December 06, 2012

DIY Indoor Photography Lighting

Most photography tutorials I've come across online proselytize that you should always have a natural light source when you shoot photos, even indoors. But what if you don't have a natural light source?

It's been annoying. Winter = less light = less time. Plus we live in a major metropolitan city. So I can't just waltz outside with a tripod and take my own photos. For me, the solution has been relying on Matt once per week to get my shots for me. We began shooting style posts indoors with a little lighting system that he put together.

In the past few weeks, I've gotten a lot of questions about how to do this, so I thought it would be interesting to show you guys just what goes on behind those shoots!


DIY Indoor Photography Lighting

Is achieved by this. Our rig is actually pretty simple! (If not a little annoying to set up.)

DIY Indoor Photography Lighting

As you can see, the very first step is hanging some white fabric against the wall. You can use any kind or color fabric- even a cute vintage fabric like this girl! But we found that the white really helps the light that we do get bounce back and make the photos brighter.

Note- dark backgrounds absorb light and produce a different effect on photos. See here.

DIY Indoor Photography Lighting DIY Indoor Photography Lighting

Next, you will notice the lights themselves. Matt picked up these incandescent lights at Home Depot. I think these were the exact ones. He manually pried off those thin pieces of metal crossed over the lights.

The clamps come already attached, and we clamp them onto the backs of chairs. They were insanely cheap... the link says that they're $13, but he swears he paid $5 to $10 each. You do need to buy the bulbs separately though.

DIY Indoor Photography Lighting

Now for the bulbs- We like the incandescent ones. We briefly tried out some fluorescents, for less of a yellow tint in the photos. But they weren't bright enough, so we switched back to the originals. It means having to edit out lots of yellow tones, but it's worth it.

Speaking of brightness- in case you couldn't guess, the lights will be very, very bright. It's hard to get used to at first. But basically, if they are shining directly at your face and you are going blind, it's a good thing :P

Also- they are hot. I was originally wearing a cashmere sweater in our freezing apartment for this, and I had to take it off. Keep this in mind for your skiing/ snowboarding/ xxtreeeem winter vacation clothing shoots :)

Oh, and lastly we use a flash with a light diffuser :) If you're like me, the mention of the word "flash" in conjunction with the word "photography" sends you into fits. But here's the thing- it's very effective when done right. First of all, you can't just go around using the flash that's built into your camera. It's almost always better to use a separate flash, ensuring some (much needed) distance from your lens. Secondly, the diffuser makes a HUGE difference. It softens harsh shadows, and evens out where the light is bounced from.

DIY Indoor Photography Lighting

To be honest, our lighting system isn't completely perfect. There are still weird shadows in some places, we do still get the dreaded yellow tinge, and it can be tough to position everything just right. We're still just learning, and hope to get even better! But it's a great, cost-effective alternative to getting a complete studio light set- even a cheap one can be hundreds of dollars.

I hope this helped some people!! xoxo


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  1. I need to get a good light source like that. The photos you took turned out really nice :) thanks for the tips!

  2. Thank you for sharing, I could use some help with lighting...

    xoxo, Femke
    By Button

  3. thanks for this, very helpful :)

    x Angie ||

  4. While this equipment is not an option where I am it's really fun to see how others do it. Thanks for the backstage pass! :D

  5. Our house is really dark inside, so I need to make myself a little lighted corner :)

  6. Like you said, all I have ever read has been about taking photos outside or near lighting. We live in an apartment, so I mostly use my balcony. Thank you for this tutorial! I'm definitely doing this!! Pinning it too!

    Project Lovegood

  7. Awesome! Thanks for sharing your tips! I've read on other blogs about 'daylight' bulbs which I've never even seen in stores but I will be looking for them soon. If you don't mind me asking, what do you use to edit out the yellow? Sometimes I get a bit of yellow in photos and I use Iphoto to balance it out with the blue, and it works , but they end up looking very instagram-like.


    1. Hey Haylie!!

      I took a look at some of your photos, and they're really cute! Not instagramy at all (although I sometimes like that aesthetic :P) I honestly just do the same thing as you... balance out the yellow with blue in Iphoto, most times adjusting the exposure, contrast, and saturation as well. Sometimes I mess with the green/ purple, but only if I'm getting a distinct hint of one of those colors.

      I have Lightroom, and Matt keeps saying I need to switch over to that. It's the wave of the future, man. I'm just cranky and set in my ways, I guess.


  8. Oooh this is such a good idea. I've been wondering how to do the photos for my outfit posts in the winter!

    - Ruby (via blog hop)

  9. great idea!

    love your outfit too, btw :]


  10. This was super helpful - thank you so much for sharing!~

  11. These are such great tips! I live somewhere that's pretty much always sunny but sometimes I want to take pictures at night and I freaking hate my camera flash!


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