Every time I am at my local big box hardware store I always take a peek at the lighting aisle to see what is new and exciting in the world of home illumination.
(Or more specifically, I check to see a manufacturer has finally created a big honkin’ LED light bulb that would be bright enough to use for DIY video lighting.)
Well, after a recent shopping trip, I am happy to report that I finally found a few options for inexpensive, readily available hardware store LED light bulbs that work very well for indoor video lighting.
My Video Lighting Requirements
First of all, I’m not shooting a Hollywood movie with a few hardware store LED light bulbs.
I am mostly shooting instructional videos, indoor on-location interviews, product demonstrations etc. All I need is a small amount of usable pretty light to boost my production value to a professional (looking) level.
And because I already own a complete set of studio strobe light modifiers ( I don’t want to buy a whole other set of light mods just for video) I really just want to find a hot light source that is bright enough to stick inside my existing light modifiers with minimal modifications.
It is also important to note that while the hardware store light bulbs I am recommending in this article are some of the brightest mainstream LED’s available – by video standards, they are still pretty dim – so even with two or three of these LED bulbs you will be filming somewhere around ISO 800 – ISO 3200, f/2.8.
However, for what I need – they get the job done and the quality of light is surprisingly good!
DIY Video Lighting LED Light Bulb Options
This is the first hardware store LED light bulb that I tried for DIY video lighting. Daylight balanced (5000k), 1400 lumens and a wide beam spread ($26.99 from Amazon). I wish the BR40 wide angle LED flood light was available in a high CRI version. As it is, I think it looks pretty good on its own – but I wider spectrum of light would still be preferable.
I find that this bulb works best as a room light, with a bare socket reflected off of the ceiling. It also works well inside a softbox (except it loses a stop or two of those precious 1400 lumens).
This is a high CRI version of the first bulb ($37.99 from Amazon). If you’re not sure what CRI is or why its important – take a minute to read “Not All LED Panels are Made Equal. Here’s How To Tell The Difference”.
Unfortunately this LED light bulb has a rather focused forty degree beam spread, so you have to use it with a modifier – I have found that a shoot through umbrella works well if you want to use this bulb for your video key light.
This is an omni-directional version of the first bulb ($29.99 from Amazon). My local hardware store did not stock this bulb – so I haven’t tried it in person – but I think it would work well as a lightsphere style room light as well.
Unfortunately, it is not yet available in a high CRI version.
To mount these bulbs I just use a simple lamp socket with reflector like this ($8.50 from Amazon). For now, I just gaff tape this inside my softboxes – but I am planning on putting together a proper speedring mount for use with my Elinchrom light modifiers.
Don’t bother trying to use the built in clamp system – these LED bulbs are much too big and heavy for the flimsy clamp.
All of these bulbs are also fully dimmable – so if you wanted more control, you could also add a dimmer to your setup.
Finally, if you wanted a bit more of a store bought solution – something like this simple four socket light bulb holder might work for you ($18.99 from Amazon).
Neither of the big spot light bulbs will fit in this configuration (the BR40 or the PAR38 bulbs) – but the A21 format bulb probably would (although I haven’t personally tried it to be sure).
Four daylight balanced 17w, 1600 lumen A21 bulbs would provide you with a respectable 6400 lumens of light – which would allow for more flexibility in your video lighting setups.
If you wanted a high CRI option to use with a four socket bulb holder, the closest I could find is this tungsten balanced (2700K) 9.5w LED bulb ($18 from Amazon). At 810 lumens each, four bulbs would provide you with a total of 3240 lumens – still more than double one of the high output daylight balanced flood light bulbs.
What Do You Think?
These are the best options I could find for DIY video lighting with readily available hardware store LED light bulbs – however, I am sure that there are many more options available online.
I have used both the BR40 LED bulb (daylight balanced, 1400 lumen, 110 degree beam) and the PAR38 LED bulb (daylight balanced, 1250 lumens, 40 degree beam) for video work with good results.
The light output is not strong enough for anything other than in-close work with a relatively high ISO and wide open aperture – but for my purposes I am happy with the quality of light for the cost.
Leave a comment below and let us know what you think!