Build A CFL Based Continuous Light Source

I love using continuous light sources. At first it was all about the fact that unlike strobes, I could see the light at all time and not only on shutter press. As the time went by, this became even more relevant as continuous lights can be used for video as well.

DIY Spider lite

This tutorial was sent by photographer Lyle Ball and it shows how to make a light fixture that resembles the awesome Spiderlite TD5. It uses CFLs for light, which is both economic and not all that cold. If you are going the same route, make sure to use a full spectrum CFL – they may be a bit more pricey, but the results from the lower end bulbs are just, well… lower end.

The tut is mainly focused on the build of the fixture. If you don’t know how to wire the thing, you probably should not and get some help from your neighborhood electrician.

Materials (plan a visit to Home Depot or Lowes)

  • 6″ to 4″ heating duct reducer
  • 6″ circle of plywood
  • 5 Rubber Lamp Holders
  • 4″ cap
  • Wires and Switches
  • Stud (or spigot)

Step 1

Drill 5 holes in the circle of the plywood. The rubber holders that I was using were just under 1 1/5″ so I used a 1.5″ hole saw. Note that the holes were drilled at angles so all the lights would fit in the 6′ space.


Step 2

To make a nice body, I took the 6″ to 4″ heating duct reducer and primed and painted it with Rocker Guard. While this step is not really necessary, it made  for a nice hard, textured surface.

primed reducer

Step 3

To control each of the light individually, each was equipped with a switch. All the switches are powered from a main line. This is pretty trivial if you are familiar with electricity work. If not, this is probably not something you should do – get some help from your local electrician.

On the 4″ cap side, draw 5 holes for the 5 switches. After you have the holes places, make the cuts. Then Prime and paint over the cap.

rear cap

step 4

Find the balance point and drill the spigot into it.


The Finished Project

Here is how the thing looks done. This specific build has 5 100W equivalent bulbs so it gives out a nice 500W of light.


in a westcott apollo

Westcott’s Spiderlite TD5 [B&H | Amazon]

Westcott's Spiderlite TD5 The Westcott Spiderlite TD5 light fixture accepts tungsten (3200° K) or fluorescent (5000° K) bulbs.

Three separate controls allow running of multiple combinations of bulbs together with no color shift. It has all-metal construction with built-in points for direct attachment of a softbox — no adapter ring is necessary.