Photography Tutorial-Lighting

Many of us struggle with properly lighting our photos. It’s easy for the pros, who have all the equipment on hand they would ever need! But there just has to be simpler ways that are more affordable.

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Things you will need:

Camera (duh!)

A brightly lit window with lots of sunshine coming through

A thin white curtain or white sheet (white is a must!)

tripod (if you absolutely do not have access to a tripod, you will need a helper!)

surface (I used a box, you can use anything, such as a coffee table)

small mirror


prop (optional) my prop is a book

Now lets begin.

I first put the white sheet over the window. This has a similar effect to a soft box. That’s really exactly what it is, it’s a giant softbox!

I then set up my surface beside the window, with a sheet of dark gray posterboard for my background.  I actually had the foot of a bed right behind the posterboard, this helped to keep the back of my posterboard curled up (although with these particular shots, I didn’t need that since these are close ups).

Notice how I have it in the picture…the window is to the side of my setup.

Next I put my camera on a tripod and set the self timer for 10 seconds. After I had the camera in position and had taken a couple of experimental shots so I could set my exposure correctly (I use manual), I then prepared my mirror for the shot.

Yes, a mirror. This is the important part. Because the window can only light part of our product, some of it is going to be in shadow. I am going to use the mirror to reflect light from the window back onto the parts of the product that need more light.

In this case, the petals of the flower need some lighting.

This is the “before” picture. Notice how the petals are dark with lots of shadows.

Now lets take the mirror and hold it so it is facing the window at an angle, throwing light onto the petals. Set your self timer for about 10 seconds to give yourself time to get into position with the mirror. This is where a helper comes in if you don’t have a tripod. You might need someone to hold the mirror while you take the picture. However, I strongly recommend a tripod, you will have clearer sharper photos.

This is the “after” picture! What a difference! Both shots are pretty good, but now that we know how much better it looks with the mirror, the first shot isn’t so great after all!

Not only that, but having light in the proper areas also helped to bring out it’s true colors.

I didn’t even do any photoshopping for these. The light from the window was perfectly natural, and didn’t create any weird coloring. This is one of the reasons why it is so important to use a white sheet. Any other color would cause some color problems in your photos.

You may need to experiment with how you position the mirror, to get just the right amount of light in the right areas.

For those of you who use manual settings, here are the details for my photos. I was using the Nikon D80.

Shutter was at 1/40 (this is why you need a tripod, a shutter that slow would have blurred things if I had held it by hand) aperture at F13 to bring the entire flower into sharp focus, focal length at 80mm, and ISO at 320.

I don’t have a macro lens right now, thus a focal length of 80mm was required to get a close shot. If you are using a macro lens, you’ll probably be able to us a faster shutter speed. It will also depend on how much light is coming through your window.

Oh, and in my defense…pay no attention to the unfinished windows. My house is under construction!…which is great, I can make all the messes I want and no one will care!