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Do-It-Yourself Photography Lighting

I think the hardest part of food blogging is planning baking/cooking around having enough light to take decent (or at least halfway decent) pictures of the finished product. Since I tend to be nocturnal, lighting is always an issue. And lets not even talk about trying to take pictures of food during the winter. Rainy days, not as much light. Sheesh.

Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen posted about Lowell EGO Lights, I wanted them until I saw the price, $199.95 on Amazon sans shipping. If you can afford this set up – go for it. The photos that come out of this step up are wonderful, but I’m a poor broke college student  so $199.95 without shipping was waaay more than I could afford.

A quick search on Google and I found a DIY versions of the product, but the photos of the how to process left something to be desired. So while my dad constructed the light boxes, I snapped some photos.

What You Need/What I Used:

2 MDF boards, 16 inches wide (You can use Particle Board if you want)

2 light sockets, I used the ones that screw onto the board

2 electrical cords. I used the short brown ones and cut off the side with the outlet.

2 100w Day Light blubs.

Fork Terminal Connectors

2 of the widest plastic cross stitch boards you can find – available at Jo Ann Fabrics/Michael’s (mine were 22inches wide)

2 3 ft long dowels in the size of your choice

2 pieces of tissue paper

4 binder clips

Kitchen Twine

Packing tape

Equipment

A circular saw/table saw

Rotozip

Level

Pencil

Right Angle

Wire Cutters

Wire Crimper

Digital Caliper (if you have it)

Everything except the tissue paper and the cross stitch board can be bought at your local hardware store. I wouldn’t recommend  buying the rotozip, or  table saw/circular saw if you don’t have them already – unless you plan on using them again, it would probably come out to costing more than the Lowell Lights. But if you have the equipment, or know someone who does – give it a whirl! Assembly only takes about two hours :).

Step 1 (Upper left): Measure and cut your board into 16 inch wide pieces, we got 3 out of the board we purchased from Home Depot. Measure an inch in and draw a straight line down the side.

Step 2 (Upper right): Using a level and a rotozip, place the rotozip at an angle using the level to make sure it goes into make a trench on the line you just drew. You’ll want to make it deep enough so the plastic canvas will rest in it.

Step 3 (Lower Left): After rotozipping blow off the saw dust, and then rinse repeat for the other side

Step 4 (Lower Right): What it should look like after you’ve done both sides.

Step 5 (Upper Left): You’re going to want to measure your dowels (or remember which size you bought) and drill a whole a little bit larger than that size. I (and by “I”, I mean my father) drilled three holes one at 4 inches in, 8 inches in, and 12 inches in…or 4 inches in from the other side. Which ever way tickles your funny bone.

Step 6 (Lower Left…my brain got screwy, bare with me): Cut your dowels into 1 foot (12 inch) segments. You’ll need 3 for each light box.

Step 7 (Upper Right): Find the center of the board – so 8 inches in, 12 inches down and mark it. When you figure how you had it flipped, re do it like shown above :).

Step 8 (Lower Right): After cutting off the part of the part of the wire that has the outlet with wire cutters, put it through the hole you just made. I used 5/8th drill bit to make the hole.

Step 9 (Upper Left): Strip the wire of its plastic coat – about an inch.

Step 10 (Lower Left):  Slip on a forked terminal connector (the blue thing with the metal fork) over the exposed wire.

Step 11 (Upper Right): if you’ve exposed too much wire – you don’t want it going beyond the blue plastic cover, but you do want it make contact with the metal inside – slip it back off and cut off the excess wire.

Step 12 (Lower Right): Crimp the blue plastic cover around the wire to make it stay put.

Step 13 (Upper Left): Now you have both crimped! Go get your light socket – for what ever reason the one you just screw into the board (as opposed to cutting a hole in the board and letting the light hang out in the hole) was the cheapest at my Home Depot.

Step 14 (Upper Right): Slip the forked connectors under the partially unscrewed screws.

Step 15 (Bottom): Tighten the screws down around the connector. Screw in your light bulb and plug it in to make sure it works. If it does, Yay! If not…check your connections.

After this, my camera decided to not recognize my memory card for about an hour, I have a crotchety memory card. So I don’t have pictures, but the hard part is over! So it should be pretty easy to just describe it to you.

You’ll want to screw down your light socket, in the narrow end of the opening – the part that looks like a skeleton key. Then screw in your light bulb.

Thread the kitchen twine through the canvas, width wise, across the canvas to the otherside. I did it through the fourth hole down on both sides. Do this for the top and bottom of each one.  Make sure they’re crossing the canvas on the same side.

For this part you’ll probably want a second set of hands. Put the canvas in the trenches you made and have someone hold the canvas as you tie the twine in the back. You want the twine touching the board. Using the packing tape pull one side of the twine taught and tape it around the corner. Do this top and bottom on both boards.

Take some more packing tape about the length of your canvas, and place half the tape on the board and the other half going up the canvas to give it some more encouragement to stay in place :). Do this on both sides of both boards too.

And there ya go!

The white back drop are two pieces of 20″ by 30″ foam board.

It may not  be as nice looking as the Lowell lights, but it does the same task. And as a plus it only cost about $40 and two hours of my/my father’s time.

Here’s a Straight of the Camera picture of lemons that I took the night I finished these:

6 comments to Do-It-Yourself Photography Lighting

  • Great results! The picture looks really awesome. But man, I need my husband to do this for me. I started scratching my head when I read Fork Terminal Connectors. I am not a handy woman at all. I get lost at Home Depot.

    • Rene

      I had to ask my dad what they were! Ha! They’re the silver forked things with a blue plastic handle. At least ours where.

      Yeah, I refuse to go to Home Depot without a male escort. I get lost so fast!

      Let me lose in a restaurant supply store and I’m good to go :).

  • Great post, I am loving your recipes too. Think I’ll make the asparagus one tomorrow only with grilled chicken breast.

    • Rene

      You should get Michael to make you a set! Maybe a little bit taller though, so you can take pictures of your sewing projects at night!

  • Wow! I don’t have anybody that can help me with this but maybe I will try it myself. I am a handy woman. I think. I’ll let you know if I lose a finger. :lol:

    p.s. We have the same theme on our blogs. :)

    • Rene

      Good luck! Let me know how it works out!

      I’m handy…just not when it comes to saws and drills. My phobia of amputations kills my helpfulness.

      I really like this template, but I need to fiddle with it more. When I work up the courage that is. So hopefully after school gets out for the summer. :)