DIY Macro Lighting LED Ring

diy led ring lightA while back we had a piece about the power of using LEDs in photography. In that article we had a very primitive LED ring light. In this guest post, Tim Brook shares a much better way to create a LED ring light.

Browsing through the dealextreme website, I came across these LED car headlight rings and thought that they’d be ideal for making a Macro Lighting Ring so I placed my order and had a go.

The Parts

If you’re gonna try this at home (which you definitely should) note that the
parts I used were selected specifically for my camera and lens (Canon EOS450D + Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS), i.e. the inside diameter of the lighting ring needed to be greater than the 58mm diameter of the lens. If you’re having a go at this you may need to think ahead and do a bit of calculating, as the LED rings are available in several sizes.

Also required: PP3 battery connector and small pushbutton switch – purchased locally from an electronics project store Maplin (UK)

DIY Macro Lighting Ring (by Wonky Donkey)

Now you have all the bits, check they work ok by attaching the battery, you don’t want to find a fault once you’ve glued it all together.

DIY Macro Lighting Ring (by Wonky Donkey)

The Build

  1. Attach the lens hood to the lens body
  2. Cut a circle of card to fit inside lens hood and fit
    snugly against the lens. We are doing this for two reasons; firstly to protect the
    lens and secondly to give a small clearance between the lens and the inner
    lighting ring when it is fitted. Obviously, you will see nothing through the lens while this circle is in position. Don’t worry. You will remove it later.
  3. Insert the small LED ring inside the lens hood and rest
    on the piece of card so that it is centrally aligned, lay wires so that
    they come out of the front of the lens hood in a position where you choose
    the connection to the battery to be, I chose the bottom left hand corner
    so that the battery pack could be held in my left hand for easy use.
  4. Fix the LED ring in position using a suitable adhesive,
    I used clear silicone sealant for that semi-permanent fix!
  5. When the adhesive is set, remove the lens hood from the lens and push out the card. The assembly should now fit smoothly
    off-and-on the lens without fouling.
  6. The larger LED ring can now be attached to the lens
    hood, make sure that the wires from the inner ring lay underneath the
    outer ring and both sets of wires exit in the same direction. Use adhesive
    (silicone) to fix the outer ring in place on the top of the lens hood.
  7. Cut the wires to the desired length and solder the 2 red wires to the red (+ve) lead of the battery connector and the 2 black wires to the black (-ve) connector.
    If required, wire the positive connection through a pushbutton switch, this can be mounted on the battery connector for convenience.

This is how the solder thing will look like after you’ve completed step (7).

DIY Macro Lighting LED Ring

This is what the ring light will look like

DIY Macro Lighting Ring (by Wonky Donkey)

And this is what it looks like when mounted on the lens

LED ring light on Lens

Possible Variations & Improvements

This is as far as I went with the ring, however there are some variations and improvements that can be done to make it even better.

The light spread seems pretty good without diffusing but you may wish to add some sort of diffuser over the LEDs, perhaps something cut from the bottom of a drinks container or whatever you can get your hands on.

The PP3 battery gives just 9v and these LEDs are rated at 12v (for car use) extra brightness could be obtained by instead using 8 x AA batteries or any custom 12v battery.

Sample Image

The image on the right has the ring flash on. You can see the light reflection by looking closely on the rabbit left eye and seeking the reflection.

DIY Macro Lighting Ring Test (by Wonky Donkey)

  • Niksda

    Hi there!
    I ordered the 2 rings from the shop you listed.
    Is there a possibility to connect it to the cameras flash socket? (so you wont have to carry a block-battery.

    Which material would you recommend to get this typical blured, diffused light from the leds. Normally theres a white plastic thing above the leds or light sources..


    • Niksda

      So anyone any tip for a diffusor and camera as power source?

      • Ryan Coleman

        I’ve never seen a flash that didn’t have a high-capacity power source – you cannot do this without taking apart the camera and voiding the warranty. Just use the block-set of batteries.

  • Brater

    Another idea for the power supply: try LIPO RC car batteries. They should have 3.7 V x 3 = 11.1 V. The only disadvantage: you need a special charger. The fully charged battery might also have little too high voltage of 12.6 V (may add a switch for a resistor or a Zener diode).
    Diffuser material: maybe white plastics foil or silk paper/calligraphy rice paper.

  • Bruce Gennette

    Improvement idea – battery saver and brightness booster

    The human eye can get by with 50 x 1 microsecond flashes of light per second with the light out for 950ms per second, This is a ratio of 1:20. All modern bicycle headlamps use this technique to greatly extend battery life.
    LEDs can be ‘overpowered’ for brief periods so long as the average power used is within specification.
    These 2 properties may be combined with a tiny, cheap circuit that flashes the LEDs while setting up (appears continuous to human eyes); and a full power ‘flash’ when a picture is being taken. Battery life will be increased at least 15x over continuous use.

    Here is a logic diagram –
    The battery–> connects to the Regulator–>Flasher–>LEDs
    AND the battery–> connects to the Trigger–>LEDs

    The circuits are simple and cheap, You can find them easily on the net.