Jan 13, 2015

Light an Amazing Portrait with a low cost DIY Lighting Kit

In today’s episode, learn how to Light an Amazing Portrait with a low cost DIY Lighting Kit. Our kit is under $50! Check them out on Amazon here:

Introduction to Portrait Lighting

If this is your first time using lights for a portrait, being able to see how the lights interact with your subject will amaze you!  The slight movement of a light can have a large impact on the mood of your photo.  When you are taking a portrait, everything should revolve around your subject.  Your choice in lighting should match the tone of the subject.

What We Cover

In this photography episode, we go over the specific lights we chose for our DIY (Do It Yourself) lighting kit.  We also cover some lighting basics and the purpose of each light we used.  Then we give you some awesome tips on working with your subject.  We cover some things you can do and say to make your subject feel more comfortable.

Stay tuned for our next episode as we edit one of these headshots. The RAW file that Aaron is editing will be available for you to download and follow along.


What You’ll Need

  • Camera
  • Linkable Fluorescent Lights
  • Dark Color Backdrop



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    D. L.

    Motivates me to get those lights, and get into Artificial/Strobes

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    Can you describe the stands you attached your lights to, and how you attached them? Are these hard to find? Thanks- very helpful video,!

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    One other thing that might be helpful is to show an overhead drawing showing if the lights are going diagonal and how far the spacing is between them.

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    Kathy smith

    Thanks Aaron we are going over this in our camera club this month this will come in handy!

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    I really liked the music in the background. I appreciated the animation of the whole light setup, naming which light is which.
    Looking forward to more amazing videos from you & more amazing photos on my part in 2015!

    The Photo is from my upcoming series: Teeth!

  • Rosemary

    Great tutorial. I would like to see more photography tutorials in the future.

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    Would like more info on white balance with these lights. Did you use an FLD filter? The Amazon ad says nothing about daylight balance so just wondering what if anything you had to do to get these to look right.

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      No filters were used, just Gaff tape! 🙂 Everything was done in Post to make it look the way it did 🙂 It’s the beauty of shooting in RAW, you can have nearly complete control over your white balance after the fact!

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        Hey! I just clicked on the facebook link after reading your response to ‘Brian’… so you work for Phlearn…:D Pretty cool to find you on this big ‘ol web. Cheers from Nova Scotia!

        Bernadette (Keith’s wife)

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    I am a recently retired person who owns a few cameras, but cannot even pretend to be
    a “Photographer”. However, having stumbled upon PHLEARN thats about to change,indeed already has.
    Grateful regards

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    Thank you Aaron. This is what I needed. My work will be much more efficient and creative.

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    Simon Newlyn

    Hi Great video and tips but when i look on UK Amazon – as i’m in the UK – the same type of lights are offered with 2 or 4 or 8 or 12 watt bulbs!!! And the correct wattage is? Many thanks for your help.

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      The one we had were 13W so to replicate exactly i guess the 12 would be the closest 😀 But really though, any level will work, you’ll just have to adjust some settings again to compensate for the slightly lower light 😀

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    Are you having to use a filter with the camera because the lights are flourescent?

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    Hi Aaron,

    I just bought fluo light and I look forward to trying this studio setup .
    Which foot do you use to hang fluo light ?

    If the model is woman , should we change something in the studio or light ?


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    Great episode! What did you use to support the lights? How about the distance of the lights from the subject? Backgrounds? Best lens length? Color temperature of the lights?
    Thanks so much. I love what you do!
    The lights are inexpensive but C-stands are each over $100.00. What can we use that is inexpensive?

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      We used C-Stands because they were readily available at the time, but you can use anything from a ladder, or even just a closet coat rack/garment stand! For something like this, you could even use a TLS! (Aka, a Talking Light Stand…meaning, your closest friend/assistants to hold the lights for you haha!)

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        elliot paul stern

        how are the lights attached to the stands. I have small travel stands, not c stands which will work fine but I do not see how you have them mounted.

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    Might it be worth specifically mentioning shutter speed ?

    My understanding is that with standard domestic fluorescent tubes that they pulse – so you need a slower shutter speed to avoid this. To get higher speeds means getting something expensive like Kino Flo’s ?

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    Thank you it was very infomative and now I’ve got this urge to go to Home Depot. What tripod did you use in the video and how did you attach the lights to the c-stands?

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    You said the lighting kit could be achieved for under $50 but the cheapest C stand out there is over $100. Nobody is going to prop their lights up on a ladder or “whatever” and be taken seriously as a portrait photographer.

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      If you are worried about being “taken seriously” , then you probably shouldn’t be using under cabinet fluorescent lighting in the first place. Take the tutorial for what it is, a low cost introduction to studio lighting and the doors that opens. Hopefully once they have gained skills and experience they will move up to higher quality studio lighting and stands.

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    elliot paul stern

    It is nice that the lights can connect to each other but it is indicated on Amazon that these are short cords. Do the lights come with their own “long cord.”? How long is the cord being that these are under the counter type lights.

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    Mark Jones

    Id like to know more about the light stands that you have in the video. Did you make those or is that something that I can buy that will be easy to mount those lights to?

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    david lutz

    Excellent lighting and posing tips – I also appreciate the DIY suggestions for those of us on a budget!!