Using Free Forming Florescent Tubes For Creative Lighting

One of the things with using traditional strobes and lightstands is the way that it limits you in space. This is why when I saw Christopher Park‘s photographs I was immediately intrigued by his lighting setup that uses raw florescent tubes.

Using Free Forming Florescent Tubes For Creative Lighting

Christopher uses an array of florescents connected together via a single wire that goes to the power source, so they can be be re-arranged to fit any lighting scheme. That also makes them very portable and moveable into any shape and configuration. Lastly, they only have one wire coming off one end rather than off each end of the light so they are easy to power. (And YES!, the catchlights are wicked!).

I am not going to show the lighting setups today. Instead, I am going to post a few more photographs at the end, see if you can reverse engineer the position of the lights.

Before we have a go at this, there’s are usual electricity disclaimer. You will be dealing with electricity and its the kind that runs off the wall, so if you are not 100% sure of what you’re doing, get help from a certified electrician. This stuff can kill you if you are not careful. And this should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyways, keep the thing unplugged while working.

Now, that we got this out of the way lets get started.

You’re going to need strip fluorescent lights. You may be able to find some lying around as they’re everywhere, kitchens, offices, garages, etc. If not, you might be able to find some cheap ones on craigslist or a local hardware store. You’ll most likely want to use a cool light as they have both warm and cool lights you can have and the cool ones are able to hold and touch. They also don’t get too hot when trying to take pictures of a person.

So what we’re essentially trying to do is take the light bulb out of the fixture and be able to hold it like a light-saber or rearrange them to any configuration.

What we’ll need is 2 wire cable with different colors like red/black. The amount we need is dependent on how long you want to be able to run the light from the power source. You will need two cables per light, so if you want it to be able to go 10 feet away from the power source, you’ll need 20 feet of this 2 wire cable.

Using Free Forming Florescent Tubes For Creative Lighting

The next thing to do is mark the side of the pin where you’ll be connecting the black cable to. Make sure it matches the other end. Put a piece of black electric tape so that you know which side is going to be black like the example below.

Using Free Forming Florescent Tubes For Creative Lighting

Next twist the cables onto the metal pieces wrapping the wires away from each other like the example below.

Using Free Forming Florescent Tubes For Creative Lighting

Bend the wire at the corner and run it down the side of the light.

Using Free Forming Florescent Tubes For Creative Lighting

Next, run a strip of electric tape down the center to make sure these cables don’t have contact with each other.

Using Free Forming Florescent Tubes For Creative Lighting

Next run a strip across the top so that the metal pieces are not exposed.

Using Free Forming Florescent Tubes For Creative Lighting

Then run electric tape around the light to hold down the other pieces of electric tape.

Using Free Forming Florescent Tubes For Creative Lighting

Then run electric tape down the side of the light to hold the wire against the light.

Using Free Forming Florescent Tubes For Creative Lighting

Next, on the light fixture, mark one side of each end with an X so you know that they match each other. This is so that we can match that side to coordinate with the black cable we’ll be connecting to it.

Using Free Forming Florescent Tubes For Creative Lighting Using Free Forming Florescent Tubes For Creative Lighting

Next, take the ends off of the light fixture. Each end has two cables going to it.

Using Free Forming Florescent Tubes For Creative Lighting

The side with the X we’re going to be connecting the black cable to and the other end we’ll be connecting to the red cable to.

Using Free Forming Florescent Tubes For Creative Lighting

It’s recommended to connect these with wire connectors. They’re end caps that screw on like a bottle cap.

Using Free Forming Florescent Tubes For Creative Lighting

Twist the cap on top of the two wires that are twisted together.

Using Free Forming Florescent Tubes For Creative Lighting

If you don’t have these wire connectors. You can use electric tape to put these two wires together, just make sure the tape is tight.

Now do this for the red cable. Then do this for the other end of the light for both the red and black cable repeating the steps above.

If you’ve done this right, you should have something that looks like this from the backside

Using Free Forming Florescent Tubes For Creative Lighting

This will give you the ability to hold the light with only one end of the light having the cables run from. When using the lights, keep the side that has the electric tape holding the wire away from the camera like below.

Using Free Forming Florescent Tubes For Creative Lighting

Now that you have your light together, test it. You now have endless possibilities to how many lights to you can do this to or any way you want to configure them.

I took this and put this into a pound sign ( # number sign) configuration. I connected the lights with electric tape. Make sure there is enough and tight enough to hold them in place. Then I took two light stands and zip tied the top crossing pieces to the light stands.

Here Are Some Examples

See if you can reverse engineer the light :)

Using Free Forming Florescent Tubes For Creative Lighting

Using Free Forming Florescent Tubes For Creative Lighting

Using Free Forming Florescent Tubes For Creative Lighting

Using Free Forming Florescent Tubes For Creative Lighting

Think you have the setup figured out? here it is

Using Free Forming Florescent Tubes For Creative Lighting

P.S. wanna go full Peter Hurley on those? check out Tristen’s video and tutorial for a more fixed on wood design.

About The Author

Christopher Park is a portrait photographer based in San Diego. To see more of his work head over to his site or Facebook page.

  • Tina

    this is so ironic thinking that in your country there are so much guns…

  • eppytx

    WOW… as a licensed electrician all I can say is wow… I hope your liability insurance is up to date!!

    The lamps are not energized with 110 volts from a wall outlet. They are hooked up to a ballast (transformer) to increase the voltage. And the lamps are easily broken. I can’t tell you how many I have broken over the years.

    When I want a light of this style for photos, I have a LED “worklight”. It’s not 4 feet long like a fluorescent lamp, but they it works just as well.

  • Successor

    Damn, this is scary! I woult pay the extra dollars and stick them into pvc tubing, both for the models and your security!