Cheap Photography Projects’ Creative Lighting Ideas

Get creative with your images by using these lighting hacks to shoot cheap but conceptual photography.

Beauty in Simplicity

You don’t necessarily need to use top-of-the-line kit in order to capture brilliant photos. To help you inject some creative lighting into your portraits and still life shots here are some fantastic iPad photography hacks. It’s about having fun with your photos by using cheap photography project ideas.

There is a brilliantly versatile little softbox that you are carrying around in your backpack. For illuminating still life images and portraits your tablet or laptop can easily be converted into a light source which makes it more useful than just for editing and sharing photos. Heavy lighting systems are expensive to this portable and cheaper alternative.

In the same way as a softbox does you can use your tablet or laptop screen as a light source opening up to a white screen such as Softbox Pro or even Microsoft Paint and using these programs in a darkened room they will put out a lot of light. To instantly customize the effect with colours and shapes you can choose new backgrounds which is what is so great about a digital lighting system.


Light Source

Using your tablet as a light source we’ll look at a number of different set ups and techniques that you can exploit. Softboxes can light the faces of subjects when shooting portraits and you can get striking results by creating unusual catchlights when experiment with shapes. Food and product shots in the still life setting can also be enhanced by using the simplicity of the tablet light. For really creative photos you can add patterned backgrounds, play with cross-polarisation, or paint with light.


Proper Support

You need to choose your settings carefully as even though tablets and laptops produce lovely soft light there’s not very much of it. Without having to worry about the shutter speed you should choose whatever aperture you need to make the composition work and mounting the camera on a tripod will enable you to do this.

However, because your subject won’t be able to stay still long enough for long exposures you’ll need to increase the ISO if you’re shooting portraits. For example, if using an 18-55mm kit lens at maximum aperture of f/5.6 at maximum zoom setting then an ISO of 1600 will yield shutter speeds in the region of 1/15 sec to 1/30 sec at f/5.6.


Light A Portrait

So that the tablet light is the only thing illuminating your model you’ll need to shoot in a darkened room for this particular technique. To compensate for the low light pick a high ISO and use a tripod for stability. Create a shallow depth of field with an aperture of f/5.6 and use a shutter speed of 1/15 sec. To get a desirable effect adjust the angle setting your tablet at an angle to the model’s face. Laptop screens will work just as well for this technique.



This attractive effect looks like a clever Photoshop trick, but it’s actually very simple to do. To reflect a shape in the catchlight of your model’s eyes load a white shape against a black background onto your screen and use this to light the model’s face. Portraits are the best medium for this to work well. For a striking close-up use a macro lens at f/2.8 to focus on the model’s eye.


Use Live View Focus

Because you need to be sure the key area of your subject is sharp and because there’s not much depth of field it’s important to focus carefully when shooting close-ups. The most accurate method is Live View mode because it uses the image actually captured by the sensor to focus. The focus square should turn green when you half-press the shutter button as the camera focuses on that point after moving the square focus area to the desired part of the picture. However, even a tiny change in the position will change the focus so it’s essential that the camera is on a tripod when you’re setting this up. Live View autofocus is slower than the normal method so you need to be patient.


Light A Still Life

Bright, natural light make still life arrangements, especially food, look a lot better when shot. For even lighting a clamshell arrangement of your tablet or laptop can create a great effect. Using a tripod to get down to the level of what you’re shooting you can then set up the position of your screens on either side of your subject. Being careful to compose the shot so that your screen aren’t in view the angled tablets will give an even light.


Macro Backdrop

If your close-ups lack a certain punch they’ll instantly look much more striking if you position them against a brightly coloured background. If you’re using a shallow depth of field the tablet screen will be slightly out of focus and it won’t be so obvious that it’s not a real background. Using your tablet means you can choose any backdrop, texture or color you like to complement your subject.


Cross Polarisation

Cross polarisation is very easy to do with a tablet and it is a technique that looks impressive. All you need is a polarising filter fitted to your camera, since, unlike other light sources, such as a lightbox, a computer screen is already polarised, so the screen and your attachment will interact to cross-polarise the final image. Place a clear plastic object on your tablet’s screen and position your camera directly overhead using a tripod, then rotate the filter and see what futuristic effects you can create.


Paint With Light

By painting with a moving light source you can illuminate a still life. A torch app downloaded onto your tablet can replace the more traditional method of using a flashlight. Making sure the room is dark set a long exposure of about 5 seconds then press your camera’s shutter button using the beam of light to paint around the object. You can either use the light to illuminate part of the scene or simply draw around the shape. The light will be brighter in the shot according to the slower you move the light.

Words by Elijah (Content Marketer) via Digital Camera World.