Cheap Lighting Options to Develop Your Portrait Photography Style

Still getting the hang of lighting for your portrait photography? Here are some lighting options that don’t break the bank.

We’ve said it time and time again — working with light is one of the first things you have to learn as a photographer, especially when it comes to shooting portraits. Since we can’t stress it enough, we bring you yet another video tutorial with some helpful suggestions for cheap lighting options that you can practice with. Learning how to light your portrait photography projects also often means working with different kinds of lighting in the studio. We understand if you’re still totally new to it and still aren’t comfortable using (or investing in) pro studio lights. In the meantime, you can practice with some cheaper alternatives.

In the Shutterstock Tutorials video below, Logan Baker gives us a rundown of some affordable options for you to consider.

In summary, Logan suggests:

  1. Investing in handheld lights to let your subjects light themselves. It’s way cheaper to have a couple of these at around $40 each. They provide flexibility on how you want to position the lights around and experiment with looks.
  2. Using gels with your handheld lights to play around with colors and vibrant neon lights.
  3. Using Christmas lights or similar lighting options when you want to experiment with bokeh and fairy lights, or get warm diffused light for your portraits.
  4. Getting a piece of versatile lighting equipment that can do it all. If you intend to do paid portrait photography projects, it’s worth investing in affordable, all-around lighting that you can eventually get started with. All you need is one light; ideally, a big, soft light like a beauty dish that you can attach to a C-stand and move around to pull off classic lighting styles.
  5. Shaping your light using props that allow you to control how light hits your subject. These can be boards with holes or slits to create the illusion of light coming from behind blinds or windows.
  6. Lastly, go out and shoot in natural light. It’s free, and you can look for different locations both day and night to work with different kinds (and colors of lighting).

Bonus tip: Find out how you can DIY a cheap three light setup using fluorescent lights!

Want more lighting tips? We have loads of resources to check out here!


Screenshot image from the video by Shutterstock Tutorials