I’ve always loved the look of photos taken with a ringlight. About 6 years ago, before my son was born, I built a ringlight using some circular fluorescent lights and a chip and dip bowl from Big Lots. It produced the look I wanted, but the ballast required to power the lights made it a bit heavy and unwieldy.
In November of 2009, a fellow by the name of Jani ‘Japala’ Pönkkö made a cool DIY ringlight using automotive LED rings. Since those LED rings could be battery powered, I thought that would be a good fit for the Lego camera.
For this project, I used the T10 24-LED White Light Car Angel Eye (80mm Diameter) available at dealextreme.com for just $4.86 (shipped!!!), a 9-volt snap connect from Radio Shack and some extra Lego pieces. The total cost of this project is about $6.
I glued the LED ring to a couple of sacrificial Lego blocks using a 5-minute epoxy. Prior to glue up, use some sandpaper to scuff up the surfaces that you will be gluing for extra adhesion. During the glue up, make sure to center the ring around where the lens will be as much as possible. This will ensure that you get even lighting and symmetrical shadows in your photos.
Next I built a little housing for the 9-volt battery I’m using to power the LEDs. I haven’t gotten around to putting an on/off switch into the circuit, but the little connector that comes with the LED ring is easy enough to connect and disconnect that I’m not sure that I will need one.
I didn’t put any diffusion material in front of the LEDs. The iPhone 4 is a decent low-light performer, but I figured I need all the light that these LEDs can provide. Over the next few days, I may experiment with some reflectors to see if I can’t increase the amount of light falling onto the subject. The one minor drawback to not having any diffusion on the LEDs is that you can actually see the shadows caused by the individual LEDs on the ring. It is not a continuous ring so you do not get the smooth shadows of a professional ringlight – and the jpeg compression accentuates the lack of a smooth gradient.
Here are some sample shots with the ringlight.