Armed with nothing but a free weekend and some Strobist determination, I decided to save a few hundred bucks and build my own ring light.
My main goal was to make a ring light that didn’t scream cardboard and paper “diy” construction (not that there’s anything wrong with that), and could be self contained and secure, without having to hold a loose speedlight somewhere around the ring. So, I started off with a trip to the local hardware superstore.
Total cost for materials: $27.29 (excluding an SB-600)
1. 1 pvc drain about 7 inches in diameter -- $13.98
2. 1 pvc drain about 3 and a half inches in diameter -- $8.55
3. Cheap foam tape - $1.98
4. Black spray paint for aesthetics*
5. 2 “L” brackets with screws*
6. aluminum foil*
7. gorilla glue and spray adhesive*
8. Laminating film -- $2.78
9. Transluscent paper*
*already had these around the house, not included in price
So, the first step was to cut off the square part of the pvc drain so as to make a ring. This proved to be quite a daunting task with a jigsaw and a dremel tool for touching up rough edges. The hardest part of the cutting was making the opening for the speedlight with the jigsaw. Next I painted both the drains black for a more dapper look.
The circumference of the second drain fit perfectly around the inside of the bigger drain. (I checked for drains that fit into each other at the store, this is crucial).
Then, I lined the inside of the big drain and the outside of the smaller one with aluminum foil using spray adhesive.
The next step is to glue the small drain (now just a ring) into the bigger one.
With the two L brackets fastened together, I screw one end into my tripod thing on the bottom of my D80, and on the other end screw in the hot shoe attachment for my SB-600.
I have the bracket with my SB-600 positioned so that my speedlight is pointing right up into the hole of the ring, firing light into it and reflecting throughout thanks to all the shiny aluminum foil.
After a few painstaking hours and pvc shavings and black paint on everything, I have my completely homemade ring light!!!!
The only things left were to fit the opening of the ring with foam tape so it sits safely and snugly around my lens, and cover the ring with laminating film and transluscent paper cut out into a ring to hide the aluminum foil and soften the flash a bit.
This is what the effect of the ringlight looks like, with a nice, even, halo effect around the subject. I like it.
I did a few other things that weren’t completely necessary, being a perfectionist and having a tendency to do everything the hard way.
Thanks to my dear ‘ol dad (pictured above) who helped a lot cutting metal and providing super ideas!
You can check out my Flickr page for example shots, along with more pictures of the process and finished product.
Oh, and if you haven’t already, check out Strobist.com for more do-it-yourself lighting mastery and really cool off-camera flash photography.
Update: light diffusion of the ring