Many photographers and customers in our store wonder what the best way to light their subject is without spending a huge stack of cash. I wanted to write a blog post on this particular topic because there are so many ways to shoot professional looking images without forking over hundreds, even thousands of dollars. Before working at camera stores, I had to make do with what I had. And that was pretty much just me and my hand-me-down Nikon and a vintage lens, so finding the right light was extremely important.
Here’s some of my tips!
1. Use natural light at sunset or sunrise.
This may seem common sense by now depending on how long you’ve been in photography, but the biggest drawback of this is that there’s not a long shooting window to get that “golden hour” light. The great thing about this light is that it creates more even light with less shadows on the subject than the harsh noon-time lighting does (a direct source of light above the subject can cause raccoon eyes and deep shadows-no one wants that!)
2. Use a reflector!
Reflectors may be annoying to your subject depending on how bright the light is, but these are perfect for outdoors or in the studio when you want to bounce light. If you’re looking to evenly disperse light on your subject, or looking to diffuse midday sunlight, these easy, 5-in-1 reflectors work together to get you perfect, even light.
Here’s a short YouTube video about properly using reflectors that I found pretty helpful:
3. Experiment with flashlights/cell phones.
Most cell phones are now equipped with a flashlight. If not, you should be carrying around a flashlight in your camera bag anyways, just in case you’re in a dark situation (nighttime shooting, bands playing in bars, etc.). These can be cool tools to use to create interesting, unique photos. When I lived in Nashville, I used an iPhone flashlight to shoot my subject against the city skyline and I love the result I got!
4. Snag an inexpensive flash that you can sync to your camera with transmitters or keep on camera.
You don’t have to buy an expensive strobe kit to get the light you want.
Nowadays, just picking up an inexpensive flash can give you enough power to get the shot! Third party brands like Phottix and LumoPro allow photographers to start using off-camera lighting inexpensively (with the help of transceivers). Small modifiers that Rogue or LumiQuest manufacture also makes these perfect to use for one subject shots!
You can always put the flash directly on your camera hot shoe and bounce the light off the ceiling in your home. Many photographers will actually use this technique in their wedding photography and bounce light off of tent ceilings at evening receptions. Although they don’t have the same amount of power as a full strobe kit, these little guys make flash photography more portable and manageable.
Now of course, after a while and once you’re making money in photography, it’s a good idea to invest in a few strobes and modifiers that allow you to control light more, but to start, these are good tools to have and keep with you no matter what gear you buy down the line!