Steven Brokaw Photography

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Brokaw Cheap Light Panel - DIY Continuous Studio Light

Model Jade Amber helping me test the BCLP

Model Jade Amber helping me test the BCLP

I’ve recently become interested in continuous light for studio use.  Today I exclusively use studio monolights, and occasionally speedlights.  These have been working perfecto, but continuous lighting would add a new dimension.  I primarily want to use continuous lighting when not using a sweep.  Also, I like the effect of a light bank / panel versus a single bulb. 

I’ve focused research on 2 products, the Wescott Ice Light & the Kino Flo products like the Diva Light or the 4Bank.  These are really good products and I’ve read solid reviews for the products.  The ONLY issue is the cost.  Since this is an alternative, occasionally used light source I want something cheaper.

So Steve, why don’t you build something yourself?  Hmmm, why not, so I did.  I decided to DIY my own continuous light panel.  Nothing sophisticated or complicated was my first criteria.  I wanted to go easy as a proof of concept.

Here’s what I did.  I went to Lowes and purchased a Utilitech 4-Light T8 Shop Light.  You know they type.  One of those fluorescent workshop lights.  It’s light weight and can be plugged in.  Cost $49.99.  I also purchase 4 GE 5000 Kelvin  T8 fluorescent light tubes.  Cost $16.  Finally, I needed something to mount it to a light stand, so I purchased a Kupo Wall Mount.  Cost $13.  Also, just in case I wanted to mount it to a regular light stand I also purchased a general purpose flexible umbrella joint.   Cost $31.  I bought the 2 light stand mounts at Roberts Imaging.

The goal was to mount the DIY rig to a Kupo C-Stand.

Assembly was super easy.  The only real alteration was adding the Wall Mount to the back of the electrical panel.  Before I attached the electric panel to the reflector I measured the best location for the Wall Mount.  I then drilled 4 holes into the back of the electric panel.  Using standard bolts & locking washers the Wall Mount was added to the back.  I then assembled the Shop Light.  That was it. 

1 - Kinflo out of box.jpg
2 - Kinflo Drilling Holes.jpg
3 - Kinflo Wall Mount.jpg

The Shop Light now has a Wall Mount with a C-Stand peg on the.  I took it over to the studio and it fit perfectly on the C-Stand.   It’s surprising light and puts no stress on the C-Stand.  It’s easy to move around.  Plugs right in and on it goes. 

5 - Kinflo Completed.jpg
6 - Kinflo Mounted Joint.jpg
7 - Kinoflo Mounted.jpg
8 - Kinoflo Mounted 2.jpg

I tested it the other day during a model shoot and it is going to work fine.  Light was measured at 5000K, and it is fairly punchy.  Shadows are crisp when 3-5’ from my model.  The nice thing about the light is that it illuminates my model evenly from face to knees because it’s a panel.  Also, because it’s continuous I see what I’m going to get before I push the shutter button.  

Don’t get me wrong.  This is NOT a quality light like the Kino Flo or Ice Light.  It’s still a florescent light which is a bit blue.  Also, all 4 bulbs don’t have the same luminosity.  One seems a bit darker.  But hey, for just over $100 I’m happy. 

To improve the light I should put something over the light tubes to protect them (i.e. a clear or translucent diffuser panel).  Possibly a rheostat to vary the power of the lights.  Something to carry it in would be also nice.  One problem – it’s not really sturdy, so if it falls - its toast…at least the bulbs. 

9 - Kinoflo Turned On.jpg
10 - Kinoflo mounted 2.jpg
12 - Jade being photographed.jpg

Finally, the light isn’t extremely bright.  With all the other lights of in the studio and my model about 4’ from the light leaning against a grey wall, I had to set my ISO to 400 and my aperture to f/3.5.  Normally I shoot at ISO 100 f/9.  Hmmm, maybe I’ll make a second light. 

Bottomline, I now have another lighting option in studio and I get to play with a continuous light panel.  Now to name it – the BCLP (Brokaw Cheap Light Panel)!

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