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Buyer's Guide for Lighting Equipment


    Key Points to Remember

    • Watch video: "Basic Camera Settings, focus tips, and how to avoid camera shake."
    • You will need a tripod for your camera when shooting indoors with these light sources. The clamp lights and work lights demonstrated are not bright enough for you to hand-hold your camera. Use a tripod to avoid blurry images.
    • Remember to choose simple neutral backgrounds that are not distracting to your art.

    There are three different types of light. These are: direct sun, diffused light and bounced light. You can shoot your work with sunlight, but it may be easier to create a light setup in your studio.


    Light Stands

    If you have a real light stand, use it! If you are making a temporary light stand - be careful that it is stable and won't tip over. Two good alternatives to a professional light stand:

    • Chair - you can clamp your lights to the back of a stable chair.
    • Floor or ceiling lamps have solid bases.
    • Door jam - you can set your work in the doorway and clamp your lights to the jam.



    Lights must have enough intensity. The best lighting situation is outside, using soft, diffused sunlight. To recreate this effect inside the studio you need minimum of two 150-watt bulbs, preferably more, to light a small piece. Lighting options include:

    • Desk Lamps: Desk lamps are good for small items. The problem with desk lamps is they do not have not enough wattage
    • 500-Watt Halogen Portable Work Light: Halogen work lights go up to 500 watts-real intensity. They are great for shooting large canvasses, full length models and big art pieces.
    • Clamp Light: Clamp lights can go up to 300 watts, and be used with a with diffuser. The clamps are helpful. You can tape diffusion material to the rim.


    Light Bulbs

    You will need a minimum of two 150-watt lights to shoot a small piece of art to get the desired intensity.

    • Use a soft white light bulb with your camera's white balance set for tungsten.
    • A 500-watt halogen portable work light will work for a large work.




    You are trying to mimic the effects of soft, diffused natural light. Professionals use soft boxes to get rid of shadows and harsh reflections. These are little tents to soften the light without diminishing the intensity. You can easily build your own to scatter the light and soften it up.

    Diffusion Materials

    Diffusion materials are translucent papers, films or fabrics that scatter light without diminishing the light's intensity.

    • Fabric: You can use translucent blends or a translucent shower curtain with a matte finish. Be careful when using a the shower curtain that the heat of the lamps doesn't melt it - it is plastic. Photo supply shops have special diffusion fabrics that are inexpensive, called "silks." These diffusions photo silks have the advantage of being flame retardant and won't melt on hot lights.
    • Gels: Diffusion gels are available cheaply from photo stores (Rosco offers a broad range of light diffusing materials on Amazon.com). Called "light diffusing material," they run about $6.00 for a 20" x 24" sheet that you can cut to size. They are translucent and flame retardant.
    • Vellum and Tracing Paper: In a jam you can always use tracing paper or vellum, but be careful! Tracing paper and vellum can melt or catch on fire.


    Additional Materials

    • Pony clamps: Pony clamps are like an extra set of hands.
    • Foam core: Foam core is great for reflecting and bouncing light.
    • Silver metallic cards: Silver metallic cards are also used for bouncing light to add contrast. Aluminum foil wrapped around foam works great too.
    • Splitters for plugs: If you are using lots of light sources, splitters may come in handy. There are screw-in plugs for light sockets and socket receptacles for light bulbs.
    • Clothes pins: Clothes pins work to clip gels to lights.
    • Large pieces of plastic or large rolls of paper for background sweep: Use sweeps to keep backgrounds simple.