Toolkit Talk: Need to Fix Light Source for Photo Shoots
November 1, 2017 11:38 AM   Subscribe

I'm currently in the middle of shooting a series of hands-on tutorials and have built a nice little camera set-up. This set-up is hands-free, gives me control over framing, and packs away quickly. But I also live in Scotland and by mid-day it is now too dark to take photos indoors (and too wet to go outside to set up). Talk to me about a good way of adding much-needed light to my photos.

Basically the photos I'm shooting are close-up of my hands (example). I use my mobile phone as my camera and I can control it with my voice. It is attached to a thingamajig which I can attach to shelves, tables whatever. It's a portable & versatile set-up. I like it.

However, this set-up is dependent upon natural light and the natural light is pretty much gone now until late February. I have a bunch of tutorials I need to shoot before the end of the year, so I'm looking for something as portable and versatile as the rest of my set-up.

I've looked at the so-called selfie lights (ring lights) that beauty bloggers/vloggers use. They clip onto the phone. I'm just not sure a) if that light works with the rear camera as well as it does for the front camera or b) if clipping on that light wouldn't weigh down one end of the phone and mess with the angles I need.

I've also looked at more pricey builds with umbrellas and stands and whatnot. That seems like a massive set-up for what is just me + my hands + 30 minutes in the middle of the day.

Nothing really seems to cover what I need which is something hands-free that imitates natural daylight with no harsh shadows and easy to set-up/pack away. I'd prefer something that can be clamped down to a table (or a shelf). I do have a budget for this but would prefer to keep it under £75.
posted by kariebookish to Shopping (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You can DIY this this with £10 worth of lamps from Argos and some wax or tissue paper. Instead of putting your hands in the box with a lamp on each side, put a box on each side with a lamp in each one.

Result: cheap, shadow-free, diffused light.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:12 PM on November 1, 2017

You might check out good quality but cheaper LED panel lights. You'll need a light stand too.

LED panel lights are really nice because you can tune the color to replicate daylight.

I would be careful about using CFL lights. The color tends to be not very good, and they can flicker in a way that makes photos unattractive.
posted by gregr at 12:17 PM on November 1, 2017

I used to shoot magazine cover portraits where the lighting-setup was one Elinchrom flash, a lightweight lightstand and an umbrella. All that fit into a long thin army kit bag I could carry over one shoulder. I could literally go to shoots on the bus with that and my camera bag. After I got a car my equipment setup sadly grew. A one meter folding softbox does give slightly better light (and nicer reflections) than a one meter white umbrella, but the light is similar.

Don't use ring-lights - they give a weird look.
posted by w0mbat at 12:58 PM on November 1, 2017

I use $10 halogen work lights from the hardware store with the front cage (yes, somewhat dangerously) removed (so there's no grid shadow). These are 'pretty close' to sunlight color and there's probably already a white balance option on your phone. Bounce it off a wall to get softer light. Also a silver bounce board is always good for filling in shadows. I have one that's silver fabric stretched over a spring steel frame (circular, ~1m diameter) that you can twist up down to ~30cm diameter for storage (zipper case)...super handy. Rarely do I need more than 1 light/1 reflector/1 wall.
posted by sexyrobot at 2:00 PM on November 1, 2017

If your studio isn't cavernous (IE typical room not some warehouse), has a white ceiling and preferably white walls in your photo space I'd stick something like this 40W corn cob LED (though not that unit particularly as it doesn't list a CR rating) into a cone shaped desk lamp and aim it at your ceiling. Plenty of nice soft light with little fuss. The Ikea version I linked accepts a clamp in the base to secure it or you can just use a c-clamp or spring clamp with the flat base model as in my first link.

Use pieces of foam core (available in white and black) for reflectors to fill in shadows and gobos to block light. One can easily cover one side of one with a sheet of aluminum foil for a silver reflector using spray adhesive (3m 77 or similar). I've got two versions: one with the foil as flat as I could make it and other where I crumpled the foil first.

This is pretty much sexy robot's solution with more lumens, much longer life and way less heat. Also if you are worried about consistent colour the LED will vary with use a lot less than the Halogens which get warmer (more yellow) as they age.
posted by Mitheral at 10:22 PM on November 1, 2017

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