DIY: Ikea Hack Photography Studio Lighting

27 Comments

Dear professional photographer friends, don’t hate me. I hope we can still be friends even with my ghetto lighting ways.

Sometimes I have to burn the midnight oil in order to get any blog posts up. We’ve been a busy family this fall! It’s nice to finally have a way to take decently lit photos without having to wait until the perfect time of day to shoot. Usually that perfect time of day lands during lunch time or mid-morning when I’m still in pajamas, sans makeup or shower.

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There are a few things that I do to allow for more photography time. I have the 35mm prime lens which allows for a 1.8 aperature. It’s slightly wider than the 50mm so it allows me to park my tripod only 8 feet away from me for a comfortable head-to-toe shot, without too much distortion. But a 1.8 aperature can only get me so far.

Let’s talk artificial lighting.

I took the above photo at midnight. I boosted up the ISO and lowered the aperature, but the light is still too harsh. That’s where lights come into play. Professional lighting systems can be expensive, so I made a hack to see if a pro lighting system was something that I should invest in. I’ve been asked by a few people what my solution is, so I figure I’d share it for all to see.

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I’m using two Ikea LERSTA┬álamps. They’re cheap, portable and effective. I think I’d get a third lamp or a fourth if I were doing more night-time style shots, but the two lamps are great for small objects and for fill-light when the sun’s not doing what it’s supposed to.

Here’s how to do it:

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Step 1

As you’re assembling the lamp, wrap the inner part of the lamp with tin foil. Make sure the foil is sort of crumpled so it will bounce more light around.

Step 2

Buy a daylight fluorescent bulb. They’re on sale at my local Home Depot. We’ve changed nearly all of our indoor lights with these. And they are awesome.

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Step 3

Get a large bowl and cut out a circle from some white (like white, white) fabric. I’m using a white quilting cotton.

Step 4

Measure the circumference of your lamp’s opening, cut a length of thin elastic just shy of the circumference.

Step 5

With your sewing machine on zig zag stitch, stretch the elastic as you sew it onto the outer edge of the circle of fabric. It won’t be pretty, but it’ll look sort of like a shower cap.

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Fit that over your lamp and done!

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Now you can illuminate basically anything.

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I used the two lamps and my room’s overhead light to light up the above outfit. Not bad for a 10:30 pm photoshoot, right? And since you’re using daylight bulbs to illuminate the room, there’s no need to adjust white balance. BOOYAH. Mic drop.

Was this DIY helpful? What will you light up?

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    1. Kristin H says:

      Brilliant! Pardon me while I go attack my fugly light tree thing with foil.

    2. Kristin H says:

      PS I am rarely decent before 1 pm, too. Often, I’m the mom in the pick up line after school with wet hair.

    3. MadeByMeg says:

      so glad you published this, I was JUST researching this yesterday!

    4. Heather says:

      OOh, I’ve been struggling with the exact same thing! Perfect lighting for me hits right about the time kids are coming home from school and its time to bust out the homework. Thanks for the Hack idea!

    5. Roberta Fahrni says:

      Thanks, that was very helpful. I think it is actually something I could do. It is giving you great results too!

    6. alicia says:

      Totally lit up, love it!

    7. phil says:

      smart !!!!

    8. Marie says:

      whoa! This is just what I needed! I hate my underlit, noisy pictures!
      I really love this “ghetto lighting” ;)
      Can’t wait to show this to my photographer boyfriend and see his reaction :) It’s really not about the pricey studio lights, when you are resourceful and it works the same :)

      ps: at first I thought those cotton hoods were shower caps :P

    9. Mie @ SewingLike Mad says:

      Oh, this is smart! In the very end you write: “And since you are using day light photos….’ You mean daylight lightbulbs, right? Sorry I do not mean to nitpick I just want to make sure I understand ;-))

    10. Angela says:

      This is super helpful! thanks so much!

    11. I am so excited…you have solved a huge barrier for me :)

      I too often need to shoot at night when kiddies are in bed, house is quiet and I’m in my productive mode…

      This is a wonderful idea…

      Off to IKEA I go…

      Leanne :)

    12. Awesome sauce! Definitely going to try this asap :)))

      -Charlotte
      boyerfamilysingers.blogspot.com

    13. Wooohoo, thanks!! This is super cool to see, I’ll have to show my husband and hint! ;)

    14. Stacia says:

      This was super helpful! I still have day job, so my small business takes up all of my evening/night time and any tip like this is super helpful because I don’t usually have daylight to snap photos in.

    15. Pye squire says:

      Thanks this was great .i am off ti ikea

    16. Alysa says:

      In shock over here. Night photography never looked SO good! Awesome hack Melissa!

    17. Lauren says:

      Your lighting tips are wonderful. I switched to daylights in my sewing room for photos, and it has made a world of difference in late-night shots!

    18. Brilliant Photography and looks like very professionally take it. I and wondering on lights which has to really change the environment.

    19. Elisa says:

      Love it! Now I just wish there was an IKEA close by me. But I’m on the lookout for cheap lamps. Thanks!

    20. Thanks! I needed this bad. Just out of curiosity in the bottom picture where are the lamps positioned and facing relation to you/the camera?

    21. Kat says:

      Thank you so much for this – I found it through Kollabora. I’ve been struggling with photography for such a long time and don’t have a HUGE budget so this was *exactly* what I was after! I linked to your post in my blog, and it really worked even with my shit little point and shoot! http://www.coutureacademic.com/musings/diy-ikea-photography-hack/

    22. Lindsay says:

      Could i just use a large rubber band and the white fabric instead of sewing?

      • Melissa says:

        Sewing it together makes it easier to remove and apply, but I don’t see why you couldn’t just use a rubber band over some fabric instead.

    23. Winneh. says:

      That’s brilliant! : D

    24. […] for the shoots for those posts. Nothing at all fancy: unprofessional lighting (get the tutorial here!), an old kitchen table insert, a white plastic table cloth left over from Brigid’s big […]

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