This post is part of a larger tutorial called Creative Lighting Without a Flash
Advanced Techniques – If you need a bigger reflector try using a sun visor (like the ones you put in your windshield). Some of them are identical to professional reflectors except that they are designed to fit in a windshield.
Position all three lamps next to each other to create “one” bright, soft light. With the combined intensities you may be able to photograph bigger objects and use a faster shutter speed.
Shoot in context. Instead of using a black piece of foam core board, use a board game as your background and let your subject be the game pieces. Try to create an engaging product shot that would sell or summarize the game. A sharp-looking chess set would be a perfect place to start.
Try lighting something with a screen, for example: a compact camera, iPhone, GPS device, or digital clock. First make sure the screen is displaying something, then see if you can capture a well-lit shot without the screen being washed out. Watch out for glares and reflections.
Lessons Learned – You don’t have to use expensive equipment to achieve stunning results. Creative thinkers with some ingenuity will always be leading the way in the photography industry. Don’t let yourself be stifled by what you don’t have.
The main advantage of working with desk lamps is that you can “see” the light and sculpt it instantly. When using strobes you have to fire a test shot, review it, make adjustments, and then fire another test shot. These little desk lamps, on the other hand, allow you to instantly see how the position of the light is affecting your subject. If possible, reposition the lights while looking through the viewfinder to observe the changes.
Learn how light “works” with little lamps first and you’ll find yourself much less intimidated by more complex lighting equipment.
It’s easiest to compare differences in lighting if the position of the camera and the subject remains unchanged.
Subtle changes can make a huge difference.
Desk lamps don’t put out nearly as much light as a strobe. Because of this, you will most likely be using relatively long exposures; that means you need a tripod and a stationary subject. Also, this means that if you try adding a flash to the mix it will significantly overpower the other lights.
Light intensity diminishes with distance (*quadratically, if you care to know). Therefore the further the lights are from the subject, the less effective they will be. This essentially limits you to shooting very small subjects –probably nothing larger than one cubic foot.
Don’t complicate it by adding every lamp you own. Do as much as you can with a simple setup. A creative thinker once said, “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. ”
The most common barrier between a good photographer and an exceptional photographer is the ability to see and capture light.