How to Make a Fluorescent Lighting Setup for Less Than $200

Here’s a tutorial by photographer Joe Edelman that teaches how you can build a studio lighting setup with fluorescent lights for under $200. You can find a detailed parts list over in the description of the video on YouTube.

Once you’ve built the rig, you can move onto this next tutorial in which Edelman shows how to get the most out of it. It’s pretty amazing how much you can do with his setup:

Here’s a sample photograph by Edelman:

(via ISO 1200 via DYIP)

  • Stephan Zielinski

    I sat through it, so you don’t have to:

    Use a large number of cheap conventional fluorescents.  Set camera to use “fluorescent” white balance.  Shoot at 1/125 seconds or longer to lessen flicker effects.  You’ll have color problems, but you can just fix them in post-production, right?

    Coming up next: how to pour rain out of a boot.

  • Steve Gibson

    Thanks for the saved 5 mins stephen

  • Philip Han

    Key word: LIGHT OUTPUT.

    I’m sure your studio, littered with a dozen random fluorescent lights will look very professional and be a breeze to use.

    Sure your way is the easiest to setup on a whim but <$200 isn't all that much to spend on an amateur lighting setup that requires little to no setting up each time you shoot.

  • Stephan Zielinski

    You missed the “I sat through it, so you don’t have to” bit.  My second paragraph summarizes the lighting and workflow Mr. Edleman is suggesting in his videos.

    Were I to make any suggestions along these lines, they wouldn’t necessarily match his.  In particular, it’s unwise to hope your camera’s installed settings for “fluorescent” light matches the fluorescents you’re under.  Fluorescents are not of a muchness; similarly-named bulbs from different times and manufacturers use different phosphors, and so have different peaks in different places.  (Check out Some data on commonly available fluorescent tubes.) I’d advise that when one must shoot under fluorescents, shoot RAW and be sure to image a gray card; you’ll need it in post to try to get a handle on the proper color balance.    Not that one can put TOO much faith in the gray card results; low-CRI bulbs have sharply discontinuous spectra, which has unpredictable effects.  Just expect to spend extra time in post and hope for the best.

  • EkkapolBobbyMoo

    Save cost. So cool.

  • Cuteseal

    Somewhat related, although they go about in a different way: (think cheap and cheerful)

  • Ndt

    Its a good very basic tutorial, but just to nit-pick. 2 strip front lighting is not ‘butterfly’ lighting. Butterfly lighting is known to be soft overhead source like a large silk diffusion, which gives a butterfly pattern under the subjects nose. 


    I wish he’d have invested the money he saved in a decent microphone.

  • Nathan Caulford

    “You can tell it’s butterfly lighting by the catch lights.” …and in my mind I’m thinking, yeah because of the butterfly shadow… WHA? CATCH LIGHTS?!

  • fluorescent covers

    Whoa. That’s actually pretty good. Really, not bad at all. Most of them cost somewhere around 300-500 bucks, the very good ones at least.