A couple months ago, I made myself a fun little DIY project.
See, as a food blogger and photographer, it is imperative to have good light when photographing food so that it looks as appetising as possible. Unfortunately, with living in the great white north, the daylight hours get shorter and shorter during the winter time and there is little light to be had when it's time for me to make dinner. Since everything on this blog is actually what I eat, I don't make special meals at special times just for the blog. What you see is what gets eaten about 10 minutes after I finish taking photographs of it.
With dusk and darkness coming at about 4:30ish pm now, it's not feasible for me to be making dinner for the family at 3 just so that I have enough natural light to photograph with.
In comes the DIY Lowel Ego Light box! I'm all about saving money and love a good DIY now and again so when I saw the price of one actual Lowel Ego Light box (ahem… over $100!!), I set out on a mission to recreate that kind of light but at a fraction of the price. Everyone in the food blog world swears by the Lowel Ego Light for nighttime photography but, personally, I could not quite justify the cost.
I knew that all I really needed to re-create daylight in a nighttime setting was… ding, ding, ding… daylight bulbs. Which can be incredibly hard to find because they are not something that you would use in a regular lamp in your home. On top of being a little more expensive than a regular bulb.
So I headed to my local Meijer to see if I could get most of the supplies I needed before heading to the big box hardware store for all the other stuff I couldn't find. Low and behold, Meijer sold daylight bulbs! And they were 1/2 the cost of purchasing them at Lowe's or Home Depot. Score!
The only things I ended up purchasing at Lowe's was the ceiling light panel and the dual socket adapter. Everything else was purchased at Meijer for very cheap – and I'm sure that you could find it at Walmart or similar, or just get everything at the hardware store.
Let's get to the DIY!
- White foam board
- Ikea hemma light cord
- 2 pack – 100 watt daylight bulbs (about 6500K)
- Dual socket adapter
- Ceiling Light Panel (optional for light diffusion)
- Marker or pen
- Exacto knife or box cutter
- Ruler or L-square
Start by marking 2 parallel lines of equal distance from the edge. I measured and marked 11 inches from the edge on each side and made lines with the L-square – because I'm slightly OCD and it needs to be perfect and exact. Then take the little ring screw cap off of the hemma light cord set and mark a circle in between your lines where you will cut for the socket opening.
Yes, there are two circles there… I made a mistake the first time because it wasn't centered enough for me so I had to make another so that it would be exact.
After you lines are drawn, take your box cutter or exacto knife and carefully cut out the center hole, making sure to cut all the way through the foam core. Discard your cut circle.
Then carefully cut down the two parallel lines making sure to not cut all the way through the foam board. You are essentially trying to make a tri-fold board but with a very small center and larger “wings” to bounce light.
Now, fold the board on your cut lines and the board should crease where you made the cuts.
Go ahead and push the hemma light socket through the hole, with the ring still off, then reattach the ring at the front securing the socket into place.
Then, screw your dual socket adapter into place.
And attach your light bulbs.
At this point you can test it to make sure it works and to see how much diffusion you would like to have.
If you purchased the ceiling light panel, go ahead and cut to to size and then tape it to the foam board to make a triangle shape with the light.
If you didn't purchase the light panel, you can use a plain white sheet or similar to diffuse the light so it's not so harsh when photographing.
And you're done! This might have been one of the easiest DIY projects that I have ever done and seriously took me about 10 minutes to make one board from start to finish.
- White foamboard — $1.79
- Ikea hemma light cord – Free because I already had them, but they are usually about $9.99 each
- 2 pack – 75 watt daylight bulbs (about 65ooK) — $4.49
- Dual socket adapter — $2.68
- Ceiling Light Panel — $8.97
- For 1 box — $27.92
- For 2 Boxes — $46.87
It actually cost me $26.89 to make two boxes because I already had the light cords from Ikea but if you do not have them then it will cost you about $46 to complete the project. If you want to make 2, and I highly recommend going this route, then you will need two of everything. I started with making just one and then wanted another so I had to go out and get more supplies – except for the ceiling light panel because it is large enough for 2 boxes.
And $46 for two boxes is still quite a significant price improvement over purchasing the real Lowel Ego Light boxes which retail for over $100 each.
No go ahead and start shooting and not be afraid of the darkness with food photography!
I have not used the lights enough to get some great “before and after” shots, but I promise that I will add it to my to-do list and get it done this week!