The best way to start with DIY photography lighting is to get down to the basics. This means using a simple flashlight as your main light source.
Trying to control its output with modifiers is a great learning process. This article will take you through some easy and inexpensive DIY photography lighting projects.
You can try them at home, with a flashlight and a light modifier done out of re-purposed items. You’ll have most of these at home, while some will require a trip to the hardware store.
Also, a much better alternative to using an off-camera flash without a modifier. It’s also easier to carry and shoot with.
And you can reproduce this product for a mere 99c. Pretty cool, huh? The guide is in German, but the photos are good enough for you to work it out for yourself.
DIY Bounce-Wall – $1
9. Ring Flash
Right flashes produce some really good lighting, but boy can they be expensive. Not if you do it the DIY way though, and opt to use some materials from your home, and a little bit of your time.
This is a really detailed tutorial, although it does require you to use your flash off camera. That’s not hard though.
Find it here – DIY Ring Flash
I’ve seen a number of DIY soft-boxes. Most are made from cardboard, wire, and fabric or other random items. None of these look very good or are very strong.
Andrew (the writer of this guide) wanted something that would hold up to some abuse and that didn’t look like it was assembled from old boxes.
It’s a really great guide, check it out here – DIY Softbox
7. Beauty Dish
The beauty dish is probably my favorite lighting modifier because I love how the light falls off the subject, in a really soft way.
I recommend them to everyone, but they’re not always the cheapest thing to buy. That’s where Todd Owyoung comes in from IShootShows. He’s written a hugely detailed guide to building your own.
Check it out here – DIY Beauty Dish
6. Piping Bag Tips for DIY Photography Lighting
Piping bags are great tiny light sources. When placed in front of a flashlight, they give you greater control of light direction.
Their tips have different shapes, which will offer you different lighting effects.
You’ll be able to point your light with great accuracy, like what you can see in the following product shots.
I used a flashlight with a piping bag tip with a narrow oval shape for the light ray in the background. This photo was taken in a simple studio setup. I didn’t use the typical white background of product photography. The textured black background adds interest to the image.
And I also used a white fill card with a hole for the lens to cast the light on the ring.
It makes for a fantastic DIY flash diffuser. And it’s great for close-ups.
5. Table Tennis Balls
These balls are one of the cheapest DIY photography lighting solutions for better shots.
They’ll soften the harsh light that comes out of your flash and help you avoid harsh shadows.
Cut an X shape with a knife on the ball and slide the flash through the opening.
The white plastic is semi-translucent. This allows light to pass through but scatters it in the process.
It creates uniform homemade photography lighting with soft shadows. Like in this image below.
I created the overall light with a flashlight and a table tennis ball diffuser in my photo studio.
Moving the DIY diffuser from the back to the front of the image created a backlight effect. And it cast soft shadows on the front of the image.
Balloons are a great option for creating a DIY lightbox effect.
You can control the size of the light effect by controlling the size of your balloon.
This transforms the small light beam produced by your DIY photo lighting. It becomes a big and soft light source.
It can cover a bigger area, and even a portrait image. If the model is able to stand still like in this following image.
You’ll need a long exposure due to the low light output of a flashlight.
I created the lighting effect using a flash and a big inflated white balloon during this photo shoot.
Placing the balloon on the top left side of the model created soft shadows on the side of the nose and under the chin. This was a simple and easy lighting setup.
3. Fiber Optics
In DIY studio lighting, you can use this type of materials to create a “light brush”. You can use this as a light painting tool.
To create a simple light brush, take the top part of a cheap heart-shaped table lamp. Attach it to a flashlight with some black tape.
You now have a light brush and you can achieve many different light effects with it. My personal favorite effects are the ones done with long exposures in a dark room.
This creates light paintings like the ones Man Ray did in the 1930s. I tried to recreate this style in the following image.
I created the DIY lighting effect by slowly moving the flash with the fiber optics. This was a 10-second exposure. The white balance on the camera was set to tungsten, hence the blue light effect.
2. Star Wars Toy Lightsaber
This kids’ toy is actually the base for a great DIY photography lighting tool.
It only had a small red light and some bad Darth Vader sounds. After dismantling it, I glued the plastic rod to a flashlight. This created a lightsaber worthy of a true Jedi.
And a fantastic DIY studio light.
The plastic rod contains the DIY photography lighting. This allows it to sweep through a wide area during long exposures.
It works great on reflective subjects like the metal chain in this next image.
To create the light effect, I swept the DIY light-saber from the front to the back of the image. This created soft reflections on the metal without shiny hot spots.
I also placed a vertical white card on the left side of the image.
This helped create a uniform reflection on the image. It also emphasized the background stone and water droplets‘ texture.
1. Coloured Cellophane and Plastic Bottles
For DIY photography lighting, you can use color gels. Place them in front of the light source to get colored effects.
You can’t compare cellophane to genuine color gels when it comes to color rendition.
But it is a great cheap option to use with flashlights.
Place these colorful pieces of cellophane inside a plastic bottle. This creates a color mix light source. It will create ambience and depth, as you can see in this next image.
To create the colored light effect, I placed a plastic bottle with two cellophane sheets inside over the scene.
Then I moved it slightly to the back to create a shadow effect.
That’s it! Now all you have to do is just release the DIY maker that lives inside you and give these DIY photography lights a try.
I’m sure you will get great results and learn a lot along the way.
And here’s a cool video on more DIY photography lighting ideas!