DIY Eyelighter – Make Your Own Curved Reflector

The Larry Peters Eyelighter creates beautiful clamshell lighting with a unique curved catchlight in the eye.  It also carries a hefty price tag.   I took a shot at making my own, since I shoot mostly on location and wasn’t eager to invest in more studio gear that I may or may not use.   Plus making stuff is just fun.

I made this for $0 out of items I had on hand.  If I made a second one I would probably do a few things different, since I really didn’t plan this out. It was really more of a “Hey, I think I’ll make an eyelighter today.”

Here is a photo created with my DIY reflector.  Overall I am pretty happy with the results considering I don’t shoot a lot in the studio:

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List of materials:

-2 pieces of 1/2″ insulation board from Lowes.  I used 2′x4′  pieces so it would be small enough to take on location, but a 5′ or 6′ length might work better.

-Liquid nails (or another way to glue two pieces of insulation board together)

-Mylar (or any other reflective surface like a car sunshade, a thermal blanket, or a even a white surface for a more subtle effect.  I think you can even find insulation that is reflective and kill two birds with one stone)  I bought mine online here

-Spray Adhesive

-Duct tape (black or white)

-Clamps (I love my cheapie Cowboy Studio clamps.  They smell funny but I have three teenagers and a cat so it’s no big deal)

-Fabric or string to hold the reflector while the glue is drying.

 

This list does not include a way to mount the reflector.  I now use my superclamp and a swivel bracket.  Before that I just made one of my kids hold it.  (They weren’t happy but ask me how much THAT bothered me).

This guy has a good way for mounting and a different way a creating a DIY eyelighter:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22xwGhk3Kho

The “Real” Eyelighter is definitely more durable and professional looking, but considering everything I own is covered in duct tape anyway, I really don’t have any issues with clients seeing my DIY gear.

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Here is the process:

1) Glue the two pieces of insulation together using liquid nails or other adhesive.  Having two pieces is what holds the curvature (a bunch of boring math and physics that you don’t really want to hear).

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2) Bend the boards to have a curve with a radius of about 2 ft.

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3)  Clamp together for roughly 24 hours using a string or fabric around the insulation to hold the shape.

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4) Once the adhesive is set, remove the clamps and cut the edges of the the foam with a razor for a smooth edge.

5) Cut the mylar or other reflective material slightly larger than the reflector surface size.  I wrinkled up the mylar so that it wouldn’t be so mirror-like.

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6) Spray adhesive on the insulation and lay the mylar evenly, starting from the center.  If I made another I would put a small piece of sheet metal about 3″x4″ at the top center of the front and back to reinforce the foam from the compression of the superclamp.

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7) Trim the mylar and finish the edges with duct tape.  Cut slits in the tape so that it will lay flat.

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8) Enjoy your new curved reflector!

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20 Comments

  1. DIY genius. Love it. People have asked me on my blog about the Eyelighter .. so I’ll just send them here.

  2. Sharon Chandler

    Genius! Thanks for the detailed instructions and photos!

  3. You mentioned:

    “If I made a second one I would probably do a few things different, since I really didn’t plan this out.”

    I’m about to build one myself using your plans so would you mine sharing the “Tweaks” you would make to the first one you built?

    THANKS!

    Terry

    • tammyhowell

      I would make it larger with a larger radius so that I wouldn’t have to keep it so close to the face. I might also consider using a more durable material because I tend to break things, but so far this has held up.

  4. Thanks, Tammy!
    The original Eye Lighter has been back ordered for months and months.
    This is terrific.
    Bobbie

  5. Thanks so much for this! Tried ordering the original but like others have noted…it’s backordered. So glad I found this online…got the same effect for about 260.00 cheaper. Thank You!!

  6. Tammy

    Question – what exactly are you using to hold the eye lighter in place during a session?
    Thanks!

  7. Thank you Tammy! So it looks like you attach the grip to a stand – those I have plenty of!!!

  8. This looks great! I saw the original Eyelighter years ago. At the time it was made of rolled stainless steel and cost THOUSANDS of dollars ( not to mention it wasn’t portable ).

    Did you have issues bending the insulation board without it wrinkling? Really considering this project, but trying to avoid making multiple copies before I get it right…

    Thanks!

    • tammyhowell

      It didn’t wrinkle at all. I really figured this would be the “test model” but it actually worked the first try. The only thing I would do different next time is make it slightly longer with a tiny bit less curve so I can keep it out of my camera frame easier.

  9. That’s an absolutely stand up way to save $300. Between the Lastolite Triflector Kit costing as much as $349 for the speedlight version and the new Westcott reflector I think it’s important that photographers use the models as templates for our own DIY kits. They may nit look as polished but when the client sees the photos that’s all that really matters. Great tutorial, Tammy- and I understand the rage with the kids. I have 5 and they wouldn’t be caught dead holding up my gear!

  10. AWESOME tutorial! Thank you so much! I am going to try this! One question- what kind of insulation? I went to my local hardware store today, and could only find the “foam” kind… which might snap when bending it. Thoughts? Did you use the white foam/silver kind? Thanks! -Mary Beth

    • tammyhowell

      The kind I used was foam (it was green from Lowe’s). I’m sure it would snap if you bent it far enough, but it curved enough for me. I do have a piece of white foam/silver that I have used for other things and I believe that is more rigid than the green kind I got and wouldn’t bend. I’m sorry I don’t have a more specific recommendation for the foam. If I can find some specifications the next time I am there I will update the article.

      • Awesome info. Thank you! Yes, I thought it looked green… but wasn’t sure. We live in a tiny town in the middle of no-where, so this is going on my “city” shopping list for next month! ;) Love the white foam core. I use it for V-Flats and such. Wonderful blog post- thanks!

  11. Thank you so much! its AWESOME

  12. I came here via the SLR Lounge and found this very useful. There are far too many overpriced photography accessories out there so thank you very much.

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