We all know how expensive photo gear is. Luckily, if you’re just starting out or you’re a poor photographer, there are plenty of DIY and cheap options you can choose. Food photographer Skyler Burt of We Eat Together suggests a simple lighting setup that will cost you under $30. To show you just how well it works, he compares it to his professional $900 light.
- a stapler
- an extension arm (or just improvise: use a curtain rod, clothes rack or a PVC pipe)
- two pieces of black foam core (optional)
To create this lighting setup, Skyler simply stapled the pieces of parchment paper together to create a diffusing material large enough for his table. Then he used the A-clamps to attach the paper to the extension arm. You can also use a bed sheet or a shower curtain, as long as it’s white and diffuses the light.
Next, Skyler styled the food he wanted to photograph, positioned the light, and placed the parchment paper in front of it to add diffusion. When you create a setup like this, Skyler points out that it’s important to turn off all the other lights in the room: Otherwise, your photo might look flat or you’ll have different color temperatures in the scene. Also, you can use black foam core to block the light that bounces off the ceiling and walls. Just put it opposite of the main light and above the scene.
There are two things to keep in mind about the work lights. First, they get hot quickly, so don’t touch the metal parts. And second, they’re not daylight balanced, so make sure that your white balance settings are correct.
Comparison to professional lighting
When Skyler set up the work light and the parchment paper, he took a photo with FujiFilm x-e2 and an 18-55mm kit lens. Since many beginners take photos with a kit lens, he wanted to make the setup suitable for them. He also took one with iPhone 6s, considering that many people start with smartphone photography.
Here are the results:
Although you can see some difference in quality, you can’t tell that the iPhone photo and the light in it are bad. For a lighting setup that costs under $30, I think that the results are pretty impressive. Of course, as Skyler puts it, it wouldn’t convince him to go and sell his high-end photography gear. However, for those of you who are just starting out or have a small budget, I think this can be a great lighting solution to get you started.
If you’d like to see more photos, make sure to check out Skyler’s blog.
[$20 Work Light VS $900 Studio Strobe Food Photography Lighting On A BUDGET! | We Eat Together]