Photography Lighting without Expensive Lighting Equipment
It’s easy to look down at your amassed collection of photography equipment and notice that while the photography supply closet is bursting at the seams with unique lighting setups, cool lenses, and useful stands and tripods, your wallet may not be bursting at the seams as a result.
Let’s be honest - good photography ain’t cheap.
But do we have to take out a second mortgage just to take a decent photo? We argue - you don’t - especially if you know the workarounds to get great photography lighting without breaking the bank.
Photography - the Capture of Light
When we look up the definition of photography, we can find a breakdown that helps explain why lighting is so important when it comes to snapping the perfect picture.
The word “photography” can be divided into its two Latin derivatives: “Photo” is derived from the Greek word “phos” which means - you guessed it - light. The rest of the word comes from the Latin suffix “-graphia” which means “field of study.”
So - photography quite literally translates to “the study of light.” Whew - no wonder why good lighting is so important when it comes to capturing striking images.
Why Light Sources Matter
Beyond the definition of photography, lighting does a lot when it comes to how the equipment - the camera and lens - capture images. A camera works by capturing light emitting from an image and focusing that light into a point on the camera’s sensor (this used to be the camera’s film in older cameras). The sensor is comprised of photosites called pixels (an abbreviation for “picture element”). Similar to how the human eye works, refraction takes place within the lens which focuses this light into that single point that is captured when you hit that shutter button.
Bored yet? Almost done. Just like when you use a magnifying glass to channel the sun’s rays (and make a light-powered beam of destruction for any nearby leaves or grass), the light is channeled to a single point - but if the sun is sitting behind clouds, that light gets progressively less intense.
Just like - you guessed it right again - in a camera with insufficient light. The less light the camera can focus, the less sharp the image will be. Grain will enter the photo as the camera attempts to overcompensate the lack of lighting leaving you with a photo some would say “looks grainy.”
Control of Time and Mood
In addition to providing the camera and lens with the light needed for that crisp photography we’re all looking for in our imagery, lighting allows the photographer to control mood. Want to manufacture the feeling of a dark, rainy table set on a day when the sun is shining and birds are singing outside? You’ll be able to do this by closing the curtains, snagging a manufactured light source, turning up the artificial blues, and, with some creative filtering, creating a dreary day vibe in your photography.
The same applies to manufacturing daylight if the only opportunity you have to take photos happens to be long after the sun called it a day. Getting a 3-point lighting setup can generate enough light to give the appearance of daytime photography - even at midnight.
The Ultimate Light Source for the Budget-Conscious Photographer
If we can’t invest the thousands of dollars to buy a setup on major equipment websites, and we don’t want to risk buying a knock-off lighting set on Amazon, what is the budget-conscious photographer supposed to do? Lament in the very darkness that has introduced the grain in their otherwise amazing photo stage? We’ve got three ideas to save you from your poorly lit fate.
Indirect Natural Light
Why buy a light when you have one for free? The sun is an amazing source of light for photographers - and while sometimes direct light can create those edgy shadows we see in trendy product photography today, using a window near the sun does an amazing job of creating ambient natural light. Yes - the drawback is that you late-night photography geniuses will have to brave staying up for that morning sunlight, it’s free and it works really well in giving your camera and lens the sufficient amount of light to capture a striking photo sans grain.
Cheap Bounce Boards
Bounce boards are a great way to direct light. Using the aeCore Polar White backer as a bounce board can reflect light back into your subject. You’ll want to position your backer in opposition (so - opposite) to the light source - so if that’s the sun, have the white side of the board facing the window which is providing your subject the lighting it needs. This will “bounce” the light back to the rear of the subject giving your more lighting all around and lessening harsh shadows.
We’re biased here, but if you’re spending too much time attempting to control both the lighting and the background of your image - it’s going to get complicated really quickly. Finding a great backer that helps control the environment your subject exists in will free up the time you need to dial in your light sources - even if that source is the sun.
Using a moveable setup (like the aeCore brackets stands) can let you have the freedom and flexibility to move towards a window that provides sufficient lighting for your scene. And hey - these brackets are under $30 bucks - a lot more affordable than lighting systems that will run you into the thousands of dollars. A win-win for the photographer who is also budget-conscious.
Find really neat photography backdrops on our website aeCore Backers - and be on the lookout for new, fun colors to really make your staged sets pop!