Top 5 Lighting Hacks I Use in My Studio
Sometimes there are days when I arrive to my studio or any other space and the lighting isn’t working in my favor. Luckily, I’ve spent a lot of time learning how to use light to my advantage. So these are my top 5 tips on how you can do the same.
I think everyone knows about this one now, but just in case you haven’t heard of this yet, it’s the number one lighting tool I use in my studio. I called a local sign store and asked if they had 8 foot foam board in white and black. I specifically did not ask for gator board because it’s a lot more expensive. I got to of each and gaffer-taped them together (tip: lay the boards side by side when taping, to on top of each other, so there is give in the tape when you want to close the 2 boards). I use these as backgrounds and to reflect and absorb light. I also use them to block a window entirely sometimes to get a moodier look.
Children’s school project board
I have one in black and one in white. These are great fillers when the v-flat isn’t reflecting enough light back onto the face.
I found a 44 foot sheer curtain at a thrift store for a coupe of bucks and it has really come in handy. I recommend going to a thrift store to check out what they have. You can also use them to attach to a pvc piping system to actually create a scrim if you want. I use these curtains to soften light, but I also use them to shoot through to give my photos a gauzy look sometimes.
Shooting in full on sun
I have 3 large windows in my main shooting space and full on sun, when it’s out. So I have learned to shoot with what I got. Though paint on my walls changes from time to time, right now 2 main walls are charcoal, so when I have full sun coming in, sometimes I put my subject right in that light and meter for the full sun on her body and I have to tell you, it give such a sexy and moody look to the photos because everything except what the sun is lighting up is pure black. So it’s a powerful look. If I move my client to stand in front of one of these windows and meter for the light coming through, I can then also snag a silhouette, which is a client favorite.
Same thing here. When I have full sun, I can tip my lens in just the right way so that the sunlight is right on the tip of my lens, creating a flare. This gives a super dramatic look to my photos and my clients love it.
Bonus: Don’t be afraid to have some fun with color
I was once doing a shoot in a super dark barn and I had a beam of light coming through a window and had my close to it. My assistant that day walked up to straighten the client’s clothing and she had a yellow t-shirt on. The magnificent glow that caused changed the course of my entire shoot. From then on, I’ve used anything around with me to play with in light like that just to see what I get. I’ve worked with a purple dress I was wearing one day, different colored cellophane…you name it. Some of it came out like total shit. Others came out like art.
I have warm, light hardwood floors in my studio so when the sun shines directly onto them, a yellow cast shoots right up onto my client. If I want to keep the light, but lose the yellow tone, I will throw anything white on top of the light. A t-shirt, curtain, sheet…I’ve even used paper towers. Not only does it cancel out the yellow cast, but I now also have another reflective surface of white light for my photos.
Never be afraid to take a minute and think about how you can play with a lighting situation. you didn’t expect. you might be surprised with what you end up with!