Photography 101: Lighting Alternatives

When one thinks of lighting and photography, the idea of flashes and strobes probably come racing to mind right away. This maybe true for a vast number of photographers, however there are plenty of other ways to get your lighting on, and they will not even break the bank. Some solutions may even surprise you!

Let’s get the easiest lighting source out of the way right now. That solution is natural lighting, or the sun. The sun never runs out of batteries, won’t blow up in the middle of a shoot, and is not something you will need to worry about getting stolen while you are out doing your work. On the downside, you cannot control the sun, and it may not cooperate with you. There is also having to work around those peak times of shooting in the morning and in the evening. Even with its uncontrollable nature, the burning star in the sky is easily the most reliable light you can use.

So what do you do when the sun is blanketed in clouds. Have no fear, as cloudy weather can provide a big benefit to your lighting needs as well. Overcast skies often reduce harsh shadows. This means if you are shooting flowers, bugs, and whatnot, the need for fill light may not be necessary. Clouds also provide a more interesting sky. Learn to work with Mother Nature as she provides some of the best options around!

Now, what do you do if you do not want to depend on the weather? One easy option I have found are flashlights. These handy devices come in various shapes, sizes, light colors, and intensity levels. You can get extremely creative with just a flashlight or two. You will need to watch your white balance with flashlights, but if you are looking for something that can quickly spark your creativity, garb a small flashlight and find a dark space to play around.

Another option is Christmas lights. I know it sounds odd, but there is a great amount of fun you can have with these holiday decorations. For starters, they make some of the most beautiful Bokeh around. A backdrop full of colorful circles can really enhance the overall feel of a shot. Next, they come in plenty of colors. Want to light a scene in blue, it can be done. Maybe you prefer to bathe the subject in a purple glow, that can also be done. The point is, Christmas lights come in enough colors that you are only limited by your creativity at the moment.

Next on the list is candles. You do need to be careful with these as you don’t want to burn anything down, let alone torch your subject. But candle light provides some of the warmest lighting around. The dance of the flame can also create some of the most interesting shadows you will find. Give it a try once and see just where it takes you.

Finally, there is the trusty desk lamp. These provide you with plenty of options when it comes to colors, sizes, intensity, and even cost. I recently bought a small desk lamp from Target for a measly $6. It has a flexible neck that allows me to bounce the light wherever my heart desires. Next, there are several options for light bulbs that provide a great amount of flexibility when it comes to what I want to do creatively. It is magnificent.

Of course these options all come with pros and cons that need to be weighed out for any shoot. The point, however, is that you don’t always need thousands of dollars in gear to get lighting you want or can use. Sometimes, it is just a matter of digging out that old college lamp that you spent many hours sleeping under and putting it to some creative use.

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