$20 Lighting Set-up

So the time has come that I needed to quit complaining about how poor my photos look, and do something about it. I had to admit to myself that I cannot keep writing bag patterns and taking step-by-step photos a) either sewing a couple of steps each night and dashing outside quickly during the day to take them during daylight b) taking ugly yellow-ish looking photos inside at night (which is when I do 90% of my sewing). Either way is not satisfactory, to me at least.

So I watched a few videos on Youtube, this being my favorite. If you’ll watch the video, the man mentions making an acetate screen; I googled this and found literally nothing. In the process of watching other videos, I discovered that you can use either white organza fabric (single, double, or triple-folded), and in my case I used a white bedsheet. In my photo, you can see that my bedsheet is mounted on the frame on the right (which my husband assembled with some scrap wood, and screwed the sheet to the frame). There is a second light behind that bedsheet frame, if you can’t tell by the photo.

I also got some coaching from my friend, Joel. He recommended using foam core board (which you can buy at Michaels). I *had* a piece, but I could not find it somehow, so that board on the left? That’s a piece of drywall (we’re remodeling the 2nd floor). The nice part about it is, it’s large so I can lean it against the table from the floor, and also it’s heavy enough that I can clip the light right on it. The table that I am using is white plastic, so if you have a table that isn’t white, Joel recommends to put white paper or fabric over it, and even if possible let the fabric go off the table 4-5 feet and tape it to the wall (he says this is called a ‘sweep’, and if you are photographing something that won’t be lying flat on the table, it will produce a nice gradient for you). You can also move that screen on the right closer or farther away from the light to alter the shadows. After I took my photos, he recommended for me to diffuse the light on the left (I did some research and found that someone recommended baking paper, since it won’t catch on fire).

Both of the lamps in the photo are cheap $6 clamp lamps that I got at the hardware store; they’re in the lighting section (it may seem obvious, but I had no idea). The bulbs are 100w ‘daylight’ bulbs, so they burn white and not yellowish like most fluorescent bulbs do.

The photo above is how I used to take my photos at night; at first glance, you might think the photo is not *too* bad (or maybe it is and you’re just being polite). Please note that I am not using a flash in any of my pictures. However, when you compare it to the 2nd photo below, you can see how much better it looks:

So, I just wanted to share! This is definitely something you can do, too, and very cheaply at that! I’m sure I still have some things to tweak, but I feel like I’ve made night-and-day progress. I’m so happy with how this turned out…now I have one less thing to worry about. ;-)

19 thoughts on “$20 Lighting Set-up

  1. Good for you! Setting up a proper lighting situation is on my list of goals for this year. I need something much larger that will allow me to photography my art quilts straight on and flat. But I’d also like something to do step-outs and other close-up shots like this. That’s for the motivation!

  2. Thanks for the advice and tips – and the link to the youtube video – very helpful :)

    Your new pic does look great and you’ve lost all the reflections on your table which is something I always have problems with.

  3. Thanks for sharing, I really have to come up with some similar solution. It makes a world of the difference. I also sew mostly in the evening and find it so difficult to take pictures when there’s decent light outside.

  4. You sound just like me – 90% nighttime sewing and photos don’t mix nicely. Thanks for this tip! I’ve used foam core and my ott light to improve the look of my nighttime photos but I know I need something better.

  5. I just did the same thing! Though, I followed instructions for a full-on light box, and was still trying to figure out how to photograph a block since it’s meant for upright pieces. Will try your method!

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