Homemade Fluorescent Bulb Ring Light

Here’s a variation to the ringlight project of Joseph Holst which used plywood and a set of 8 incandescent bulbs to make the ring.

Robert Starr from Australia shares with us his own version of the project using one circular fluorescent bulb instead of the 8 incandescents to provide a continuous ring of light reflected in the subject’s eyes.

The project seems quite straightforward and looks pretty quick to accomplish, even easier than the 8-bulb ring light because there is only one light involved. Bob says the 32W fluorescent bulb gives the equivalent light of a 100W incandescent, compared to the 8-bulb ring light which burns a total of 800W when using 100W bulbs.

His materials are: a circular fluorescent bulb, a ballast, a starter, a rocker switch, some wires and some wood.

The first thing he did was to assemble and check the electrical components to make sure that the circuit was working well.

Light test

Light is OK, circuit is working

Next is creating the wooden housing. He makes a circular hole on a piece of square plywood that will hold the fluorescent bulb, making sure that the hole is a bit smaller than the inner diameter of the ringlight. Then he makes the wooden box that will hold the fluorescent ballast and assembles the whole wooden structure together. In hindsight, Bob says he should have used thicker plywood to hold the ringlight as this one in the photo is a little too thin.

The electrical parts are screwed in place into the base of the box making sure that the screws do not penetrate the bottom to minimize any chance of anybody getting in contact with electricity. The little part of the circuit that holds the starter goes up through the middle and plugs into place on the bulb. This is important to note as you should orient the bulb so that the connector is at the bottom in the center. The circular bulb is tied firmly into place by wires.

Then the wooden assembly is given a good paint job, black at the back and white in front.

Then the final assembly is lighted and ready for action.

Final assemblyReady for shooting

The result: a nice pair of ringlights reflected on Karen’s eyes.

Ringlight sample photo

Thanks to Robert Starr for this tutorial. You can see details of this project here.

Chris Malinao

About Chris Malinao

Chris teaches Lightroom as workflow software to photography students at the FPPF, Federation of Philippine Photographers Foundation. He also teaches smartphone photography.

One thought on “Homemade Fluorescent Bulb Ring Light

  1. Everett

    Lovely tutorial here. Many thanks for the idea. I worked my own up last night and came up with something costing a little less than what was used here. I think my grand total was around $20! Here’s a link to one of the first batch of shots I took with the new rig. http://www.flickr.com/photos/vrttsllvn/2546307173/ Feel free to send me a message on Flickr if you want some more info on the specifics.


Pentacon Practica MTL 3 35mm Film Camera w/Hanimar 1:2.8 f=135mm Lens German picture
Pentacon Practica MTL 3 35mm Film Camera w/Hanimar 1:2.8 f=135mm Lens German
Hanimar Telephoto Lens #20515 F/3.5 135mm Vintage *no lens caps picture
Hanimar Telephoto Lens #20515 F/3.5 135mm Vintage *no lens caps
Vintage Hanimar Auto
Vintage Hanimar Auto "S" Camera Lens f=135mm 1:2.8
Super 8 Hanimex Loadmatic MP-303 Hanimar Lens 1969 Hi End Camera Nice Shape picture
Super 8 Hanimex Loadmatic MP-303 Hanimar Lens 1969 Hi End Camera Nice Shape
Hanimex 35SL SLR Film Camera w/ with Hanimar 1:2.8 f=35mm Lens and Instructions picture
Hanimex 35SL SLR Film Camera w/ with Hanimar 1:2.8 f=35mm Lens and Instructions