Lowel Ego lighting system that goes for around 250$ with shipping on Amazon.

See demos of how it works HERE and HERE.

Ours cost less than $10 including the bulbs! We built it mainly from materials lying around in our garage. It’s kinda goofy looking but works great for food and for the price, UNBEATABLE.

The subject of lighting is often a sensitive topic between the Jugalbandits. We have been struggling to get a satisfactory solution for a while now, but my guess is that it may never get there.

Every now and then, B will say – “J, I have bookmarked 19.5 sites with gobs of information about this and that and the other…and we need to get these right now.” While she is extolling the virtues of heavenly light, my eyes are busy staring at the price – going – “That looks like a piece of cr.. plastic wound around a board” or “That’s just an umbrella without a handle mounted on a rod with tiny legs. I can make that.” At this point B could just about kill me and anybody within 50ft.

If you haven’t figured out by now (or from a previous post on camera remotes and another on lens reversal), I like it a bit on the el cheapo side. Some times my ideas are …let’s just say ideas and the result is more agony and frustration. However, one notable success is a pair of table lights that I built a few months ago.


Things we already had lying around are marked with an asterisk.

* Particle Board, 40cm width (16 inch) – 1
Standard Light socket – 1
* Electrical wire
Electrical Plug – 1
Cross stitch plastic board – 1 (available at Hancock, JoAnn or any fabric store)
* Translucent white paper (we used cling film put on windows for privacy)
* 0.5cm diameter dowel rod – 100cm (3+ feet)
100W Energy saver bulb (this produces less heat than regular filament bulbs)
* some kitchen twine
* adhesive tape


Table Saw (Optional. See step 1 below)
Stapler and staples

How to make them:
1) Cut grooves into particle board about 0.5cm (1/5th inch) deep. I cut them at an angle of about 15 deg on my table saw. This is not essential. The groove makes subsequent steps a bit easier, but is not necessary.

2) Drill a small hole in the center of the board where the light socket will be attached.

3) Cut three 30cm (1 foot) pieces from a wooden dowel rod – diameter about 0.5 to 0.75cm (1/4 inch will work fine). Drill three holes about 2cm from the bottom of the board to match the diameter of the dowel rod.

4) Attach a regular bulb socket to the board and attach the wire to the socket and the plug at the other end.

5) Staple translucent paper onto a white cross stitch plastic board.

6) Slip the cross stitch board into the grooves of the particle board and secure it using a piece of kitchen twine by threading the twine through the cross stitch board. If no grooves were made, just bend the the cross stitch board and attach to the particle board using some strong tape prior to securing with the twine. This is not ideal but it will work.

7) Insert the dowel rod for a snug fit. The rods can be moved around a bit. This is helpful if the light needs to rest on some other object and kept at a funny angle.

In my case, I had everything except the bulb, bulb socket, plug, and cross stitch board. It took about an hour of assembly. Be creative with stuff that is lying around. For inspiration, surf a bit. You’ll be surprised at the amount of lighting DIY projects out there.

B has been eyeing a Macro flash. These things are fantastic, but they also come with a hefty price tag. My thinking cap is on.

Shots taken with this lighting setup:

Edited to add: I had originally thought of using two cross stitch boards and sliding them over each other to create different intensities of light by making use of the perforations, but this didn’t quite work out. With this setup it is not possible to regulate the light, since flourescent bulbs cannot be used with a dimmer switch. Swap it with a filament bulb and use a dimmer switch for added flexibility.


Filed Under: , , , , , ,



  1. Nirmala says:

    Once trying this I have a few questions:
    1. I could not get the plastic sheet and the translucent sheet. Instead I used a dhoti cloth. Any recommendations of fabric available commonly for this ? I can buy fabric rather than these from nearby shop!
    Thanks in advance Jai!

    cross stitch board, parchment paper, or maybe you don’t need any lining.

  2. [...] sent me this link that was an article on food lighting, from the blog jugalbandi, which details the construction process quite nicely.  My husband decided to make me the lights [...]

  3. Shaheen says:

    This is absolutely brilliant. Thank you for the step by step tutorials. :)

  4. Rurie says:

    Thank you for sharing, this is just what I need right now :)

  5. [...] things to do, for ages. Actually in Sep ‘08, when the merry bandits @ Jugalbandi posted this DIY post for table-top lighting, I bookmarked it for DH to make. But flights & fog have kept him far too [...]

  6. [...] develop work arounds. Some folks buy fancy lighting equipment and tripods. If you are handy like Jai, you can make your own lighting setup. My problem is that I have no space to keep lighting equipment, nor time to pull it out and set it [...]

  7. [...] USA sperando in un non salasso doganale…ho rinunciato…anche perchè ho trovato un bel tutorial su come costruire in casa qualcosa di molto simile, che non è perfetto, ma aiuta [...]

  8. Melinda says:

    What a wonderful and economical idea! I am hoping to take better pictures for my blog. Thanks

  9. deez says:

    Could you move the lights further to decrease intensity? That’s assuming you have the room to move it. Or use one with a reflector on the other side perhaps?

  10. [...] little googling turned up a few enterprising souls who chose to make DIY version of the lights and I decided to experiment with [...]

  11. Tu Quasdorf says:

    I have been to your site before. Beautiful boudoir photo. IMHO you have a informative port

  12. Marisa says:

    I bow before the master! Had a look at those lowell lights too, but they don’t ship here. :-/ Thanks so much for sharing your el cheapo version – I’ll be giving my engineer husband a new project…

rss email

  • Archives

  • Categories