Finding Perfect Light With Homemade Light Modifiers
What is “perfect lighting?” It will differ for every style of photography and every photographer’s style. For my food photography, I think the perfect lighting is the soft, beautiful, natural light found from a large window with indirect sun coming through. Unfortunately, most of the locations where I have to go and shoot food don’t have this light that I am looking for. In order to get the shoot done, I have to to create the light. What if I could create this “perfect light” and have it for every assignment?
I love the beauty of natural lighting, but it is not always the same. The location and architecture of the building, time of year, time of day, and weather are all factors that will effect the light. If you are constantly on the move at different locations, this can be very frustrating.
With artificial lighting from a strobe or continuous light source, you will generally get a consistent light output every time (yes the brand of flash and age of the bulb can affect a lights consistency). Do you ever try and create a light source that will give you your version of “perfect light” every time? I have been playing around with different concepts and came across one that I like. It might surprise you that you might already have the items around your house. First, here is the result.
From looking at the image, what can you tell about the modifier? Any ideas of its size? Placement? Direction? Would you believe that other than A Clamps, a 580 EX II, and a few light stands, everything else costs between $5 and $10 ?
Here is what the modifier is made out of.
I decided to use things that I had lying around my studio. These included aluminum foil, a clear plastic cup, and deli wax paper. I placed a flat circle of aluminum foil into the bottom of the cup. The wax paper was then wrapped around the outside of the cup. The wrapped cup was then placed on top of the flash. To keep the light falling on my set and not lighting the back of the studio, I placed a foam board V reflector behind the flash. This reflected all of the light towards the subject.
The deli wax paper does diffuse the light slightly, but it is too far away from my subject to provide the diffused type of light that I desire. To create super soft light, I need a large light source close to my subject. I have found that for the price, few things work better than a thin white bed sheet. The bed sheet is placed at an angle over the set.
Here are a few more shots at a variety of angles.
I have found that a strobe fired directly into the sheet has too harsh of a quality. It is better when indirectly fired into the sheet. Firing into the top of the aluminum foil lined cup will give an indirect direction to the light hitting the sheet. You could also, fire the flash into a V reflector and let it bounce back into the sheet. I have tried that in the past, but I like firing into the top of the cup better. What do you think? Is this something you would try? Have you tried any DIY fixes to create your perfect light source?
Want to learn more about food photography? Check out Issues 1-7 of photographing FOOD.