DIY Project: Build Your Own Unique Ring Light

DIY Project: Build Your Own Unique Ring Light

Last weekend, my buddy David Cross who works with our friends over at BorrowLenses sent me a text that he was building something unusual and really cool. When he sent me the photos after he finished his project, I was immediately excited. His DIY ring light (which they are calling the spider light, tentatively) not only leaves really unusual catch lights, but is easy and fun to build. Ok, so it's not really a "ring" light, but it casts similar light and I don't know what else to compare it to. So let us show you how to make yours!

To make the light, David procured a standard speed ring for speedlights as well as six slim, linkable fluorescent under cabinet lights from The Home Depot. You'll also need six 10mm bolts and a length of flexible 20-gauge metal strap. The 1/8 inch screws are included with the lights. You might also need some electrical tape to keep the cables from getting too dangly. All this will set you back a meager $150, far cheaper than the standard run of the mill ring light and easily ten times as cool looking.

First, David drilled out the six holes originally made for soft box rods and used a tap to thread the holes to 10mm.

He then took the metal strap and drilled out every other hole to 10mm (it comes pre-drilled with 1/8 inch holes). For stability purposes, Dave drilled a second 1/8 inch hold right next to each of the remaining 1/8 inch holes so that the lights would not spin or fall over.

The lights come with a small plastic brace which he attached to the metal strap with two 1/8 inch screws (again, two for stability). When you do this, be careful to not crack the plastic base.

Using the 10mm bolts, David attached the lights with the metal strips to the speed ring.

Once all six lights were in place, he cut the wires to the proper length and connected them together.

That is it! Now you have a really sweet light that you not only built yourself, but casts really great light that looks totally unusual and highly unique. You can see what to expect below:

What does it look like in use? Check it out:

Rim lights were a pair of ikan ID 500 studio lights, which you can also rent here.


The guinea pigs, uh, I mean test subjects... I mean lovely models above are all staff at BorrowLenses: David Cross (blue plaid, blue eyes), Emily Phillips (wearing yellow), Julia Meineke (blonde), Ronald Palarca (sunglasses), and Mark Gurevich (bearded one and owner of BorrowLenses). Product photos and portraits by Jonathan Fleming.

So what do you think? Will this be your weekend project? Let us know in the comments below.

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Josh_Ellis's picture

I think the catchlights look silly. But that's just me. The light on the subjects is good, though.

moe1up!'s picture

I agree...because it's not symmetric, its draws my attention, and then I don't like it. Other than that...nice.

Shannon Wimberly's picture

uuuggh...... hate the catchlights.....

Stefano Druetta's picture

agreed! awful catchlights, and pretty bad quality of light too, it wraps around the subject's face way too much that any dimension is lost..
i think a better result can be reached by using a circular neon light, am i right?

Brandon Magpantay's picture

When I saw the catchlight, I automatically thought of this...

Imperious Images's picture

Maybe it should be used exclusively for music videos...

Jackson Henney's picture

I really like how the lights reflect of the models' eyes. It looks so cool!

Josh Hway's picture

If I shot with this I would likely just clone out the catch lights in the eyes. That is unless it was built for a unique kind of shot where I wanted it. But for the most part, they are pretty distracting.

Otherwise, gotta love homemade photography inventions!!

proma's picture

Catchlight looks weired but could be cool in some situations.

However the light is not as even as with a ringflash. What bothers me the most is that that cheeks and the ears are severely overexposed compared to the rest of the face with is pretty disturbing in my opinion. It's almost like using stripboxes combined to a ringflash! This is probably due to the angle given to the lights, but I'm definitely not a fan of that effect.

Interesting though, I'd love to see the results with lights mounted flat on the same plane, thanks for posting!

Patrick Hall's picture

I know this is DIY and not that expensive, BUT....Mo Money, Mo Problems!

Cool idea but terrible catch lights - not even creative cool!

Tam Nguyen's picture

Yeah, I'm not a huge fan of the asymmetry of the catch light either. 

Nick Schlax's picture

Really great project.  Can't say that I like the catchlights, but the rest of the lighting effect is really nice.  The catchlights on the sunglasses look pretty sweet though.

you can also do cool catchlights with regular strobes and a diy stencil. I did it for the 2011 BTS contest. 

Tam Nguyen's picture

For some odd reason, that catchlight reminds me of pokemon balls.

Alvinus Melius's picture

I'm not a fan of the catchlights

Rocky Castaneda's picture

Catch dark then.

Brad Patrick's picture

Got have on shades to look like the rappers in their videos for these lights.

Devin Skelton's picture

This one light is not the key light source in these images but a fill and used for the catch-light shape. (look at the very top image on this page)  The key lights are on the left and right.  Those are the ones that seem too hot.  It is definitely a "look" for a particular shot and not an everyday portrait light.  For that purpose it is cool!

Christi Nielsen's picture

Don't care for the catchlights. Looks like a cheesy filter.

Ralph Hightower's picture

This article looks weird in Internet Explorer 9. What I think should be photos of the sequence just look like Morse Code.

Jaron Schneider's picture

We noticed that our images are not showing properly in IE9. Try viewing in Chrome, Firefox, or Safari while we get that sorted out. Thanks!

Nathan Hamler's picture

Love the idea, the wiring makes me cringe though :-) 

Michael Kormos's picture

I think it'd be simpler to buy one of those circular fluorescent tubes :-)

i use a ringlight ALL the time. it is made with 14, 60w beauty bulbs. the catchlights are different than this one here, but, i get mixed reviews from my clients, from "WOW! COOL!" to "what the fuck did you put in my kid's eyes". i like the different catchlights here...IF i have to Photoshop them out.

it is different, i say dare to be different, show it to your clients and sell it as a cool effect (Not a defect) and see what happens.

sightworkz's picture

I'm going to have to try this tonight...

Mike Kelley's picture

Am I the only one who actually likes the catchlights? They don't have to be used with every shot, but I think on a few rare occasions it's a pretty cool effect.

Are those wires hand wound together then taped? A pretty dodgy way to go about it if they are. Not something you should be encouraging on a tutorial.  

Erich Aschenbrenner's picture

What if you attached the lights end to end with the metal strips, or attached them all to a hula hoop or something.  You'd end up with a pentagon, hexagon or octagon depending on how big you go, could be cool?

Nuno Rissanen's picture


Sam Red's picture

Awesome project, thanks for stepping out of the beaten path and trying something new...also could be interesting to see the light behind some diffusing cloth or inside a soft box.  By the way those IB500 from ikan are rather nifty and easy to use for "available light" shooters as the light meter is always spot on and you can dial the light output or shift color temp and actually see what it does.