LED Flashlight Photography: How To Make An “Ice Light”

LED technology is currently developing at a rapid rate and in this article we look at how you can utilize the latest LED technology to light your images until the photographic lighting industry catches up. See how for under £20 you can make a portable, rechargeable light that can produce results like this in a totally dark room:

LED Flashlight Photography @ www.Lightism.co.uk

LED’s are light emitting diodes and they are very efficient at converting power into light. Sure, they’ve been around for a while and are now utilized in a range of Photographic lights and torches.

However, manufacturer CREE are currently leading the LED lighting revolution and their distinctive yellow XM-L LED is now widely available in a range of budget flashlights on Amazon and their brightness is game changing!

I recently purchased a Ultrafire torch from Amazon with two rechargeable batteries and charger for about £17.

Sure, one of the batteries is poor and it doesn’t pump out the claimed 900 lumen, but this thing is brutally bright and has real potential.

LED Flashlight Photography @ www.Lightism.co.uk

Let’s be clear…from a photography perspective, it’s too bright and harsh to shine directly at anything or anybody. So, you need to use a lighting modifier to diffuse it or use it in conjunction with a reflector.

If you’re a regular Lightism subscriber, you’ll recall I recently made a light from plumbers pipe and glowsticks for another article. Well, if you constructed one yourself what you’ve already made is an exact fit for the LED Flashlight, so you need to do, well, nothing!

Otherwise, You’ll need:

  • 1 x Ultrafire flashlight or torch (as we call them in England.)
  • 1 x 32” length of 1.5” white plumbing pipe: £2
  • 1 x white pluming pipe end cap: £1
  • 1 x tie wraps (ideally clear): £1
  • A saw, a drill, tinfoil, small sheet of sand paper (to smooth any rough edges) and a pair of scissors.

Tip: Test the pipe with the torch before you buy it as some varieties are rather pink once lit!

Step 1: Measure 11” from either end of the 32” length of pipe and cut halfway through the pipe with a saw.

Step 2: Now cut the pipe down its width from the end nearest your cut, effectively removing a slice of pipe.

Step 3: Pop the flashlight snugly into the new opening. You can either simply hold it in place to use it now or fix it into place with the tie wraps.

LED Flashlight Photography @ www.Lightism.co.uk

Step 4: The end cap is the same diameter as the pipe, so if you cut four small slices out if cap be forced into the pipe. (see picture below)

Before fitting it to the pipe, screw up a ball of tinfoil and place it in the end far of pipe to act as a reflector (I tried various things including mirrors) and force on end cap.


Step 5: You can also fit a length of thick black tape to the rear of the pipe to reflect the light forward.

That’s it, now you’ve made a £20 version of Westcott’s £500 Ice Light!… Either that or some may say a light saber.

LED Flashlight Photography @ www.Lightism.co.uk

Usage Tips:

  • Use it close to the subject and experiment with the angles; I like it above the model.
  • The sweet spot as usual is on the very edge of the light, so small adjustments make all the difference. Here’s the wider shot of the picture above in which you can see the model is holding the light and acting as a voice controlled lighting stand.

LED Flashlight Photography @ www.Lightism.co.uk

  • The second option is to use it in conjunction with a silver or white reflector. This requires much more experimentation with distances and angles to get anything meaningful. 

To save you the effort, I will show you a couple of fool proof setups in my forth coming 30 second portraits series, so subscribe or like Lightism on Facebook to keep up to date.

About The Author

Simon Ellingworth is a professional photographer and the author of Lightism – a blog dedicated to helping people take better photos with whatever camera they have. This article was originally published here.

  • Wayne Myers

    love it

  • Nic Cage’s Hair

    Effing great idea!!!

  • TJ Schoffner

    I’d put my ICE Light up against this any day of the week. If you don’t care about color consistency, flickering in video, or range, then this is a perfect solution.

    • http://www.diyphotography.net/ udi tirosh

      yes, this is why we call it “Ice Light” and not Ice Light :)

      • TJ Schoffner

        Sorry. I’m an old schooler who gets a bit frustrated when people fail to mention the importance of fundamentals or not mention where this wouldn’t do well.

    • Michael Turcotte

      This is an LED light running on DC. The color is constant and there is no flicker. Just cause you got butt hurt, don’t take it out on others. You obviously have no understanding of basic electronics.

  • Toast

    For the mod:

    “Amazon and they’re brightness is game changing!”

    • http://www.diyphotography.net/ udi tirosh

      thanks for the catch!

  • shteigun

    put a 2nd flashlight on the other end and you’ve got one double as bright (and 4 times as heavy…)

  • Wayne

    Love it! Would you mind sharing your exposure settings? ISO?

  • Michael Turcotte

    There are some cheap Chinese work lights that are battery powered that are about equal in output to that expensive light. They will run a bit more than this flashlight. Never actually saw the point to the ICE Light other than to take money from his followers.

    • sam

      where can we get them?

      • Michael Turcotte

        Check your local big box DIY/home improvement store, automotive superstores, and ebay. Harbor Freight had one last time I was there. Northern Tool has a battery powered light bar for car creepers for $200US. Little surgery and you have 2.5 ICEE Lights. There was even a light for a tow truck that had 4000 lumens and ran off of 12V.

  • Scott

    You can buy LED tubes for about the same price from an electrical distributor. I saw some on display up to 42″ long and an electrical contractor’s trade show. Haven’t had a chance to make one yet, but the distributor says you can easily add a dimming switch to it just like a regular light.

  • Jack B

    Kudos for creativity! Although I could crap in a bucket of water and make brown paint, too… there’s NOTHING like my Ice Light!

    • bman

      Haha i agree there is nothing like the real thing but i bet you didnt pay 20 dollars for it either

  • Inta G photo

    thank you so much for sharing. Will try to make mine this weekend. can not wait to try.

  • Thomas Daley

    Mine didn’t look of work any where near the quality that your shows. Cutting the tube was a disaster, and the light seems to shine straight towards the end of the plastic not along the plastic…… I have a nice torch thou.

  • Neil Tsubota

    A Flash light + White PVC pipe. Simple. I like ideas like this !

  • Ahmad

    I think the appeal of the Ice Light is that it looks professional, it’s something you wouldn’t mind pulling out and using at a wedding where clients are paying you thousands of dollars. This one might very well work just as good, however it is not a very professional looking device. I would use this for private shoots only, unless there is a way to make it look more presentable.

  • debra

    Nice tutorial (another typo: “use a lighting modifier to defuse” –> “diffuse”)

  • Sergey Krotov

    It is good Udi , thanks for sharing. I have also used similar flashlight with 20x20cm portable softbox. It is all good. But it is also have a bad side of a coin. Those flashlights have a yellow-green edges of a lightspot and a slightly magenta center. It is not matter for the black and white photography, but have a problem with color, imho. What do you think about it? maybe someone have ever seen smd diodes which has a good white color? i realy curious.Thank you

  • frank

    http://bit.ly/pergear-298 or simply buy a cheaper one w/ extra battery

  • https://www.flickr.com/photos/73112524@N08/ Sile H.

    what was the camera settings for that shot? shutter speed aperture and iso ?

  • Valerio

    A tip : I did this one year ago using a toy light saber from ebay. Far easier than finding all the stuff you woukd need to make it one from scratch. Just disassemble the grip, replace it with the torch (in my case I could fix it directly inside the grip) and is done. Moreover you have the huge advantage to get a perfectly retractable ice light, with a quite professional look as well