DIY Food Photography Lighting

With summer coming to an end, the gloomy fall season in Seattle is fast approaching. (Well, maybe “fast” isn’t the right word. It’s been unusually sunny and dry for the last month and it’s forecasted to be sunny for a while.) Anyways, gloomy weather is sure to hit us at some point in the coming months. Are you ready?

Here in Seattle gloomy weather is commonplace most of the year. Those low-light days really affect the quality of my cookie photos. Bakeat350 and Steamy Kitchen both have raved about the Lowel Ego Table Lamp for solving all their low-light problems with great results. The downside to this light is the hefty price tag.

Being on a budget and fairly new to blogging, I didn’t want to commit to the $104. While researching alternatives, I found this awesome DIY lighting project from Mawoca.  He shows how to do a $30 DIY-option to the $104 Lowel Ego light.

I took a crack at making my own Lowel Ego light following his instructions and I’m so glad I did. It just took a trip to Ikea, Home Depot, and Michaels. It was so easy and cheap that I decided to make two of them!

Here’s my setup: (I have an extra white foam board in the back for more light reflection.)

lowel ego light off

Here’s my setup with them turned on:

lowel ego diy on

An interior shot:

lowel ego diy interior

And all the components:

lowel ego diy components

These lights work magic! The proof is in the photos. You can really see the difference in my blog posts before May 1st of this year (when I made these lights) versus the posts I had after. Look for yourself.

With the lights:


With the lights:


The photos without the lights just seem dull, even after doing some photo-editing to improve them. These DIY Lowel Ego lights brighten the picture quality so that minimal photo-editing is required afterwards.

Whether it be during gloomy, rainy days or just night-time shooting, these budget-friendly lights make your photos great. Thanks Mawoca!

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14 replies on “DIY Food Photography Lighting

  1. This is a great setup. While I’m still in sunny Florida I never seem to have time to take pictures of my leatherwork while the sun is up. This will be great for my indoor setup! Thanks!

    1. No problem, Charlie! They weren’t that difficult to make and it saved me quite a bit of cash by building them on my own. Let me know if how well they work out for you!

  2. Hi Mike ~ I keep coming back to this DIY project and I’m about to make my own lighting set-up. In reading Mawoca’s post, cross-stitch screening was used. I’m just wondering if you used cross-stitch screening as well to diffuse the lighting or if you used something else and if so, can you share what you used? Thanks so much.

    1. Hey There, Paula. Yes, I was able to find the exact cross-stitch screening that Mawoca shows in his picture of supplies. I found it at Michael’s Crafts in the sewing section. It’s a brand called Charles Craft, the Silver Standard line, and it’s Aida 18-count white fabric. I remember having to buy two of the 30″ x 36″ sized rolls to do the two lights I made. I hope this helps. Let me know if you have anymore questions.

  3. Thanks so much for this very detailed info Mike. Now I know for certain that I need to get the Aida 18 count and to look for it in rolls. I only ever knew that the Aida came with a cross-stitch kit. Was not aware that you could purchase it in rolls.

  4. This is really great. I’ve been pondering the same issue with buying some lighting set-up and just haven’t wanted to spend that much. Very cool to see that a much cheaper DIY alternative will get the job done!

  5. Mike…I love this idea. Can I ask a question about the foam board you have in the back – is that attached somehow or do you just stand it up? My husband built me a DIY lightbox and I love it but it’s big and bulky. This set up would work better for me if I can figure it out. I went to Mawoca’s site to see the directions but I’m a bit confused by them. I’m sure it’s just me.

    And yes, I know I’ve sent you all kinds of messages today. I’m stalking your site. I’m just so in awe of your cookies and how talented you are! :-)

    1. Your questions are no bother! I appreciate your comments, so keep ‘em coming if you have more. :) The foam board in the back is just propped up against the two boxes and I have a heavy candlestick in the back of it just to hold it in place. It’s not attached.

  6. Ok, perfect! Thanks so much Mike. I forwarded this to my husband at work, printed it out and left it on the kitchen counter, and have left this post up on the computer. I’m thinking that he’ll get the hint that he MUST make this for me soon! :-)

  7. Great information – I make cookies as a hobby and I am suffering from blah photos! I used to live in Arizona and occasionally got good photos with a sunny widow and sheer curtains. In Utah my photos are suffering in winter. I will put this on my husbands to please please do list – also are these able to fold up at all? We have 5 kids and very little space to spare (… I guess I could get rid of a few cookie cutters if necessary ;)

    1. Hi Suzanne. These light boxes are great, but they don’t fold up. I so wish they did!

  8. Thanks so much for posting this along with before and after photo examples! This looks like the perfect and affordable solution for my night time photo needs. I got all my supplies today, and just wanted to give an FYI that World Market sells the a lamp cord identical to the IKEA Hemma (which is now $5), but it has an on/off switch :). It’s called the Swag Light Kit and sells for $9.99 for either white plastic or silver metal, and it’s located next to the paper lanterns. I got it for $7.50 with a coupon I got in my email. They also have red, green, and blue fabric-covered ones for $12.99. They have the outer screw ring like the IKEA Hemma, which is one feature I noticed Mawoca liked so much. I think the on/off feature is worth the extra $2.50 I spent, not to mention the nearest IKEA to me is nearly 3 hours away =|. Thanks again!

    1. Great to know, Helen! After using my lights for over a year now, an on/off switch would have been so nice.

    2. Thank you for posting, Helen! Ikea is pretty far away from me, so I’ve been searching for other online options, but World Market is close and they always send coupons in the mail! Yay!

      Thanks for posting this, Mike!

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