The $100 Portrait Lighting Challenge

$100 flash challenge

The components of my $100 portrait lighting challenge assembled

In the recent past we covered basic three point lighting for portraits and basic five point lighting. That’s all well and good if you have a space big enough for a studio and can afford the equipment. But what do you do when you’re just starting out and can’t afford all that? Or you have to choose between portrait lighting and your kid’s braces? There are also many situations where you want to shoot fast and scoot along without the overhead of setting up big lights.

Today I thought it would be fun to put together an ultra-el cheapo, one light, hand-held system that will still take a decent portrait and try to keep the price tag below $100. Here’s what I came up with and today’s prices.

Yongnuo YN-467 Flash (I had one of these left over from another article) $76.65

A Neewer 33in Translucent Umbrella $7.07

Flash Shoe Holder Type B with Umbrella Holder $7.95

That all comes to $91.67. I picked the components for value, price and versatility. The umbrella you can use as a shoot-through or shoot turn the flash around and shoot into it. It yields a nice soft light that works surprisingly well for portraits.

No flash sync cable or wireless controllers this time, neither one was in the budget. To make it work off-camera, I’m going to set the flash power manually and use my camera’s built-in flash to trigger the external flash in slave mode. But to keep the built-in flash from taking over, I’m going to shoot in Program mode, manual flash operation, and crank the flash exposure compensation down to -2 ⅔.

Now the built-in flash is way underexposed but still bright enough to fire the slave trigger so most of the usable light is coming from the external flash, but there’s still enough from the built-in flash to fill in some of the shadows without being too harsh.

model photo jone

Proof is in the pudding. For $100 in lighting gear I think that looks really good.

The flash bracket is the type that can be mounted on a flash stand, which you can pick up for around $20.

Since I already have a flash stand I’m going to use it even though that, technically, puts me over budget. I could just as easily hand-hold it or get someone to hold it for me, so I’m claiming the $100 price point victory anyway!

Okay, fellow cheapskates, show me what you got.  Let’s see how many of you can beat my $100 rig on price and quality.

model shot three

I think these came out excellent and I didn't have to advertise myself as a "natural light photographer"

model shot two

I used AfterShot Pro for a little touch up, but I would not be embarrassed to charge money for these shots.

 

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