If you want to make your light source larger, but don’t want to diffuse it with a soft box or scrim, you could bounce it off a wall, a reflector or fire it into an umbrella. Give this a try and see how the light source has gotten larger. I appreciate that most of you probably don’t have studio lights, and may never get them, but it is still important to know how to modify and shape light.
With digital photography it is pretty easy to control the color casts on your final photo, so those work lights you can buy at any home repair type store work very well.
These will all work as beginner replacements for studio lights. They will need some post processing to remove color casts, but it’s a low cost way to get started. Caution is needed though, these are hot lights! Be careful about any sort of modification devices catching fire. There usually isn’t a problem, but never leave them unattended while they are turned on.
If you are after some inexpensive photography hacks subscribe to Dark Photography. I’ll show you how to make an soft lighting setups that you can use in your home to create some pretty stunning photos.
Flags, Dots and Fingers
You will soon be able to create photos with your homemade $10 lights that will rival the best studio portraits. And you will be able to use them as hard or soft lights. Another way to shape light is by using flags, dots or fingers.
Flags are like taking one of the flaps in a barn door and just using that to block the light. They come in all shapes, colors and sizes. Generally, larger ones are called flags, if the flag is smaller and narrower in shape – it’s generally called a finger. If it is round, we call it a dot. In reality, they are all different sizes and shapes of the same thing; a way to block light from hitting some part of, or your entire subject.
Above are samples of a finger and a dot, a flag is the same thing, just larger. We don’t usually think of permanent, stationary objects as flags, but a tree trunk or an overhanging leaf covered branch that blocks light from hitting your model would be the same concept.
What if we don’t want to completely block the light, but instead want to cast a specific shadow on our scene?
Imagine taking one of the above flags and cutting out a pattern. For example, cut away all but a big Tee and when the light shines through it, it will cast a shadow that resembles the shadow cast by the panes in a window frame. Or you could cut out a pattern of leaves and have that pattern striking your backdrop.