Super-easy macro ringlight to make
Ringlights are neato because they produce shadowless lighting for macro shots. But I couldn’t afford one – they are usually over two hundred bucks.
Then I happened to be browsing the aisles in Wal-Mart and saw this Ozark Trails camp light, and smiled broadly. With minor modifications it makes a dandy ringlight. It runs on plain old AA batteries and uses 24 white LEDs. Here’s a first sample result:
So here’s one for seven dollars instead of two or three hundred, and it gives very professional results. The modification is pretty much just a matter of moving the switch and enlarging the hole so it fits around your lens. Since the thing is made of soft plastic, this is easy. Here it is over the lens of my Canon S5-IS:
The switch was very close to the center hole. So I drilled a 1/4-inch hole farther from the center and hot-glued the switch into it. Then I used a coarse-toothed half-round file to enlarge the hole, touched up with a box knife (careful!). Other good tools would be a hole saw + drill-press, or a sheet-metal nibbler from Radio Shack. Or a scroll saw or a fine-toothed coping saw – it doesn’t matter much because the plastic is very soft.
Other suggested modifications include taping colored plastic over some of the lights to modify the color balance (I shot this picture with the white-balance set to “cloudy day”), or cutting up a cheap page-reading fresnel lens to make a centering filter.
Once the ringlight is around the camera lens, I just hold it in place with my fingers, though a couple dots of Velcro™ would be more convenient.
Clearly, it isn’t a substitute for a $350 Sunpak ringlight that you would use for fashion photography (the LED’s are not bright enough, and should be closer to the lens’ center axis) but for seven bucks, it’s great for small subjects. At some time in the future I’ll build one from scratch.