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Arts & Entertainment

How to Make a Light Diffuser on a Budget

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: May 13, 2020 • 2 min read

Good lighting is one of the most essential parts of filmmaking. Cameras need plenty of light to produce a quality image and set the right atmosphere, but not every production has the budget for professional studio lighting to enhance their footage. Luckily, filmmakers on a budget can use inexpensive household items make some film lighting equipment, such as a light diffuser.

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What Is a Light Diffuser?

A light diffuser is a mechanism for scattering your light output. Light diffusion reduces harsh shadows and balances your lighting effects, creating even, soft light (like a lampshade) on your subjects. Film productions generally use a softbox or diffuser kit to diffuse light, but these kinds of accessories may not be budget-friendly for all filmmakers.

4 Ways to Make a Light Diffuser on a Budget

DIY light diffusers are perfect for filmmakers without the budget for fancy studio light diffuser panels or polycarbonate flat sheets.

  1. Use a frosted shower curtain. DIY filmmakers can save money by using a frosted shower curtain to create a soft lighting effect in a scene. Simply attach a frosted shower curtain to a C-stand (a multi-functional stand used to mount diffusers, lights, shotgun microphones, and cameras), then place the stand a few feet in front of the light source to create a soft lighting effect. The closer the light source is to the subject, the softer the light will look. You can clip an additional shower curtain onto the C-stand to create an even softer light on your subject.
  2. Use a bedsheet. A semi-transparent white sheet can make an excellent DIY diffuser. The sheet’s transparency depends on your light source and how much light needs to be diffused. The less light diffusion you need, the sheerer the sheet should be. Place the bedsheet on a C-stand a few feet away from the light source. Bedsheets are flammable and should be used with LED lighting, which generates very little heat, to avoid a hazardous situation. If you are using non-LED lights on-set, then place the bedsheets on a C-stand that is a safe distance away from the light source, and practice fire safety measures.
  3. Use a pillowcase. A white pillowcase also works as a light diffuser. The fabric is usually thin enough to let some light through, while also keeping the light soft and natural. A white t-shirt can also come in handy (different colors of t-shirts can help adjust the light temperature). Like bedsheets, these fabrics should be used with non-LED lighting for fire safety purposes. If non-LED lighting is your only option, then place the pillowcase on a C-stand that is a safe distance away from the light source.
  4. Use parchment paper. You can use printer paper (or even tissue paper) to create your own DIY softbox diffuser, but parchment paper is a better option as it is both heat-resistant and opaque enough to do the job. Parchment paper can be placed directly over your lights without risk of a fire hazard, which makes it a safer option than other flammable types of paper.
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