DIY Kino Flo Alternative for Awesome Headshot Lighting

About a week ago, Winnipeg-based photographer Tristan Shea Penner made quite a splash in the DIY world by releasing the above video about his DIY alternative to the Kino Flo lights that iconic headshot photographer Peter Hurley uses. People were intrigued by the quality of the portraits Penner was getting with his rig, while managing to keep it semi-portable at the same time. The only problem was that the video didn’t get specific on how to build the rig for yourself, so Penner put together a full set of instructions that he’s now posted on his website.

The results he’s getting with the lights are pretty impressive for a DIY rig, and when you consider the price difference between building this and buying a set of Kino Flo lights ala Peter Hurley there’s really no contest for us financially challenged folk. For more information head over to Tristan’s website or check out the full pdf instruction booklet by clicking here.

(via DIYPhotography)

  • Pierre Ekman

    Nicely done!

  • Daniel Lisbona

    if you see how flat the pictures look… i dont know… there is also to much shadow in the eye.

    he must put the light sources closer to each other…

    sorry but i dont like .. look so ugly

  • Juanita W. Profit

    the full pdf instruction booklet by clickinghere. 

  • Nicklevanti

     Oh please.

  • Jrmobile2011

    Yep…needs tweaking. Good idea but definitely not good enough result after hauling all that stuff to someone’s space. As mentioned the light sources need to be closer together and a pleasing ratio between them needs to be worked for a paying client.

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  • Michael Darnton

    One thing I notice these days is that ideas about technology are cheap, but ideas about art are rare. This kind of lighting on a wide face? Fifty years ago EVERY portrait photographer would know she’d come out looking like a beachball. No shadows = no nose? That’s another serious problem.

    The lighting *machine* is interesting; the lighting, however, is simply bad. Not just a little bad: really bad.

  • jdm8

    Why fluorescent?   Spools of LEDs can be bought inexpensively, and they’re much less fragile than fluorescent bulbs, as well as a lot more flexible in terms of overall fixture shape.

  • Jeremy

    The reason why ideas about art are “rare” as you say, is because the “art community” is plagued with people like you, who determine what ideas are good or bad based on opinions that were formed 50 years ago regarding what looked best. Art is interpretive by nature, with no rules or policies. There are methods which allow for a more pleasing appearance, based on a commonly accepted list of rules. But there are those who choose to break the rules (or not even follow any) and come out with great photography as a result of not being bound by anything.

    How, precisely, does one come up with new ideas by following rules? You cannot. Rules restrict ideas by nature. You cannot complain about lack of ideas while also referring to age-old methods.

  • henfana

  • bob

    hot model! 

  • Mansgame

    Not very impressive.  You can buy a monolight and umbrella for $120 if you look for one.  It will do the job the way it was meant to be, have controllable power, and because it’s a strobe, it will freeze motion too. 

  • Michael Darnton

    So you like faces that look like beachballs, with no nose. Good luck selling that to your customers. Some ideas are ALWAYS bad ones. 

  • Jeremy

    Re-read my comment, Michael. Nowhere did I mention my opinion regarding the technique in this article. I’m simply pointing out the error in your thought process pertaining to new ideas.

    I do not like this style of lighting, and would never use it myself. But at least this individual is busy advancing his knowledge through applied photography.

    And I, for one, wouldn’t be throwing stones when you’ve got such a poorly done headshot on your website. Your products look well built, but the photography (and lighting!) does no justice!

  • SchonPhotography

     LED’s are a unidirectional light source. Florescent lighting gives you 360 degrees of light, therefore softer and more even light across a subject without need for modifiers.
    I find the comments here a bit amusing (see those above and below) as people acting as experts comment with their criticism as to how the system could be bettered. Florescent has a very specific look to it. True, it can be emulated, but not without much more work and light modifiers.

    Check out the work of Joe Edelman, an award winning modeling, fashion, advertising and editorial photographer who uses florescents extensively in his work. He also has a video on how he makes his florescent rig and the applications of it. A link to his website and video are found (part 1): (part 2):

  • SchonPhotography
  • MannDaryl

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  • Hochzeitzfotograf

    I like DIY Stuff, but this doesn’t look nearly awesome like hurrleys light and portraits.
    Keep on working on it ;-)

  • Joseph

    It’s an excellent setup. So what if you’re not budgeted to pull of a Hurley shoot… you took what you had and made good use of it. Now all the critics have their pretentious opinions to offer, yet all that you had to do was shroud the lights on the left side of her face and when you laid your shots next to Hurley’s, they wouldn’t have seen the difference if you hadn’t told them that they were shot by two different photographers. Good job and good on you for posting something that amateurs can play with, without having to spend a fortune.

  • Magic

    Pictures are looking flat because of the lens, not the light. For this kind of shooting 120mm-135mm lens its a must. You can try with 100mm macro lens as well.

    The light itself you can adjust, as the author said it’s a prototype light setup and he probably still working on the adjustments.

    Very nice peace of work! I never tried kino flo lights, but you convinced me to make one panel for testing.