In my quest to get better lighting for building and for photoing, I found these incredible cheap LED strips from HobbyKing. They are 1 meter long and have 60 LED’s, but the best part is that they can be cut every 3 LED’s. So instead of ordering a bunch of LED’s and make my own PCB’s, I decided to buy a couple of these instead.
The strips are very bright and have a nice wide beam-width. They are powered by 12V and give a slighty bluish light. But that’s no problem, I’ll just use a custom white balance when photographing.
I used two 1 meter strips that I cut into 12 LED’s segments. The strips comes with 3M tape on the back so all I did was peel of the covering on the back and attach the 10 strips to a piece of masonite.
I wanted to be able to dim the LED’s to have better control over the lighting when photographing so I made a simple LED dimmer. It’s based on a 555 chip and is very simple to build.
(If you want a copy of my design, just give me a shout and I’ll send you the layout)
Picture borrowed from reuk.co.uk
Here is a schematics of the circuit. I did some modifications to it, like removing the C3 capacitor that’s there for inductive loads. I also used a 20k pot with on/off feature and a bat54SW diode instead of the 1N5148.
I glued on my LED masonite boards to a couple of desktop lamps. This gives me full control over angle, distant and position of the light.
The wide beam-width contributes to a nice even soft lighting with minimum amount of shadow.
I mounted my LED dimmers in the top of the desktop lamps. Now I need to get some knobs.
Here is a sample picture with the new lights. I found that a custom white balance of about 7700 Kelvin gives me the colors I want. The two lights I made were plenty bright enough to take good pictures of small to medium sized items but I need to make a third for photographing airplane builds and such.