expensive modifiers to produce beautiful light. Experiment with household items you already have – you might be surprised by the outcome!

If you want to learn more about lighting modifiers, check out the following links!

Further Resources:

  1. The 5 Best And Most Effective Light Modifiers For Photographers
  2. 4 Lighting Modifiers And The Effects You Can Expect From Them
  3. What Are The Real Differences Between Soft Boxes And Umbrellas?
  4. How to Create An Inexpensive Photography Lightbox
  5. How to Make DIY Light Modifiers For Your On-Camera Flash
  6. How To Turn Household Lights Into Cheap DIY Lighting Modifiers

About Author

Jasenka is a photographer with a background in web design. You can find out more about her on her website, see some of her newest images at 500px or get to know her better here.

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