When it comes to getting a professional finish to your photos or videos, the right photography lightening makes a massive difference. Unfortunately we’re not all blessed with perfect, flawless natural light all day long, so it’s good to have a back up for when Mother Nature isn’t on your side and you need a crisp image. On the flipside, if you’re wanting to create different moods, colours, tones or dramatic effects in your photography, experimenting with different light sources and placement is always fun. When I was a student at the University of Leeds, I specialised in portrait photography, particularly fascinated with the vintage glamour of old Hollywood and 50s pin-ups. Unfortunately, access to professional quality equipment and a photography studio were extremely limited, so I’ve been getting creative with budget photography lighting options for over 10 years! Even a couple of LEDs battery powered lights from Amazon or a pack of well placed fairy lights can change a dull photo to magical in a second.
Photo Credit: Jenna Jacobs @ Unsplash
If you have a tiny bit more of a budget, technology has moved on a lot since my student days and there are many useful, budget lighting options that are effective and lightweight enough to take with you on the go.If you’re not sure where to start with your next photography investment, here are a few pointers on what you might be looking for.
My first ever lighting investment was a flashgun and I was lucky enough to get a staff discount on it too, because a member of PhotoSoc at Leeds Uni worked at Jessops. It recently died, so I’m currently shopping for a new one. There are hundreds of options for every price range and the one you need will depend on what type of camera you have. With one or two flashguns, you can basically recreate most studio lightning situations on a more light-weight and practical format. You can also add gels to the front of them to add colour effects and mess around with the settings to create different effects. If you shoot events photography in dark places, you can use the flashgun to add essential highlights or enhance existing lighting moods with a small piece of kit that is easy to carry around. Whatever you’re shooting, you’ll find a use for one of these. The more you spend the more options you unlock, but if you’re a beginner you can do awesome thing for under £100. For more information, Google is your friend, there are so many great tutorials out there for free. You can also check out some of the courses on Udemy if you have the budget and free time.
Made popular with make-up Instagram stars and YouTubers, the ring light was traditionally used mainly for portraits and beauty photography. The best thing about modern ringlight options are that they are affordable, lightweight and easy to power. You can get ones that attach around your camera lens as well as options that can be mounted on small tripods, opening up your placement options. The thing that makes this lighting instantly recognisable is the little ring shaped reflections it’s prone to create in people’s irises You can also add in multiple lights to create different effects and once again mess around with filters and gels to create colour & texture. These are a great option if you want something that you can just plug and go, you don’t need to learn anything new, you can just turn it on and move it around and see what happens. Simples. There are tons of options from as little as £78 on Amazon.
Another great, plug and go option is an LED lamp. The most popular models are rectangular units that connect to the hotshoe of your DSLR. There’s minimal set up for this option and you don’t need any extra tripods or know-how, although you can put them on tripods if you want to. If you spend a little bit extra you’ll unlock features like extra brightness settings, flash options and extra accessories like gels. However, if you’re on a budget you can start experimenting with lighting from only £17 with an LED lamp.
If you need any tips on where to place your lights and what settings you use, there are some great courses on Udemy for under £20 or head to YouTube and see if you can find a photography tutorial that’s on your wavelength. The main thing to remember is that you won’t get better if you don’t practise, so even if you have to get started making do with IKEA lamps and camping torches, it’s still something. Light can come from many sources in photography, so don’t let the rule books hold you back from a good old experiment, you can still create something brilliant. Give it a go and let us know how it turns out.