Whether you are new to photography or an old pro, this guide will give you three easy tips for using professional tools and materials around you to create perfect lighting for your photo shoots. Light is the single best thing that can improve your shots, and these pandemic times create a great reason to use time at home to experiment with DIY photography lighting skills.
Tip #1: Work with Your Natural Light
Ambient light is one of the best sources of light for photography, but it is important to plan your photoshoot around the time of day, as natural light can shift. Never place your subject with his or her back to the window, as your subject will be cast in a shadow with light illuminating from the window. You want to have your subject face the window so the natural light hits his or her face.
Tip #2: Leverage Artificial Light
If natural light isn’t an option for you, then consider setting up your shoot with artificial light. There are a variety of lights that can help with this–including the detachable flash/speedlight on your camera, a flash or strobe connected to a softbox to diffuse the light, and a battery-powered LED panel. Each of these is an investment of varying costs but will get you good light on your subject. The LED panel will allow you to make the light warmer or cooler because it has an adjustment dial but it isn’t as powerful as the detachable flash/speedlight. If you can’t afford an LED panel, use the flashlight on your smart phone or an LED flashlight.
Tip #3: Try Out Light Modifiers
Sometimes artificial light needs to be softened because it is stark. You can do this by practicing with light modifiers such as a reflector panel, a soft box, or a snoot. If you can’t invest in professional equipment, you can use aluminum foil. If you can invest in a small 5-in-1 reflector, you’ll be able to easily see the ways you can change the warmth and coolness of the light. For example, the silver side of the reflector will make the light feel cooler, while the gold side will make it feel warmer. The black side will absorb the light. The white side will give you great neutral light in bright settings. The translucent side acts similarly to a softbox in that it just diffuses really strong light nicely and evenly.
Soft boxes come in a variety of sizes, including squares and octagons, and can be used with working with highly reflective objects. A snoot is a funnel-like tube that can be used with your speed light to target light on a subject, much like a spotlight.
You also can adapt any of these tools with materials from around your house, such as creating a white reflector from plain white foam board folded in half using an Exacto knife or creating a silver reflector by wrapping it in aluminum foil.
Are you ready to get started? By practicing these three key techniques in your photo shoots, you’ll be on your way to improving your lighting skills. And, for pros, knowing these tips will help you improvise if your equipment breaks down.