Deal 7: How to make money through your photography
Lighting can be the difference between a good shot and a great one.
Walk into most professional photographer’s studios and you’ll be confronted with truckloads of lighting equipment. To the average hobby photographer it’s enough to make your mind boggle – and for your stomach to turn as you think about the cost of it all.
Most of us can’t afford a full lighting rig – however what if there was a way to experiment with the type of lighting gear that pro photographers use without spending too much money? What if you could make it yourself.
In this post I’ve found 10 DIY Flash and Lighting Hacks that put some of these lighting techniques within the grasp of the rest of us. Some are more involved than others but all are fun and will provide you with some new lighting gear to experiment with.
What can you make with six speedlight flashes, a coffee can and a little spare time?
You get a multi-super-sb-ring-light! (pictured left).
You could probably also blind a small village if you’re not careful!
Find out what it is, how to make one and what the results are like here.
This one looks like a lot of fun to play with – even if it’s just for the challenge of it and the looks you’d get when you pull it out next time you do a shoot..
All you need for this one (pictured left) is a used milk bottle/jug and some scissors.
The result is that you’ll have a Poor Mans Ring Flash.
A ring flash is one that fits around the lens – it creates a wonderfully unique lighting effect. They will usually lighten your wallet by a couple of hundred dollars.
It’s so simple that I whipped one up for myself today in 5 minutes.
It worked out pretty good too – not bad for the cost of a couple of liters of milk!
If you want to experiment with other methods of making DIY ring flashes you also might want to check out this post for another method. This one is a little more involved, but I think will probably get better results.
Have you ever wanted to replicate the crisp clean product images that you see in catalogs with the products seemingly floating on a white background?
If you do – you need some kind of light tent/light box.
As usual, light boxes can cost you quite a bit – but thanks to DPS reader Jeffrey Bail you might be able to achieve the results without having to spend much at all.
In our Inexpensive Light Tent tutorial Jeffrey shows you how to turn a box, fabric, tape, glue board and light into a great little light tent.
Another cool DIY Hack is this Party Bouncer Card (pictured left) which is so simple yet promises to be so useful and effective.
This one is for those of you with a camera which doesn’t have the capability for an off camera flash.
It allows you to bounce some light off the ceiling while also diffusing the light going forward – this will enable you to get a less harsh flash effect that many flashes leave images with. I like this one as it pushes the light out from your flash in two directions which can lead to a more even light rather than just diffusing it – a little more sophisticated.
Another quick DIY on diffusing a flash is to put a little translucent magic tape over a flash (or a piece of white tissue paper can do it too).
Any of these methods will decrease the amount of light getting out from the flash onto your subject – hopefully resulting in a more subtle light and a less blown out image.
Beauty dishes are wonderful pieces of photographic equipment to experiment with – but they can be very expensive.
Not any more (at lest if you use this DIY trick).
In this hack learn how to use a simple Turkey Pan to get some pretty amazing beauty dish results! The comparison examples in this tutorial between the turkey pan version and the real thing are pretty convincing.
I must remember to add Turkey Pans to this week’s shopping list.
I’d not heard of this type of device before – but since I found this tutorial I’ve discovered a number of photographers who for one reason or another want to be able to extend the reach of their flash.
This is particularly useful for wildlife photographers who want to supplement natural light in tricky lighting with fill flash. Of course sometimes it’s difficult to get close to that animal and a normal flash would have no impact.
Enter the Flash Extender (one popular one is the ‘better beamer’).
Want to make one for yourself? This tutorial for the DIY Ghetto Flash Extender will tell you how.
Lately I’ve had more and more questions from readers about how to set up shots with multiple flash units to light a subject from more than one angle.
It’s not difficult to do if you have the budget to buy yourself an extra speedlight flash or two (or more) but if you don’t have the budget is there a way?
In this tutorial and author shows you how to use a disposable camera to act as a remote slave flash.
OK – this tutorial isn’t for anyone looking for a quick simple solution – but it is a challenge that I’m sure some of you will be up for!
Another way that professional photographers diffuse the light that comes from a flash and gets a nice subtle and even light on their subject is to use a softbox
A softbox sits over a light (it’s a big box with white walls) which ensures the light is spread out evenly.
This DIY Softbox tutorial is great – it requires card, a white sheet (silk if you can), velcro, scissors, glue and the template that the tutorial provides you with.
The results look pretty good – but if you want more DIY softboxes the same site also has another tutorial for an alternative softbox.
Again – this one looks pretty good.
There are a lot of DIY flash diffuser hacks and tutorials around but this one from our friend Chris at DSLRBlog is pretty cool.
It costs Ã‚Â£1, takes 5 minutes, requires craft foam, a little elastic and some scissors.
The tutorial even includes a template for you to print out on your printer and then cut out – what more do you need?
Even the technologically challenge could make this one (speaking of myself of course).
Nice work from Chris with that one.
Another similar Flash Bouncer/Diffuser can be found over at DPReview here. This one is foam also.
Lastly – another card/paper version of the flash bouncer.
It’s time for one last DIY lighting hack – this one attempts to bring it all together with a full DIY Budget Studio setup.
The author of it takes up the challenge of creating a full studio lighting system for under $75.
It includes lights, reflectors, diffusers and flash diffusers – all using items that you could pick up at hardware and craft stores.
It also shows you a few test shots at the end of the tutorial that compare different lighting options.
You will need your own flash unit to use the flash diffusers on – but the rest is all included in the tutorial.
I particularly light the suggestions around globes for the lights. I know a couple of DPS forum members have had similar success with these sorts of lights.
I saw this one recently and I think it makes a worthy addition to this post.
It uses the light from your camera’s flash to light your subject using fibre optics arranged around your lens to give a more even light.
Of course it’s not the easiest to make (there are 37 steps) but it’s an ingenious idea and the example images taken with the setup are pretty cool considering it cost just a few dollars to make.
August 31, 2013 07:11 pm
I made an quick and very cheap diffuser.
Find out yourself, including sample drawing in pdf for a nikon d7000
Article is written in Dutch and halfway down the page in Englisch
August 31, 2013 07:09 pm
I made an quick and very cheap diffuser.
Find out yourself, including sample drawing in pdf for a nikon d7000
August 2, 2013 10:45 am
I have been using a foam plate as a diffuse for years. My wife has a small point and shoot and I taped a small section of plate (about twice the size of the flash) over the flash and the quality of pictures went up about 300%.
June 22, 2013 11:33 am
It appears the site for this has move to -
February 22, 2013 04:05 pm
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January 21, 2013 03:52 am
The best way it to buy or make a "copy stand" so you just place the photos on the shooting area and it's all lined up. Try Craigslist for them.
January 20, 2013 05:43 am
Yes that was the plan. But now I'm thinking of just using a camera but want the lighting to be perfect
January 16, 2013 10:23 pm
Lia - Do you mean using the camera that is built into a Samsung or Apple tablet/computer to copy old photos?
January 16, 2013 10:26 am
Lia, none of these tips really covers your question. What you are trying to do is called "copy photography" (you can Google it) and requires off-camera lighting. This articles covers it well:
You can substitute continuous lights, like a couple of halogen desk lamps. You need to first photograph a grey card to set the white balance. If you have a light meter you'll get perfect exposures, but you can still get good results with the gray card and using the fully manual exposure setting (M) on the camera and the camera's built-in meter.
Make sure your camera is on a tripod and try to set it at precisely 90 degrees perpendicular to the surface of your copy table to avoid distortions.
January 16, 2013 02:46 am
which one of these lighting techniques would be best if I am trying to take pictures of old photos with a tablet?
June 26, 2012 10:03 am
This is great, I've been considering buying a work light and booster pack to use in remote outdoor areas. This gives me the kick in the pants to make it happen. Thanks for sharing!
April 17, 2012 05:17 am
I'm all for creativity when it comes to saving a bit of money on home made lighting rigs, but...
The "budget" speedlite ring-light described that uses 6 speedlites and a coffee can hardly counts as budget when each speedlite would cost 300-400 dollars minimum.
Cheaper to buy the right gear in that case.
February 13, 2012 04:15 am
i use A3 white or A3 silver reflectors... just get a sheet of paper, or mylar, and laminate it... punch a series of holes in it, and hey presto... a 8 foot wall...
use a margarine tub for flash diffuser... cut it out, and add greaseproof... (i use a Metz 45ct5)
and i do like the beauty dish idea... now lets see if itll work on my Elinchroms...
and finally, i have a wall...(2.5m high, 6m long), or a 2m x 1m alcove, or a 2x2x2 box... fits anywhere, folds into a shoe box... cost, 20 quid.
December 10, 2011 05:04 am
I had my brother made me a ring flash with some really really cheap components bought at DX (made with led rings). It works as charm, and it's easy to carry around! Some pictures here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rayis/sets/72157628347884427 (there you can see the list of ingredients to reproduce ;))
December 10, 2011 04:13 am
Thanks for these, some are interesting.
December 9, 2011 03:16 am
a little nuts and a little helpful all at the same time, i'm not sure i would turn up to photograph a wedding with any go these but for a home project they look very interesting and probably as effective as some of the high cost stuff out there
December 6, 2011 04:36 pm
art - dPS has around 3000 tutorials in our archives and many new readers don't realize what is there - so at times we update and repost previously published posts. We do that with less than 3% of the posts we do. Hopefully that's not too much of a burden for our longer term readers to bear! :-)
December 3, 2011 08:51 am
how many times can you see the same thing over and over and over..
December 2, 2011 10:28 pm
Man, this article is old. Nice repost, bro.
November 2, 2011 05:17 am
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October 30, 2011 01:29 pm
Here's a link to a PDF of the Fring instructions (#11):
September 8, 2011 03:48 am
Something to share
August 19, 2011 11:17 am
I am still trying to get my husband to throw away his old homemade ring light: bundt cake pan and two speed lights with brackets from home depot to mount to the camera and plexi diffuser. He made a larger one out of two plastic planter pans. One large one small, cut a whole for camera and covered in a rip stop nylon.
April 30, 2011 12:54 am
You can purchase it on MallExtreme, look for Light Flashlight 803B. I'm not sure if this blog allows direct linking, if it does, just click here
March 11, 2011 01:04 pm
Here is another reflector that is easy to use. It's based on a printable template. I put this together because most others i found were too complicated and time consuming to consider. And, most are just plain silly looking. :) I hope someone finds it useful.
[eimg url='http://www.pieroway.com/reflector.jpg' title='reflector.jpg']
March 11, 2011 01:01 pm
another version, printable template. i put this together because most others i found were too complicated and time consuming. and most are just plain silly looking. :) good luck.
March 10, 2011 11:40 am
ï»¿Kazim seni seviyoruz
November 15, 2010 06:09 pm
It seems like fun to try it out for my new flash! :D
August 13, 2010 01:55 am
I am postign an updated link
June 13, 2010 09:52 pm
^ Thank you. I was very interested to see that one and very dissapointed when the link took me to a nonexistent webpage.
May 17, 2010 11:17 am
The #11 Fring fiber optic ring light link is toast but I found an article on it that contains enough photos to see how it's done ...
May 10, 2010 12:58 am
this is awesome! thanks!
May 1, 2010 06:45 am
wish i have one... i love taking pictutes.. nice camera you got!
March 31, 2010 08:37 am
hi there this is a very up to date and informative can i put a link on one of my blogs -regards Angela
March 30, 2010 09:46 pm
I find these tips very interesting and useful for my bussiness. I intend to try several of them
March 26, 2010 04:20 am
The best one in this list is the good old Udi's DIY flash softbox.
March 15, 2010 12:23 am
I think that these type of DIY photographic tools are not only cost affective but also give you a sense of achievement as you have made something that works well.
March 2, 2010 02:57 am
on the new addition, diy #11, the link isn't working... i tried several times... i would love to see how that was made :D
February 15, 2010 07:12 am
OK does anyone think it is OK to shoot photos with white light torch? Would that be acceptable to produce good photos?
January 22, 2010 02:39 pm
Awesome article. :)
December 16, 2009 05:19 pm
WOW i just love this page it has helped mr out I am on a poor (wo)mans budget too and I cant waite to try this out thank you
December 6, 2009 01:17 am
Lighting is an art, yet the basic principles are simple. If you would like to be recognised for the work you produce as a camera operator, it is essential to understand how to control light and achieve a good result with limited resources. Use "task" lighting wherever possible. You can save energy by reducing background lighting and focusing light right where it's needed through the use of "task" lighting.
November 19, 2009 07:47 pm
Pretty cool tips, I am definitely going ot check out a couple of the smaller more professional looking DIY stuff. for my wedding photography. Thanks...
November 13, 2009 04:03 am
Darren, this is your very best post here! :)
November 10, 2009 04:02 am
Nice light tent tutorial. I have needed something similar for quite a while but have been too lazy to purchase one.
September 23, 2009 04:44 pm
This DIY is the most efficient one. Just amaing DIY thx for sharing your idea with us.
September 9, 2009 03:18 am
Fantastic article,I made the "turkey pan beauty dish" from a 8" aluman foil pan & fong diffuser works great not so hot looking but works ,thats what its all about
June 2, 2009 03:36 pm
Thanks a lot for these cool tweaks :)
February 9, 2009 02:38 pm
Looks like fun, I have to try a few of these. I don't know if I could show up at a wedding with one of these though. :) Thanks for posting.
February 2, 2009 06:43 pm
I can just see the reaction at a wedding when I pull out the Turkey Pan beauty dish!.
January 31, 2009 05:39 am
Interesting and very valuable article. Thanks
January 30, 2009 10:08 pm
Thanks for linking this article on my latest blog posts. i will definitely try some of these cool DIY projects soon! Except for maybe the Multi-Super-SB-Ring Light. That looks like a fire hazard just waiting to happen :P
January 30, 2009 04:34 am
smart idea? creative solution?
January 30, 2009 02:42 am
Thanks for the very useful article.
I passed it on to my photography buddies and I keep telling them to sign up, and to spead the word of this excellent site.
January 29, 2009 08:56 pm
I can’t wait to try all these! Thanks so much, I’ve been wanting to get into artificial lighting more but it’s a whole new world..
January 29, 2009 04:51 am
This was excellent sir. Thank you.
January 29, 2009 04:41 am
lol … i see the future in photoshop and photography :X no comment !!
January 28, 2009 10:39 pm
Just what I've been looking for. Thanks Darren. See you around Melbourne perhaps.
January 28, 2009 10:01 pm
I used to hold a cigarette rolling paper over the flash of a point and shoot digital. Great diffusion. Super cheap!
January 28, 2009 02:30 pm
The Poor Man's Rings Falsh and Party Bouncer Card will be on me for the next house party casual pics.
January 28, 2009 09:51 am
Well, as I saw today - Dealextreme.com has quite cheap external flash trigers and even flashes. You can become quite of a strobist with few of these flashes - http://www.dealextreme.com/search.dx/search.camera%20flash~r.24945391
Will save few bucks and gonna oder it myself to get rid of some DIY stuff I did.
January 28, 2009 08:15 am
DIY Lighting Hacks : THE SUN
January 28, 2009 07:03 am
lol ... i see the future in photoshop and photography :X no comment !
January 28, 2009 05:27 am
Wow dude, that is like WAY cool!
January 28, 2009 04:59 am
where's the link to the last one??
also, why not link the images next to each?
it will make your posts that much more useable.
January 28, 2009 04:13 am
I wish we could get away with using these for pro-shoots... bummer to pay so much more for something that does pretty much the same thing, but looks more pro!
Thanks for the links!
January 28, 2009 01:16 am
Love this - Tried #4 this morning with a 4x6 index card, rather than a business card. Had to use a little tape due to the weight of the card, but I am super thrilled with the result. Here is the link to my HSMSHS flickr pix - the ones labeled "Carve", posted today show with flash and with diffused flash, if you are interested....http://www.flickr.com/photos/31136035@N06/3231718926/in/set-72157612862785620/?addedcomment=1#comment72157613049630958
January 28, 2009 12:25 am
If we're pimping for our own sites, heres a tutorial for beginners I wrote.
January 27, 2009 11:28 pm
I can't wait to try all these! Thanks so much, I've been wanting to get into artificial lighting more but it's a whole new world.
January 27, 2009 09:26 pm
Haha, nice collection :)
January 27, 2009 06:30 pm
Hum link did not work...
http://digital-photography-school.com/forum/showthread.php?t=43729 If all else fails copy and paste the link ...
January 27, 2009 06:26 pm
Just posted my own DIY recipe for a two-minute bouncer on the DPS forum.
Useful when cornered without a bouncer, or even filters !
Enjoy and improve,
January 27, 2009 01:34 pm
Nice though would be much nicer imho with actual photos taken with each rig. Just sayin'...
January 27, 2009 11:52 am
Very useful article. Thanks for putting this together!
January 19, 2009 07:22 pm
DIY Pop-up Flash Diffuser for the DSLR
Another one of my creation.
Maybe someone can try this one out too?
January 9, 2009 10:02 am
Here's is a DIY diffuser that I've fabricated myself using a plastic card.
let me know what you think.
January 2, 2009 02:45 am
I can just see the reaction at a wedding when I pull out the Turkey Pan beauty dish!
August 27, 2008 01:37 am
Here's a cheap/durable fibre optic ring flash for macro (not strong enough for distances over 3 feet -- but idea could be modified for use with a stronger external flash.) Cost $5 to build. Uses fiber optics. Here is the how-to:
(my web-design skills are rubbish - the page will be slow to load)
July 11, 2008 09:27 am
WOW i just love this page it has helped mr out I am on a poor (wo)mans budget too and I cant waite to try this out
May 10, 2008 12:05 pm
great tips - I wish I had these when I was in college.
February 28, 2008 04:12 am
Awesome. Very useful and informative. Thanks for sharing!
February 6, 2008 09:12 am
I did my own fairly easy led ring light. Take a look here for detailed instructions if you like.
February 6, 2008 03:20 am
This is not my site, but I love what this guy did with disposable camera flashes for Halloween. It's got good detail on how to rig multiple cameras.
He became a one-man horde of paparazzi.
February 3, 2008 12:27 am
Along the lines of #7 above (Party bouncer card) - I've found duct tape to be a very useful substitute to bounce/dim the the flash. Off all the ideas, I'd say #7 should be near the top - most cameras have pop-up or built-in flashes, give the biggest payoff with appropriately placed duct tape or cardboard. But if you're using a small point/shoot camera make sure you don't redirect light into the camera! (Duct tape works better there).
January 31, 2008 07:39 am
Anything that saves some money and still works really well for a photo setup is a great thing. Love all the links, good job!
January 26, 2008 10:01 am
WOW! That's a ton of great information. Can't wait to try some of them out. Thanks for helping us stretch the budget and experiment with some of the effects to see how we like it to rank it on the gotta-have list.
January 20, 2008 01:48 pm
a ring flash.. what does the photo look like.. with it
can someone submit an example...thanks
January 18, 2008 03:24 pm
creative, nice and handy tips for the amature photographer who has some limitation with the tools but wants to create better pictures.
though normally i prefer to make photography with out flashes, but i like tips.
January 18, 2008 12:44 pm
what a great group of DIY lighting projects. thanks. there are at least two I will build right away.
January 18, 2008 07:43 am
Sorry Selwyn - unfortunately that site seems to be having some hosting issues at the moment and has been down a lot since I posted this.
January 18, 2008 03:01 am
I loved this. I've been wondering how to create better lighting in a room without spending a lot of money. Thank you!
January 18, 2008 01:31 am
The link to 'Poor Mans Ring Flash' does not work for me. I've tried over a few days. Please help.
January 18, 2008 01:04 am
heres a good one too.
January 17, 2008 06:31 am
Great list! Always good to find inexpensive alternatives to useful products.
January 16, 2008 08:28 pm
I think Hubbers use of a plastic milk bottle as a light tent should go down as tip number 11. For quite small items, this must be one of the cheapest and most effective light tents around!
I'm definitely going to use that idea with some of my macro work.
January 16, 2008 02:22 pm
Thanks a lot for sharing this. By the way, does any one know if the incorporated flash of a Canon RebelXTi can perform as the main (master) flash and use the Canon430ex flash as the secondary one? Thanks again.
January 16, 2008 12:13 am
Great ideas. As a small online business on a budget we do a lot of our own photography. Initially we have photographed bangles inside plastic milk containers to create the right light diffusion.
I fully plan to use some of these techniques in the future on http://www.banglebangle.co.uk
January 15, 2008 11:41 pm
wow! good DIY!
January 15, 2008 03:20 pm
Very nice. I'm already having withdraws from macro photography (enough so that I caught a tiny jumping spider at work to bring home for some portraits). The idea of using plastic to diffuse a flash (I'll probably try it with an external flash) may really be a breakthrough in my photography.
A flash isn't absolutely necessary for macro photography, but it gives you much more flexibility
January 15, 2008 02:32 pm
January 15, 2008 12:29 pm
Thanks for including a link to my article in such a great collection of other lighting tips.
It's great to see this kind of resourcefulness and sharing of information.
January 15, 2008 09:05 am
These projects will give me an excuse to play the MacGyver theme at my work bench.
January 15, 2008 09:01 am
Hey man... Great stuff!!!
I will try few of them.
January 15, 2008 08:03 am
For a cool red effect, block your flash with your hand while taking a picture closeup.
January 15, 2008 07:36 am
#10 in action. I did this earlier this year.
Here's the setup:
Here's the results:
January 15, 2008 07:07 am
I've not got into lighting in this way - yet
Because of the price mainly but this DIY article has been great, and now I know it is within my reach!
I really like the light tent.
January 15, 2008 05:43 am
Darren, this is your very best post here! :) (well, my favorite at least)
a Problogger reader
January 15, 2008 03:35 am
I find these tips very interesting and useful. I intend to try several of them. Thanks much. Keep teaching us new tricks.
January 15, 2008 03:03 am
On the other hand... if you have 6 new nikon flashes, why would you use a coffee can to connect them anyway? :]
January 15, 2008 12:51 am
the stuff people should know
January 14, 2008 11:58 pm
I have a flip up flash on my Canon S3. I took a ping pong ball, made a cut in it and slip it over the flash for excellent diffusing. But I am going to take a closer look at number 4. It looks like it would work for my camera too.
January 14, 2008 11:55 pm
I am blushing here. I love the camera flash slave. I will try to make something that gives it a bit of more zazzzz.
Have a great 2008,
January 14, 2008 10:28 pm
Great stuff, thanks for the links.
January 14, 2008 09:07 pm
thanks for spotting the missed link - missed that link when writing it up. Added it now.
January 14, 2008 08:49 pm
Absolutely brilliant entry. I am very excited by the 'poor man's ring flash'. I am looking to do more macro photography, and this will be something which could completely change the way my photos will turn out.
January 14, 2008 07:57 pm
Great mash-up Darren, sure is useful to have all that info in one place.
And thanks a lot for the feature
January 14, 2008 07:21 pm
Very useful article.
But there is no link to the #10 or did I miss it?
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