DIY – The Plaster Spatula Lighting Stand

DIY - The Plaster Spatula Lighting StandOne of the challenging lighting setups that I have encountered deals with setting up a lighting environment in small spaces. Spaces like working dens, children rooms and offices. Those places are sometimes dark and not well lit. The solution for this problem is simple – use flashes. One or two hot shoe flashes can easily give you the light you need. For creativity sake, you would like to take those flashes off camera like one of my favorite sites suggests. So where will you place those flashes? Obviously, you can not use a lighting stand – there is hardly any place for you, let alone your big lighting stands.

So what would you have in abundance in a working den? Let’s see…. If you’ve ever been in a lawyer office, you can’t escape the answer – they have books. Shelves and shelves of books. Do they actually read them? I don’t know. Can you, as a photographer use them? Heck yes!

In the following article, I will show you how to create a simple, fast to build, cool looking lighting stand from a plaster spatula and some books.

The first thing you will need is a plaster spatula, those come in really cheap. You can get a metal one or a plastic on, and there is no need to buy the high end spatulas, just buy the crummiest, cheapest, made in Taiwan most suitable spatula you can find.

You will also need an umbrella holder (AKA swivel). Or if you don’t have one a long 1/4″ bolt and nut. In general 1/4″ bolts are something usful to have around the house.

Lastly, you will need a portable flash like the SB-800 or SB28. And if you are using a hex and bolt or an umbrella holder with no hot shoe mount, you will need a hot shoe mount – you can get those at eBay for quite cheap.

Here is a picture with all the stuff together.


The next step is easy – using either the 1/4 bolt or the umbrella holder, go through the hole at the end of the handle. If you ask me, it looks like those guys had flashes in their minds when they designed those spatulas.

Using a nut and a bolt along with a hot shoe adapter:


Or with an umbrella holder:


The rest is even easier – you mount the flash on the hot shoe adapter. Then you stick the flat side of the spatula between the books and the shelf. You gain great place to locate your flash, and the attorney can no longer say that he has no use for all those books lying around. In fact, for some of those books, this is probably the first time there were taken off the shelf for a long time.

Make sure you use heavy books though; otherwise the sentence “light will hit the floor” will take a sad meaning for you.

Here is what this thing looks like when it is mounted. I am using my cookbook shelf to avoid any comments about al the rash Sci-Fi that I am reading.


One comment about spatulas and books: There are several types of spatulas: wide, narrow, long, short… I found the long spatulas to work best for me. The books really steady it well. If you are out of spatulas (I can resist writing this word over and over again…) you can also use a metal ruler.

And another comment about books: Light: Science and Magic: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting is a great book to hold your flash, and if you also read it, you will learn how to use the very same flash that it’s holding. (Do not read and hold in the same time) 

The nice thing about this contraption is that you can use it to stick your flash any where:

  • If you are outside your house, you can stick it between the cricks in the wall (assuming you have a wall with cricks, which none of us have, of course)
  • You can stick it under a rock
  • You can stick it between almost any two wooden parts nailed together.
  • I am holding my self not to make a rude joke…

Post a comment if you see any other nice use for this.

Oh, and if you are short on space at your house too, check out the Super easy hardware store light-backdrop stand. Or if you have tons of space and loaded with tripods, check out to convert them to light stands.

Lastly – The Back to Basics series is running – check out the exposure and shutter speed articles.