An Affordable Lighting Trick for Portrait Photography

During a night of birthday celebrations for a friend in Laguna Beach, CA I saw amazing lights featured on each table in the place of candles. They did a great job illuminating the immediate areas, but I noticed some people using the lights for their selfies. 

While I am not the biggest fan of the selfie, I was able to take a photograph of my cousins, and we used the light of the table lanterns instead of the iPhone flash. The pictures came out beautiful, moody, and without the harsh highlights of most available lights. The shadows were soft, similar to an umbrella or softbox modifier. 

I was in love and began researching the company on my phone. They were made by MPOWERD, who is in the business of creating lights for outdoor activities and spaces. The lights float, they are inflatable, easy to pack, solar-powered, last long, and give off a strong light. Naturally, every photographer wonders how they can use them for their craft!

I decided to arrange a quick photo shoot with Cory. He was a former male model and now a budding photographer himself. I wanted to use the lights for a portrait session during the late evening hours. We wanted to stay mobile, use only the lights of the lanterns, and see how they came out. With a few lights in my backpack, one camera body, and two lenses, I had a makeshift photography studio.

Compact Gear

Having shot in many areas of Los Angeles, I've learned that the neighbors are less and less friendly about photographers or any type of crew on their streets. With the explosion of photography, cheaper cameras and YouTubers, certain neighborhoods are getting tired of constant shoots outside their homes. They also want permits, money, and a limited footprint. 

For a photographer without any budget, this makes it difficult to build your book and still keep a small footprint in the neighborhood. We rely on creativity and having one less thing that requires batteries or electricity is a big plus. The lights allow you to set up, shoot, and pack up in record time.

For s test shoot, a video, or even small commercial clients, I suggest going with mobile-friendly lights. These are one great option for you!

Waterproof

Yes, they are! For the intimate pool photograph, bathtub, or even in the rain, these are awesome. They float, so that could be a major plus or annoyance if you're shooting in the water. I plan on using these at the beach soon now that summer weather is here!

Charge During the Day

I charged the lights the day before; there is something comforting about being able to leave your gear upside down (solar up) and knowing you have a full charge. Our lights stayed on about 8-9 hours each, and that's with continued usage. If you use them for a photo shoot, expect to have plenty of power left over!

I had a couple of lamps without the frosty outside. I am not a fan of the light they cast on the subject. Instead, we used the frosty ones that provided a beautiful, filtered light. In my opinion, the lights come a bit too warm and you'll have to adjust the white balance within your camera to get the best coloring. The lamps are about 4.25 inches in height, 5 inches in diameter, and 1 inch collapsed. They're made of a PVC plastic and high quality. 

Below are some of the images we shot of Cory. In the video, you're able to see how the slightest movement can change the mood of the entire photograph.

Purchase

You can purchase the lights here.

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5 Comments

Ian Goss's picture

No thanks.

Are you kidding me? There are litteraly dozens of better cheap lighting solutions than this. He says he has 6 in his backpack. At 20$ each, is costs 120$. Really not worth it. You can get 2 cheap flashguns for that price.

Studio 403's picture

Well done and articulate video. I did not see the ISO he used. Seem like it would get some noise with these light source. I saw some of the shots with camera mounted on a huge tripod. I use a Nikon D610. I am skeptical my camera gear could capture with these lights. I think I might have to pumped my ISO so night would produce a lot of noise. I like the concept and buy 2 or 3 of these lights if I can satisfy the issue of ISO and tripod size, Thanks for the video.

Bernd Stoeckl's picture

Sorry, but none of these pics are attractive to me.
I find them terribly underexposed on the left side with a green hue.
Don't get me wrong I am not against low key but this is not - to me.
I little PP in Lightroom would make them nice - to me - the pose and point of view is very good.

I quite like the photos. I'm not sure these lights are the best way to achieve them but they have a lot going for them. Thanks!