Super Bright DIY Portable LED Panel
A portable LED lighting panel can really come in handy for photography and video work, so today we're going to make a DIY version which is super useful, yet easy to make. So I'm constantly taking photos and video of things I'm working on, of projects, food, of myself for vlogging, Instagram etc... And one thing that's always a little tricky is lighting, especially if you'd like to photograph something in the evening. If it's kind of dark, then most photos and videos can get an orangy color and it just doesn't look very crisp. Also, if you're on the go and you're not in control of the setting, lighting can often be problematic. So I thought, what I and many other people really need is a small portable lighting panel.
These are the things I thought was important:
The panel needs to be:
- small, light and portable so I can bring it along with me in my bag or pocket.
- simple, yet functional design
- durable, so if I drop it on the ground it doesn't break and shatter
- lighting also needs to be distributed and balanced, I'm not talking about building a flash light, I want it to shine evenly on your face or your dinner plate, or whatever you want to shoot.
This is a pretty simple project, you do however need to do some soldering which is not very difficult, you'll need a way to cut some plastic, and you'll need a way to drill some holes.
Now let's do this!
So I started cutting up some polycarbonate on the table saw, and I like this material because it's light and durable, yet it doesn't crack or shatter. I need three pieces for this build so I'm cutting that to size, and then sanding the corners so they're not so sharp.
Next I'm drilling holes in all the corners and I've got a little jig set up, so I've got the three pieces of plastic stacked, and then I can drill through all of them to make them identical, so they'll line up later.
Also drilling holes for the wires to go through in the middle piece.
Now to power this, I was first thinking of using double A batteries and I did a test. However I thought this was a little too clumpsy and heavy, and I wanted this unit to be light. And that brought me to these coin cell lithium ion batteries.
So first of all I have these holders for coin cell batteries which I got online, and I'll leave links in the description. So all in all I need 12 volts cause I'm using LED strips, and these coin cell batteries each provide 3 volts, so I'm wiring four holders together in series to get 12 volts. So doing a little soldering to connect it all. And then of course testing it out with batteries to make sure everything is good.
Now for the actual lights, I'm using these 12 volt LED strips. So I'm cutting 5 strips, each with 9 lights. And the whole idea here is that I want a very distributed light, where it's not focused like a flash light
So just taking the plastic off so I can stick the light to the middle planel which has the holes drilled through. And I'm just positioning these in the middle, and then I'm connecting all the positives together on one side, and all the negatives on the other, and I'm simply using one wire, that I'm curving here and then soldering each point down. And I was trying to make it really neat and clean, and then just pulling the wires towards the backside through the hole.
I also have a little switch here that I need to connect, so soldering together the positive line with the positive side of the battery holders. Then connecting the negative side of the batteries to the light, and it's one circle. And to attach the battery holders on the back here I'm just using hot glue.
Now I want to be able to use this in a couple of different ways, either by holding by hand, or by attaching it to a hot shoe of a camera, or to set it up on a tripod. So first I checked what's the size of a standard hot shoe, and it seemed like 1/16 of an inch would fit, so I got some 1/16 inch angled aluminum which I marked and cut out on the band saw.
So that fits in nicely, then I marked two holes, and drilled one hole one each side on the drill press, and then I tapped one of the holes for 1/4 - 20 threads which fit a standard tripod mount.
Then I could assemble everything. So removing all the protective plastic, and I drilled an additional hole in the polycarbonate, then I attached the metal mount with a screw and a nut, and then I put the whole unit together, with some spacers, m3 screws, and lock washers.
I also added a little painters tape to the metal mount to make the fit on the camera shoe a touch tighter. So then just trying it out here, on the camera, and on the tripod.