DIY Light Panel Diffuser

Nerd warning: technical photographic stuff.

I like to build my own photographic devices, whether it’s homemade lenses or lighting equipment. I recently built a large light diffuser panel based on the old ‘Tinker Tubes’ plans. It’s made out of PVC pipe, and cloth I bought from the fabric store. My first test shows that it works nicely! The diffuser drops the light about 2 stops from ‘hard light’, which is pretty good. My umbrellas have about the same performance. I don’t anticipate taking this to the beach, but it’ll be useful for studio or in-home work.

Oh and it cost me about $40 (as opposed to $300) and about three hours of work.

Hey if you want to expand your photographic knowledge in a BIG way, from lighting to composition, marketing, business and all other aspects, head on over to Shoot IQ. Everything you learn there is completely free. Consider it my ongoing “brain dump” as a professional photographer.

First the results. My youngest son, who is always up for a quick portrait shoot.

Light Panel Results

The front side of the diffuser:

'Tinker Tubes' self-standing light panel (front)

And the back side:

'Tinker Tubes' self-standing light panel (rear)

Family Portrait and Wedding Photography for Ventura, CA and all of Southern California, by Matt Haines.

11 thoughts on “DIY Light Panel Diffuser

  1. I am searching the net for diy light panels to determine which i would like to make…this sample looks great. I have seen other results that didn’t look like what i wanted…nice work.

  2. Thanks! Although ultimately I decided to go with a Calumet 4×7′ frame and diffuser instead, since it’s portable, and the diffuser looks much nicer. But for something that didn’t require portability, such as studio use, the PVC version is a contender. And of course you can make it really big, for cheap.

    (another food item donated to FoodShare)

  3. Oh innovative. Nice one. I’m sure some photographers will also copy this idea since it’s cheaper.

  4. Hi Matt
    Just a quick question about the fabric you was using.
    We want to build a BIG soft box for products photos of shiny sanitary ware and are looking for some fabric that will diffuse the light, so no lamps our other stuff shows up in the reflection from the glossy surface.
    I have been thinking about parachute fabric.
    Any suggestions?
    Kind regards
    Ole Andersen

  5. Thanks for your comment, Ole. This post was done quite some time ago, so I don’t remember what fabric I used for this particular diffuser. Parachute (aka “rip-stop”) fabric will work nicely though, as I have used that as a diffuser in more recent years. It does tend to fray at the edges quite severely if you don’t hem the material. I would go with that or something similar, which you can get cheaply from a fabric store.

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