How to build your own giant Roger Deakins style DIY ring light

Aug 20, 2018

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

How to build your own giant Roger Deakins style DIY ring light

Aug 20, 2018

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Ring lights are a big love-hate thing in the world of photography. Some people are actually quite passionate about the catchlight it can present in a subject’s eyes – believing that there’s only one way to use a ring light. But ring lights can produce some wonderful light on your scene, especially when used off-camera.

And that’s how this giant ring light is intended to be used. Inspired by Oscar-winning DP, Roger Deakins, Todd at Shutterstock shows us how to build our own in this video. It’s fairly straightforward to do if you’re comfortable with basic tools.

The creation of the ring light begins with a trip to your local hardware store. Or the web, if you don’t want to leave the house.

The first step begins with figuring out how big you want your circle to be. This involves laying out all of the lamp holders in a circle around your piece of plywood, so that they fit nicely. Once you know how they’re going to be arranged, it’s time to mark and cut that circle. Marking a circle can be done quite easily by finding the centre point, tying some string to it with a pen on the other end. Then, just move the pen around the board at the full length of the string.

Then, draw another, smaller circle inside it. The goal is to have a circle with a circle cut out of it, leaving a brim that’s wide enough to accommodate the light bulb holders. In the video, Todd cuts the circle with a jigsaw. It doesn’t have to be particularly neat. But, if you want a more exact method to create a perfect circle, you can always use a router.

Next it’s time to lay out all of your bulb holders and start making for more holes. This time, a bit smaller, ones you can make with a drill. This is for the cable to run through to power each of the light bulbs. So, position the holders, then mark where the holes will be and drill them.

Now it’s time for the wiring. And I’m going to say it right here, as simple as it can look, you’re on your own with electrical wiring. You play with mains electricity at your own risk. That being said, the black wire should be your “hot” or live wire, with white being neutral. Check the diagrams in the lamp holders you bought to figure out how to wire it all up safely.

It’s best to test each socket as you go, too, rather than wiring it all up and then trying to figure out where there might be a screwup in your wiring if nothing lights up.

Todd puts a crosspiece over the back of the frame once it’s all wired up. You don’t have to do this, but it can act as a handle to have somebody hold it or mount it on a stand. Tod also attached a wall plate spigot adapter to this crosspiece, allowing him to mount it to a C-Stand with a grip head.

As you can see, a ring light is a pretty versatile light. You don’t have to shove a camera through the middle of it and get circular catchlights.

[via No Film School]

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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3 responses to “How to build your own giant Roger Deakins style DIY ring light”

  1. Jesse Antillon Avatar
    Jesse Antillon

    The wiring should be done in electrical boxes that can be mounted to the ring, wired properly following electrical code techniques using BX or Romex type wire, and then the light bases mounted to the boxes. A switch box can be mounted at the rear of one of the lamps with a switch to turn the circuit off. The switch should be connected between the first lamp socket and the power cord. Disconnecting by using the plug is not the best practice either.

    Use no more than 25 60W lamps to not overload the outlet as this will be 1500W. If the circuit is protected by a 15A breaker at the panel it may get overloaded. The wire listed in the parts list is NOT rated for the main feed for this project it is too small a gauge. The manufacturer rates it for 300W maximum. Make sure the lamp cord is designed for 1500W resistive load, minimum 16ga preferably 14ga for runs under 50 ft.There is a lot of to be considered in taking on a project involving 120Vac. Even though many don’t consider it dangerous, most accidental electrocution deaths happen at this voltage.

    As shown, this is a very dangerous and irresponsible way to create a ring light.

    1. Mike Avatar
      Mike

      Note that this website is a available in countries where black is not the colour for live. Electrics need be done by competent people.

  2. Frank Nazario Avatar
    Frank Nazario

    even though it would be a bit more expensive… actually much more expensive you can substitute the regular tungstents to LEDs and not only will you maintain the color signature but your electric bill will thank you A LOT for it … that is 1.5k of electricity if my math is not bad… with tungstens.
    With LEDs that measure up to the 60 w tungsten your comsomption would be 375 watts… big difference same output