Inexpensive Studio Lighting
Sure a nice set of Alien Bee’s may be in your Amazon wish-list waiting for you to win the lottery in order to afford them. If you are just getting started, you don’t need to spend that kind of money on some basic lighting.
If you aren’t an avid eBay’er, this isn’t a bad time to get started, but you can find all of the components you need at your local stores. The following is the parts list we will put together:
(3) Clamp-on light holder
(3) Fluorescent bulbs (1700 lumens)
(3) Cheap tripods or microphone stands
(2) Large clamps
(1) Roll of seamless paper
Seems like an odd list of items for a photo studio but this will allow you to setup some pretty respectable lighting. The standard clamp lights we found at Home Depot, instead of the cheapest opnes we could find, we went up a level and dropped $14 each for some nicer units.
For the bulbs, we do not recommend using standard light bulbs as you end up with small hot spots that you end up trying to remove by diffusing the light with muslin or other material. This isn’t a good idea because these lights get pretty hot. Fluorescent bulbs provide a larger light source and are signifigantly cooler. While we used some 1700 lumen bulbs we found at Ace Hardware in a $6 2-Pack, it will pay off to spend a few more bucks on eBay and find some photo bulbs (5000 kelvin) which will cost around $15-$20 each.
For the stands, most people have some ancient tripods laying around in a back closet somewhere, if not a cheap tripod or microphone stand can be found at swap meets, flea markets, or eBay for only a couple of bucks each.
For our background we actually headed over to Samy’s Camera and grabbed a roll of gray seamless paper ($29) and two large clamps ($3 each).
So what does this look like? Here is what we have so far minus the third light to be used for backlighting or direct overhead light.
You can see the roll of paper coming down off a bookshelf and onto an old computer desk and held down with the clamps. So far we have spent under $100 for everything so far.
With the cheaper bulbs, I set the white balance on the fluorescent setting and shoot in RAW to maximize my ability to correct it later. But how well does this setup work? Here are a few shots so you can see for yourself.
Sangoma a200 Card
Polycom 501 IP Phone
Aastra 408i CT Handset
As you can see, the end result is pretty darned good. An overhead light would have cut down on the shadows a little bit but I was simply too lazy to get it setup.