5 Shopping Cart
Your cart has been updated

Cover image via

Tips for Building DIY Lighting Setups for Under $100

Robbie Janney

Don’t have enough funds to purchase high-priced lighting kits? Try out using some of these cheaper methods to get your lighting right.

One of the core principles of a skillful shot is the use of good lighting. Here’s the problem, though – lighting equipment can be pretty expensive. When you set up a typical interview shot, you’ll probably use 3 different lights to set your key, back, and fill. Each of those lights can cost around $200 each, which will stretch your budget to more than some people can afford.

Not to worry, though, my wonderful penny pinchers. The folks over at ShareGrid have a few ways to incorporate everyday lighting systems to achieve quality light production by using cheap work lights, foam board, and even Christmas lights.

Work/Clamp Lights

Tips for Building DIY Lighting Setups for Under $100 — Clamp Lights

For anyone who’s been on a construction site or has a quirky friend who likes utilitarian design, you’ve probably seen these lights before. These cheap tin lights cost only about 9 dollars each and can do some serious work for their low cost. These aren’t the prettiest lights, but you can spruce them up by choosing the type of bulb you put in them. Use tungsten bulbs for a warmer color, or LED bulbs if you want more of a white temperature. Since these bulbs don’t have a dimmer setting, the wattage of your bulb will determine how powerful the light will be.

Foamcore Board

Ahh, the foamcore board, a gaffer’s best friend. It’s one of the simplest ways to get diffusion in your lighting set up. When using the work lights mentioned above, the light from them will be harsh and unappealing. To soften the light, direct it at a foam board and use the reflected light as your key. The light will spread out more evenly and create a prettier light.

Shower Curtain

Possibly one of the more underutilized lighting additions out there, the shower curtain creates a thin matte for your reflected light to diffuse it even more. When you add the shower curtain to the reflected light off of the foam core board, you create a system called a “book light”, which takes a small, hard source of light and makes it a large, broad, even source of light.

Christmas Lights

I for one never thought I would use Christmas lights in my shots unless they were there for a practical use. But, if you are looking for a really simple way to spruce up your fill light, these small lights can create a soft, mellow glow that can compliment your key very nicely. Make sure to hang them on a poster board directed at your subject so you can use their reflect all of their lighting power towards your subject, and you don’t lose any to the back.

Parchment Paper and Screen Material

You don’t want your back light to create a hard line on your subject’s outline. You want a soft, even light that compliments the others in your setuo. Try pointing one of your lights at a combination of parchment paper and screen material. This will break up the direct light and add a smoother back light to your subject.


No need to buy more lights. Just double your output by reflecting an already existing light in your system through a mirror! To pull this off, set up your mirror on a stand and try and find a reflective angle of one of your lights. Try and point it to the back of your subject for a second back light. It’s not going to be enough light to be used as a key or fill, but it’s just enough to create a complimentary back light on your subject.

4K Lens Flares
Create a Hollywood look in your videos with this curated collection of 100+ lens flares in 4K.