How to Make Amazing Portraits With Minimal Affordable Gear

It’s no secret some professional and novice photographers use thousands of dollars of equipment to create the perfect “shot.”  While this equipment may be worth it to some, unfortunately, most of us can’t afford to hand over a mortgage payment to create a picture that is worth a thousand words.

Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been taking pictures quite some time, I wanted to share some tips you can use to create amazing pictures on a limited budget.  In fact, if you’re able to master these strategies, your pictures could look just as good as the pros.

#1 Start with a white wall as a backdrop

White walls always work perfectly and do not cost anything close to a studio. What’s great about white walls is that you can almost certainly work out any scene with minimal insights and everyone has at least one white wall in their home. Moreover, white walls are easy to create if you do not have one that is readily available for use.

#2 Use a projector and free stock photos

You can shoot high-quality vacation-themed editorials without actually going to the picturesque scenes. All you need is a whiteboard, a projector and some free stock photos you can download online. Project the images on your whiteboard and then get your subject in front for some amazing shots.  If done right, it can almost seem as if you were there.

#3 Use the “bounce” trick

This is another popular trick that only a few photographers know about. If you want a small flash to look larger and more importantly, softer, all you need to do is bounce the light off a nearby white wall. The light should be facing sideways (to the white wall) while your main subject faces the camera.  To help you with this tip, this YouTube video explains in detail.

#4 Creating a DIY ring light

The cost of a ring light should not be a concern if you already have a reflector. To produce a natural ring light similar to the best equipment on the market, simply cut a small hole through your reflector and stand behind it when taking your shots. The reflector material is quite sturdy so there is no need to worry about stretching the hole.

#5 Working with small spaces

If you want a large soft light source, but space is limited, place the light source behind your model and point at the white wall in front of the model.  This simple trick can create a larger and softer appearance, even if your space isn’t great.

#6 Producing unique light ray effects

You do not need special forms of light for the cool ray effects. Simply place your model and lights against a backdrop or wall, and then fire the lights parallel to the surface for cool effects.

#7 Take advantage of prisming

Holding a prism in front of your lens can help you achieve a ghostly light effect while placing a prism in front of a strobe will create dappled lights, which are gorgeous for unique vintage shots.

#8 Think of new GOBOs

A GOBO is any object, such as a houseplant, chain link fence or window blind, placed between the light and subject to affect the quality of light.  Doing this correctly can have amazing effects. Think of any practical GOBO there is to get amazing shots and to help you think of some, Pinterest has thousands of pictures to browse through.

#9 Bouncing two colors

Yes!  It’s possible to two colors facing opposite directions and placed a small distance apart to bounce off the light and create multiple effects. Try different colors to see which two colors work the best.

#10 Outdoor shooting V board

Using a black or white V board can help improve your outdoor shots. Simply place your model in front of the V board and try shooting through a GOBO or plants for varied effects. Since outdoor environments are already exposed to sunlight, try using blackboards instead of white to create a better shot.

Becoming a master photographer won’t happen overnight and hopefully these tips can improve your next shot while using limited equipment.  Remember, you don’t need to spend a fortune to create million dollar looking photos.

Stephanie Lynch resides in Gilbert, Arizona, with her two sons and husband.  She is the co-found of Howmuchisit.org, a cost-helping database designed to help consumers find out what unknown things cost in life.

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