Build your own 42″x78″ free-standing lighting panel for about $40

Light panelThe ability to control the lighting in a location can be the difference between a batch of duds and keepers. Nice light is worth a fortune in lenses. Unfortunately, equipment for controlling light can cost a fortune. With that in mind, a friend of mine recently constructed two free-standing lighting panels out of very inexpensive but sturdy PVC pipe (which you can find at any home improvement store).

He uses the panels for portraits indoors and out. Just set your lights up to shine through the panels and position as desired. In addition, outdoors he’s found they work great as portable shade for his subjects to soften direct sunlight.

The parts list and assembly instructions follow. Also, check out the photo set of the assembly process and finished product.


  • 2x PVC Male Adapter 1/2″ to 3/4″ @ $0.60 each
  • 2x PVC Cap 3/4″ @ $0.32 each
  • 2x PVC elbow 90 1″ @ $0.53 each
  • 2x PVC elbow 1″ with riser insert @ $1.45 each
  • 2x PVC pipe 1″ (Schedule 40 is not necessary) @ $2.50 each
  • 1x PVC pipe 3/4″ @ $1.66 each
  • 1x 42 x 78″ (107 x 198cm) Translucent Panel Fabric @ $29.95 each

As you can see, the most expensive part of this setup is the fabric. You can probably find something cheaper if you look. Even something as simple as throwing a spare white sheet over the frame could do the trick. These panels from Calument are nice though because they fit the frame perfectly and have elastic straps in the corners to hold them on.

Assembly instructions:

Step 1. Cut your pipe into 6 pieces. You will need:

  • 2x 38 3/4 (1″)
  • 2x 74 1/4 (1″)
  • 2x 24″ (3/4″)

Step 2. Clean pipe and fittings with rag and cleaner

Step 3. Assemble frame

Step 4. Attach panel

Step 5. Take some pictures!

By John Watson

John Watson is the original founder of Photodoto. If you're interested in what John has been up to, you can browse his personal blog.


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