You don’t need to spend a fortune on studio lights. It’s possible to shoot professional-looking portraits using a common household lamp like the kind you’d buy at Ikea. In this latest DIY Photography Hacks post we’ll show you how a simple, single lamp can create a range of dramatic effects in your portrait photography.
How to use your DIY studio lights
Don’t want to cough up for studio lights for your indoor portraits? You don’t always need expensive studio lighting to shoot professional-looking portraits. In fact, you can take striking shots at home with just a regular household angle-poise lamp.
Place your model in front of a piece of light-absorbing black velvet to create a rich black background. Note that you don’t need a support stand – we suspended ours from a bookcase!
Make sure your subject is sitting comfortably, then place your lamp slightly above and to the right of their head. Other positions can be used to create different lighting effects, but this set-up will give you a flattering, classic result.
Keep your shutter speed relatively fast (we shot at 1/160 sec at f/2.8, ISO500). It’s always best to use a tripod to eliminate camera shake and get the sharpest shots you can.
We used an 80-200mm f/2.8 lens set to 145mm, because this longer focal length created a more flattering portrait.
The halogen bulb can confuse your camera’s auto white balance setting, so switch it to manual to ensure you get a clean skin tone.
Remember not to position your lamp too close to the portrait sitter – it’ll be harsh and directional. This can be a good creative device, but it’s rarely flattering.
Take some test shots and then, when you’re happy with your exposure and general set-up, start shooting. Make sure you build up a rapport with your subject before experimenting with different poses and expressions.