Build your own DIY ceiling mounted lighting rail system for under $100

Jan 31, 2017

Barry Mountford

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Build your own DIY ceiling mounted lighting rail system for under $100

Jan 31, 2017

Barry Mountford

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

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What started off as a quick lighting test in my garage has turned into a full research and installation of my own DIY photography ceiling rail system! You might now ask why? Whats the point? It’s a garage. It’s tiny. And that’s just it, it is tiny. I mean my shooting space measures 10ft x 7ft! Not a great space for shooting portraits.

Ok, so you might manage it with one light on a stand/boom. But what if, like me, you like using more than one light? I tend to use a 3 light setup when shooting my creative portraits and setting up 3 stands with soft boxes becomes very cramped in such a small space.

It was during these sessions that I decided to look into buying a ceiling rail system to create more floor space/room. But, they were expensive! Great systems for the studio but my garage space is intended for trying out a quick lighting setups and ideas. So it doesn’t warrant such an expense but I loved the idea. So I decided to build my own below is a quick video of it.

YouTube video

Here’s the bit I came across that I love. This RIVETER GUN! I found it at a local tool store and the whole concept was built from there.

Next I looked into using Unistrut for the rails.

Next I needed to attach something to the handle of the riveter gun to slide in the track. I found this Unistrut channel trolley.

It worked perfectly! I simply drilled a hole for an M4 bolt and attached it with a washer and 2 nuts. It has a 400 newton force load so you will need to check out the weight of your lights and gear and make sure you don’t exceed that limit, you can google it and find a conversion calculator.

The next step was to attach a spigot to the end of the riveter gun. As if by magic at the end of the gun was a small bolt so I unscrewed that and the spigot simply screwed in. It was a perfect fit!

The next step was to attach the Unistrut to the garage roof. An easy process of screwing it to the roof joist with screws and washers. The riveter gun and channel trolley glided along length of Unistrut down the centre. Perfect!

I decided to build on that and try to use the full space allowing the light to reach every corner so I built a H frame with the Unistrut screwing 2 lengths parallel to each other down the length of the shooting area. I cut another length of strut for the width. I then attached another two channel trolleys at each end with bolts and slotted them into the 2 Unistruts screwed to the joists. This allowed me to pull the light down the full length and width of the shooting space

Now I have all the floor space to use with no obstructions! I was pretty chuffed with what I could achieve in a small space. Heres a few shots using the rail system.

Wanted to share this DIY hack with you guys as its made a great difference to my small studio!

About the Author

Barry Mountford is a portrait photographer based in Gateshead, England. His goal is to capture the hidden side of a person. The cool, mysterious, fun side that many people don’t even know they have. You can find out more about him on his website, follow his work on Instagram and Facebook or reach out to him through Twitter. This article was also published here and used with permission.

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5 responses to “Build your own DIY ceiling mounted lighting rail system for under $100”

  1. Jenn Grover Avatar
    Jenn Grover

    Honestly, you could do it cheaper and more simply with a board and several 1/4″ 20# screw mounts attached to a board in several spots across the board.

    1. CNek Avatar
      CNek

      Also, the rail + hanging system eats up vertical space.

  2. Jim Felder Avatar
    Jim Felder

    Where are the power cables and how have you organized them? CNek is correct, you lose vertical space and that doesn’t work well in a low ceiling.

    BUT! Fantastic idea and solution!

  3. Roger Hayman Avatar
    Roger Hayman

    I think what you achieved is brilliant!

    I would be worried that the weight of most strobes would stretch the pantographs out (down) to their maximum extension. How do you control the extension of the pantograph?
    Roger

  4. Collins Ryàn Avatar
    Collins Ryàn

    That’s a great DIY idea. I’ve seen a similar design at one of my photography student’s house.

    Barry, what is the height of your garage ceileing please? I mean, the height of the beams to which you connected the struts.
    Cheers