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How to Make Your Own Desktop V-Card Video Lights

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Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial you will learn how to make a really cool desktop video light that works great for Skype, Google Hangouts On Air, Video Podcasts, Live Streams, and more! It doesn’t require any fancy video gear, stands, umbrellas, or softboxes and it will fit comfortably on most desks. (Well, you messy folks may have to clear a space!)


Everything you need except the CFL lamps can be purchased at your local discount store. If you’re are not the outside type, I have included the Amazon links.


You'll need some heavy duty duct tape, preferably in white. I used black for the tutorial because taping a white box with white tape is not really very informative or interesting to look at.

White Duct Tape will make your project look pro DIY! Duct Tape, derejeb /PhotoDune.

This is clear, but it should work great if you can’t find white!

Foam Board

I used sheets of 20 inch by 28 inch white foam board. It was $6 at my local Walmart. Foam board on Amazon: 

YOU WANT YOUR BOARD TO BE ABOUT THIS BIG!!! White Board yanikphoto /PhotoDune.

Light Fixture

I used a basic clamp light rated for 150w, which is fine. If you want a beefier one look for a ceramic socket version.

Socket splitter

Double up on your output with a socket splitter! Do be careful screwing this into the cheap clamp lights. Those sockets have perilously thin metal threads and you can easily jam up the treads by trying to force it.

Good-Quality Light Bulbs

CFL is a cool choice. Get it? fluorescent tube, jeancliclac /PhotoDune.

I saved the most important thing till last. Sure, you could get any old lamp at your local hardware or home improvement store to fit this project. The problem is the color. First, daylight colored CFLs seem to be the least popular for household lighting and most of what you will find is the “warm white” color lamps. These are gross. You want daylight because these will have the best CRI, or color rendering index.

CRI is a rating of how well a light source reproduces colors. Most of what you’ll find in the local shops is will be around 80 CRI, or it won’t be listed (which usually means not great). 80 is what I could consider the minimum for household use. For photo and video you want 90 or better. The best lights I have seen are KinoFlo, at 96 CRI. These are what I normally use, but they are expensive! Even for a basic 26w Edison lamp you are looking at $25 a pop! I have used them, and they are great, but I am sure you want a more wallet friendly option right? Well, I have found one!

BlueMax lighting is where you want to start. For this tutorial I used a total of three of the 26w CFLs from BlueMax. They claim a CRI of 93+ and I would say that’s probably pretty close. They are bluer than Kino lamps, but with a daylight white balance, they look really nice on camera.

You will also need something to hold these lights steady once they are built. With the lights on top, they are top-heavy and can be knocked over without too much trouble. I used a rock. Extra points for fancy looking rocks. Anything reasonably weighty that you don’t have to move will work just as well.


You will also need some basic tools like a utility knife, strait edge, something for making square corners (I used a steel framing square), and a pencil. 

Remember to be safe. Don’t plug your light in until you have everything put together! Have fun!

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