How to get into studio lighting without spending thousands of dollars

Mar 4, 2016

David Talley

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How to get into studio lighting without spending thousands of dollars

Mar 4, 2016

David Talley

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

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"Flitter" (2014)
“Flitter” (2014)

I hear it all the time…. “I want to get in to studio lighting, but I just don’t have the money.”

Well, you actually do. And if you care that much about the studio/ engineered lighting world, jumping in to it is actually MUCH EASIER than you might think, and much more affordable! There are a host of amazing options out there to help you get in to the studio lighting world for a fraction of the cost of strobes.

Working with the kit I’m about to show you has changed the entire look and feel of my imagery, and allows me to communicate a more beautiful, effective message with the images I create….

The image above, titled “Flitter,” was created the very first time I used engineered lighting. You wouldn’t know it from the final image, but we shot this in a dense forest off a highway near Atlanta, Georgie, around noon on a particularly cloudy and cold day. By bringing the flash close to the models face (model is dear friend Molly Strohl, check her work out at www.mollystrohl.com), and powering it at a certain setting while my assistants held it at a distance, combined with various camera settings, I achieved a studio look with a TON of mystery and subject isolation to bring out the deep emotion of the model.

Ever since that day, I knew I couldn’t go back to just natural light shooting. The experience of working with engineered flash opened my world to an entirely new way to create, and I’ve been using my lights now for years. When I got in to the flash world a few years ago, I didn’t have very much money at all, and my career as a photographer had only just begun. I made a very small, very affordable investment in to a few pieces of key gear that I still use to this day when I travel and when I create in very cramped or dangerous settings.

Currently, this is my super affordable, studio-powerhouse kit:

Cowboy Studio Flash Stand
Neewer 24″ Softbox and S-Type Bracket
Yongnuo RF-603 Triggers
2 Neewer High-Visibility Sandbags

…And the KEY ingredient, the flash unit itself. This is obviously the most expensive piece of gear, and also the most important. Right now, I work with the Aperlite 500C Speed Light. They’re a company based out of China, with a focus on creating affordable flash units for photographers looking to break in to the world of Studio Lighting. I think they’re doing an awesome job – their flash units are everything I look for in a Speed Light: lightweight, well-designed, have TTL with an infrared lamp, have multiple zoom and firing modes, and most importantly, they are AFFORDABLE as HECK! These babies go everywhere with me, and they light 90% of the most recent studio images you see in my portfolio. Here’s a couple shots of me using the lights:

frugal-studio-01 frugal-studio-02 frugal-studio-03

The total cost of this kit comes to exactly $151.58 USD at the time of this post (August 10th, 2015), which is an amazing value to be able to create studio images. Of course, this is a budget level kit. It’s not going to stack up against strobes, but for anyone looking to get in to the studio flash world to see if it’s worth the investment, or if you want an affordable travel and location kit like I have, this is a great option.

frugal-studio-04
The Aperlite 500c

frugal-studio-05 frugal-studio-06

Aperlite is also sponsoring my upcoming teaching courses with some FREE gear. At these workshops, I will be showing students the special, KEY ingredient to light studio shoots perfectly. In addition to teaching about speed light studio lighting, I’m giving away an Aperlite in each of the cities I am traveling to, including Rio, São Paulo, Sorrento, Jaipur, and Melbourne.

I’m really excited to show my students the power of using an affordable flash kit to enhance their imagery. Finally, here’s my quick tip on how to light a studio shot well almost always:

frugal-studio-08

This is a basic lighting setup that I use often, something I call the “Oblique Upper Right” lighting. There’s probably a more technical term for it; I don’t care. I like to use this technique to really isolate my subject from their background. I teach more about this stuff at my workshops, you can visit the workshop page to learn more. I’ll be teaching all over the world, including England Brazil, Italy, India, Japan, Australia, and Ireland. Thanks for reading! Subscribe below for more tips!

About The Author

David Talley believes in a necessary resolution. An internationally recognized photographer and educator operating out of Portland, Oregon and Sydney, NSW, his work exhibits the darkest moment before an explosion of light. A story broken, but changed for the better, and the ability to transform the present problem in to a prospering future mark his imagery. David is the founder and creative director of the worldwide conceptual photography movement, Concept Collaborationand teacher of the artistic-creation workshop movement, Create From Your Heart. You can find more of David’s work on his website, and say hi on Instagram and Facebook. This article was also published here and shared with permission.

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6 responses to “How to get into studio lighting without spending thousands of dollars”

  1. Gotta Love DIY Avatar
    Gotta Love DIY

    such a great post

  2. Duncan Dimanche Avatar
    Duncan Dimanche

    thanks for sharing

  3. Kay O. Sweaver Avatar
    Kay O. Sweaver

    Speedlites are so underrated. They’re basically all I use. If you don’t need TTL you can get them for super cheap, and radio triggers like the RF603 are amazingly affordable.

  4. Mark Niebauer Avatar
    Mark Niebauer

    I own and use 5 yongnuo speedlights with radio triggers. Great stuff.

  5. steve Avatar
    steve

    The link to the mollystrohl website throws up a 403 forbidden error, you might want to let her know.

  6. Deirdre Ryan Avatar
    Deirdre Ryan

    I love speedlites, however I started off using traditional strobes and I still use those over my speedlites. I bring them as a backup with my Dynalites.