DIY: Soft Light Panel - Basics (Part 1 of 3)

DIY: Light Panel-Basics_001Soft Light Panel... Oh well lot of people have been building these through out a lot of blogs and today I present you all with a quick and easy version that you can assemble in less than 5 minutes and you can even carry it around to your assignments.

This is a very portable version and will last for almost all your life. I can't give you no life time guarantee but at least, if you won't fall on it it will last for long.

I decided to make the DIY: Soft Light Panel in 3 parts first because it would not be a very long blog to read, second because I would like to show you some more things you can add to improve it and last I would like to share with you some of the things you can be doing with this.

In order for the parts be homogeneous and related they will be called:

DIY: Soft Light Panel - Basics (Part 1 of 3)
DIY: Soft Light Panel - Small Improvements (Part 2 of 3) - Soon
DIY: Soft Light Panel - Functionality (Part 3 of 3) - Soon

The first picture show you the lighting setup used to photograph the parts of the Light Panel and I use a Nikon SB26 1/4 at 24mm pointing up to the ceiling through white the umbrella.

DIY: Light Panel-Basics_002

Here are the parts you need to assemble this baby. I included references in case you wanna search them on a near local hardware store.

- 6 PVC tubes, 1 meter each and already cut, D32 (diameter) from LeRoy Merlin ref. 3351840266437 (1,60 € each)
- 4 PVC corner joints 87º30 FF D32 also from LeRoy Merlin ref.3343340463201 (0,65 € each)
- 2 PVC straight joints FF D32 also from LeRoy Merlin ref.3343340465106 (0,20 € each)
- 2 Pack of 4 clamps bough on a cheap Chinese shop (1,00 € each pack)
- 1 sheet of white and/or black fabric 1,25 m (L) x 2,10 m (H) from Hornbach (5,00 €/meter)

Total cost for each panel: +- 25,00 €

For quite a long time I've been searching for the PVC tubes around Luxembourg and I also got one thinner version from the lighting equipment division store but it looked to shaky and fragile for my taste.

I think these one's are the good thing for the Soft Light Panel to be built onto, they are not very large and they are so good to carry on.

DIY: Light Panel-Basics_003

A closer look to the PVC pipes, joints and white and black fabric. For the fabric I looked around and found one fabric of very bright white that is use to make curtains. This is a straight one, with no designs or shapes.

A word of advise on this matter... take your strobe with you and try it out behind a small piece of the fabric. Do not choose it too transparent or the light will pass by through it without creating the Soft look we want. The black one chose one the same way this will be use to block or absorb the light when needed.

DIY: Light Panel-Basics_004

I did not bother putting the assembly part design photos since I think any one that's reading my blog will know the basics of joining something like this together. It's just straight forward not too much brain needed.

DIY: Light Panel-Basics_005

This is how the cheap Chinese clamps I mentioned before look like. Don't buy those fancy ones since this would not be used as brute force or something. They will be use to attach the fabric to the tubes at some parts of the Panel so that the fabric will stay stretched.

DIY: Light Panel-Basics_006

Hey here is the panel assembled... took me less than 5 minutes to build it a put it up. It took me longer though to write this on the blog ;)

Can you see the clamps on the panel? I did this on purpose so you can see them clearly.

Before you attach the clamps to the panel stretch the fabric so it looks nice, smooth and with no wrinkles. Oh well, if you don't want to bother doing it just leave it like that since it will not make any difference on the final result ;)

DIY: Light Panel-Basics_007

Here is a shot of the effect that the small SB26 behind the Soft Light Panel can produce.
It was at 1/4 power at 18mm so it can distribute the light soft and evenly.

Let me tell you that this looks like a window like coming into the room... nice and smooth.

DIY: Light Panel-Basics_008

Again I call the agency for some good looking model but then again they sent me this, not so good looking, model :)

Well at least he was a fun guy to work with... hey the model have it sleepers on (oh my god I forgot to change).

Anyway... look how soft the light is and you can see that it produces a evenly light from head to toe.

DIY: Light Panel-Basics_009

Take a closer look. The settings are the same only took this with a 24-70 to get a closer look at my face. Can you see how smooth and wrap around light the Soft Panel produce?

DIY: Light Panel-Basics_010

Thumbs Up!!! I added a silver reflector to the right side to give a small fill.

DIY: Light Panel-Basics_011

Here is the setup shot.

Look closer... Can you see that I have another panel behind this one?

Well this one could be use to prevent the spill light reaching the background or by putting another one on the camera side to prevent lens flare (see why I also bought the Black fabric?) more on that on Part 3 of this series.

This concludes the first part of our series.

DIY: Soft Light Panel - Basics (Part 1 of 3) is a simple process for you to build your own without any scissors or drilling hardware tools except your hands and a little patience.

See you on the next round for some great improvements you could make to your new Soft Light Panel.

Don't miss the next parts:
DIY: Soft Light Panel - Small Improvements (Part 2 of 3)
DIY: Soft Light Panel - Functionality (Part 3 of 3) - Soon


GeoWulf said...

Are you going to add the fact that you can use Elastic Cord through the pipe sections so that you can assemble it even more quickly?

I like to have several panels available.

Which sizes do you recommend?

ruimleal said...

GeoWulf thanks for the comment.

That will be on part2 of the article do not miss it in a couple of weeks.

The best size I think is 1m x 2m this way you can put together many of them creating a wall. More on this in part2.


Anonymous said...

cool panel.

how to keep the panel standing up right?

Anonymous said...

Wow awesome! How do you stand this thing up?

Antonio Correia said...

Go on Rui.
Great stuff man !!!

Anonymous said...

I was waiting for this one Rui! Did you get these from the water section or the electrical section? Geowulf's elastic cord idea is great!

One question though, your pics don't show how the panel stays upright. How did you do that without legs?

Quick quick part 2 & 3 .... :=D

Anonymous said...


This is very similar to the design that Dean Collins came up with and uses PVC for the frame. There is a PDF file that has this and several other designs that he came up with. I could e-mail it to you to use as a reference, if you'd like.

ravin said...

yeah, that's what I'm interested in as well, how do you keep the panel standing?

ruimleal said...

bbphotova, thanks for the comment.

I have the pdf file and was based on it that I made this one. Do not miss the part 2 for improvements on this simple one.
This one is just a basic one that you can assemble without gluing or sewing this is just a buy and assemble piece.

Thanks for the comment.


Unknown said...

Hey There,
Love this idea,great job.
Think I will build one,but I plan to use white velcro straps to hold the panel to the PVC.


Anonymous said...

Obrigado Rui!

Por vezes temos mesmo de ver como é fácil construir as peças que nos parecem tão caras e quase inatingíveis!

Adoro o teu trabalho e vou promover este blog junto de uma mini comunidade que dá pelo nome de IRIS-Movimento fotográfico de Lisboa

Anonymous said...

Hi this is a great tutorial! Perfect for me!

Tell me though, is it sturdy being 2m high? Would one be able to put a middle bar in or would this interfere with the photo result (would a middle bar shadow be noticable?)?

I'm just thinking if one assistant were using this like a scrim and holding it, it might start bending or drooping?

Unknown said...

Olá Rui.

Hoje tentei fazer um fundo usando as tuas intruções. No entanto a minha tentativa saiu frustada porque não consegui tensão nos elásticos suficiente para que a estrutura ficasse rija. Como resolveste este problema?

ruimleal said...

A tensão nos elásticos consegues através do cabo flexivel que tens que cortar num comprimento inferior ao total da estrutura.