using a LED panel as a photography softbox

The global pandemic has driven video communications to the forefront…and also the need for good lighting for photography and videography. In my office I recently upgraded 4 ancient fluorescent 2’x2’/60×60 troffers (so ancient they still had magnetic ballasts and starters!) with LED panels – high CRI, CCT color temperature changing, dimmable, remote controlled. I bought a 5th to use as a color-matched “softbox” for shooting corporate marketing videos. So of course, I designed and printed myself a mounting system for holding the panel on a standard tripod. Amazing what you can do with a free hobbyist license of Fusion 360, a free copy of Cura slicing software, and a ~$225 Creality Ender 3v2. Toss in maybe $7 worth of plastic filament and a handful of nuts & bolts and voila…a very low cost, ultra compact CCT changing, dimmable, remote control softbox. For cheap!

In the spirit of giving back to the maker community, I uploaded the project files to Thingiverse. Go ahead and print it yourself!

You will need to print one of the central spiders, and 4 each of the bridge and corner pieces. I fixed the tolerances for a 0.4mm nozzle and PLA…your results may vary, but nothing a little filing probably couldn’t fix.

I thought that using a standard 1/4″-20 threaded tripod nut (with the threads printed into the part) might be too weak to support the whole unit and I didn’t want to deal with a threaded insert. So I simply designed the bracket concept to fit the “quick connect” tripod camera base that seems standard on many consumer-grade tripods (a chamfered base roughly 1 3/4″ square). That seems to be a much more robust solution.

The LED panel was specifically 595mm X 595mm with a 10mm deep perimeter edge that the corner pieces hold captive. I designed the connection from the “bridge” piece to the corner piece to allow some adjustment for slightly different sized panels, along with centering the bracket on the panel.

You will need 8 M6-30mm socket head/Allen head bolts, 12mm diameter flanged nuts and 12mm diameter washers. Actual parts below. I used an Allen head wrench with a rounded end, because the wrench goes in at a slight angle (you see the sloping slot in the image above I put in the part just for wrench access).

I printed it out of PLA, but the torsion and shear force on the quick-connect tripod joint is really quite strong and clearly it is creaking/almost cracking the PLA layers. Fine for my office where it barely ever moves, but I would suggest printing in something like PETG or ABS if you plan on transporting this thing often.

Good luck if you try it!