I know your camera has a built in flash.
But I'm sorry, you shouldn't be using it!
Sometimes a scene just needs more light, but typically it shouldn't be achieved with your camera's flash!
So how do you light a scene when Mother Nature isn't on your side or when it's nighttime?
Soft light can not always be achieve naturally.
Sometimes, we just HAVE to take photos at night and your normal lighting just won't cut it!!
But, you can achieve soft light with a flash and/or daylight balanced CFL lightbulb with minimal equipment!
Because your light source is small and we need to diffuse the light coming from it to make it soft.
Yes, there are photographers out there that swear by natural light, but they are missing out on so many more opportunities by learning how to use off camera flash.
Don't worry...off camera flash sounds scary, but it's really not.
Worry even less!!! Seriously, I think constant lights using a daylight balanced CFL bulb is even easier than a flash!!
So regardless of whether you are using a DSLR or the hottest new cell phone on the market (....shoot or even an older smart phone for that matter) you will be able to light your scene and take a properly exposed photo using soft light.
But, the short answer is by sending light through a lighting modifier, it spreads the light out creating soft light!
If you want great light anytime of day, using a lighting modifier will take your photos up to the next level!
Type of light source used
The shoot location
Ok, so this method brings a slight disadvantage and minor bad news...but also some good news!
The bad news is that you're slightly more limited in your options and it will require a small investment...
(However honestly, whatever route you take, it's safe to say, there'll be some sort of investment required.)
The good news is that most of the items discussed here can still be used when you progress to the DSLR!
The even BETTER NEWS is that most of what's discussed here is inexpensive and won't break the bank!!
A great, easy setup to start with is window light, but make sure the light isn’t beating down on your setup.
If you need to diffuse hard light coming through the window hang a sheer curtain or white bed sheet, from the curtain rod.
An easy way to temporarily hang this type of modifier would be to purchase inexpensive clamps at the local hardware store, or jump over to Amazon and pick up a set.
These clamps make setup and takedown quick, easy and affordable!
Another option is to use a lamp you already have with a daylight balanced CFL bulb.
I hope I didn’t scare you off...this set up is relatively inexpensive and easy to store, if you’re limited on storage space.
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Another great option is to hold a 5-in-1 reflector in front of it.
The 5 in 1 reflector is a foldable disk with a zip off, reversible cover. The disk itself is a white diffusion panel and the cover typically offers a white side, black side, silver side and gold side to help bounce light (or absorb light in the case of the black side).
The last option is to set your phone or point and shoot camera up on a tripod or other sturdy structure, set the timer and you hold the modifier.
Regardless of the option you pick, there’s a good chance you’ll have to spend a little money. However, your other option is to wait for the right time of day or an overcast day to get great light from the window.
If you want great light anytime of day, then spending a little money to progress your business is a great step!
Remember… These items can be used when you move up to a fancier camera too, so look at this as an investment in your business and your future!
Please ask questions in the comments below if you are!!!
You still have the option to use window light as previously mentioned above, but you also have other options too!
Remember just because you have a fancy camera, doesn’t mean you can use the camera’s built in flash!!
On camera flash is a NO NO without a modifier (and it still isn't the greatest with a modifier either).
Instead, try using off camera flash...don’t worry it’s not scary once you start playing!
The following setups will require the use of a speedlight/flash, a light stand, an umbrella/flash adapter and a flash trigger (if needed for your specific camera and flash).
-White shoot through umbrella
-Softbox (Good option for outdoors)
-Gary Fong light sphere (or the DIY method...modify empty rubbing alcohol container). Good anytime, anywhere.
-5 in 1 reflector
If your setup is outside and you’re using off camera flash, your best option is probably NOT going to be the shoot through umbrella or the 5-in-1 reflector because they act as sails and are hard to keep steady even on slightly windy days.
Keep in mind, the larger the light source, the softer the light will be.
Therefore, the larger the modifier you use, the softer the light will be.
Don’t buy a lighting modifier so large that you wouldn't have the room to set it up in your desired location.
Also, this may seem backwards, but the closer you move a light source towards your subject, the softer the light will be.
Ok, try this...
If you have 1 hand close to your face and another hand held out as far as you can reach, which looks larger?
(Don't worry...no one will walk up and use your hand to smack you in the face...just do it.)
The closer one, right?
So by bringing an umbrella closer, the light will be perceived as larger and will create a softer light.
Ok, so we’ve talked about how to find or create soft light with your available light, constant light and speedlight flash; and I’ve said do NOT use on camera flash!
Well…there is an exception to this rule.
You use a speedlight flash on your DSLR AND bounce the light off the ceiling or wall.
By bouncing the light, it spreads the light out creating soft light.
Just keep in mind, this will require a little practice, as well as a lot of trial and error.
Once you've picked a lighting modifier that works well with your camera, start practicing.
Keep in mind if you have a small location to work in while shooting, you don't want a gigantic lighting modifier.
If you have limited storage space you also don't want something that's too large.
So, think ahead and get what works best for you.
Again, if you have any questions, leave me a comment below or join my Facebook Group and ask there!
For support, tutorials, and a place to ask questions
Amy is the owner extraordinaire at Learn Blog Photography and Amy Paris Photography. She's a single mom to an amazing teenage son. She's passionate about photography and skiing (downhill), the faster the better! Sign up for a FREE 30-min call to light up your photos & biz! bit.ly/2udzBXB