No Strobes, No Light Stands, No Modifiers, No Problem!

Kimberley - Fluorescent 3 (by Ragoem)They say that necessity is the mother of all invention. How will you go on lighting a shot when you have no strobes, no lightstands and no modifiers?

With fluorescents of course. waintaminute! Fluorescents? Aren’t those the things that make green harsh hideous light? Well depends. Netherlands photographer Ragoem Vakfotografie shows just what can be done with just a couple of those lengthy lights.

First thing first, you need to understand light a bit to work with light sabers like this. Light is harsh when it is far (and looks small) and softer when it is close (and looks big). So fluorescents had t be placed close to the model. Placed? Try hand held.

Kimberley - Fluorescent 1 (by Ragoem)

Placing the light so close provide pretty soft light. And you get the oh so unique catchlights.

Ragoem worked closely with the model to find the best placement for the lights. Both in term of proximity and in terms of location. Since fluorescents can not be dimmed, and aperture was constant, the only way to dim/brighten the lights was by holding them closer or further from the body.

In a wise move, Ragoem set the fluorescents such that one lit the face and one lit the body.

Kimberley - Fluorescent 2 (by Ragoem)

Did I say that white balance is crucial here. If you don’t want a green model (which Ragoem would not here of as it would take away from the awesome makeup), remember to tune your camera to fluorescent white balance.

Now I know, this is a DIY blog, so you are all probably wondering how the lights were build. Ragoem was kind enough to provide diagram and instructions.

Just remember, this stuff deals with electricity. If you are not sure what you are doing consult and electrician. Also when you are shooting this, make sure you are in a water free environment and wear rubber shoes. In short, I can not take any liability for this, so be careful.

Fluorescent Lighting (by Ragoem)


  • 36w fluorescent light armature for two lamps
  • 2x 36w fluorescent lamps
  • 2x 7cm PVC pipe (32mm)
  • 2x 17.5cm PVC pipe (32mm)
  • 4x 4meter cable 2×0.75mm (or 2x 4m 4×0.75)
  • 4x 1.3m (white) cable 1×0.75mm
  • 1x 1m cable with an electric plug en a switch (old lamp)
  • 2x 1.5m shrinkable tubing transparent 48mm
  • 12x 3cm shrinkable tubing (any color) or insulating tape
  • Ducttape
  • terminal block with 8 connections.
  • some pieces of plywood to make the housing.
  • nails and screws


  • Hammer
  • saw
  • Drill
  • hacksaw
  • screwdriver
  • soldering iron
  • Paint Burner (for the shrinkable tubing)


Preparing the PCV pipes

Make sure the fluorescent light have a tight fit in the PVC pipe, different lamp brands have different diameters that can vary +/- 1.5mm. If you are not sure, it is better to be tighter than looser.

Start by preparing the four pieces of pipe. then make a length-wise cut in all of them.

After making the lengthy cut, the pipes should fit over the lamps even if they were to tight before. WAIT, don’t put them on yet.

Wiring the Lamps

Strip 2cm of the 1×0.75 cable, then solder two cables to one side of each lamp (one cable on each pin)

Put a piece of 3cm shrinkable tubing over the bare connections and shrink them (or use the insulating tape).

Strip 2cm of the 2×0.75 cable, before you solder them to the other side of the lamps put a 3cm piece of shrinkable tubing on the cable, but make sure you don’t touch it with the soldering iron.

Shrink the tubing over the bare connection.

Now all 4 connections of the lamp should have a cable on it.

Pry open the 7cm PVC with pipe with a screwdriver and place it on the lamp. Place it on the side with the two lose wires.

Make sure al connections are inside the pipe, the wires should go through the cut over the lamp to the other side.

Tape the pipe with the ducttape, making it black, closing the cut and sealing of the end (you don’t want the model to touch anything electric).

Now do cut the two white wires to a length, so that the end will be in the handle (long piece of PVC pipe).

Put the a piece of 3cm tubing over each the white cable and solder a 2×0.75 cable to both cables.

Shrink the tubing over the bare connections.

Now put the 17.5cm PVC pipe over the lamp, so that it is half way in.

Like the other side the white cables should go trough the cut.

Tape the pipe with the black tape.

Make sure the white cable run in a straight line. Then put the lamp into the transparent shrink tubing and shrink it, to lock every think in place.

Making the connection

Make a box for the Electronic ballast from the plywood.

Feed the wires through tight holes in the plywood and tie a knot on the inside so you can’t pull on the electric connection in side.

There should normally be a scheme on the ballast on how to wire the lamps to the ballast.

Some More Safety

Ok, we talked safety, but this could not be stressed enough:

You are dealing with hot wires, so go slow, don’t go all Jedi once you have it all working. I know it is tempting, but really, trust me it is not worth it.

Wear insulating shoes when you do this. both you and the model.

Talk to the model and explain what you are doing. Tell her you are working with lie wire and she should be careful

Don’t do this where there are waters.