Low Budget Light Modifier Trick for Portrait Photography

When it comes to photography lighting, you don’t need a studio setting with expensive equipment. There are a number of creative ways to get great lighting without breaking the bank. If you’re a portrait photographer without a light stand or an umbrella, don’t worry, you don’t need them. You just need a plain white shopping bag and a little inspiration! Watch as photographer Michael Zelbel offers up a really easy and cost effective portrait lighting trick:

Shopping Bag Light Modifier

This is a very simple one light setup using one speedlight. The images may be a little dark but the light is punchy and soft at the same time, which gives them a nice look.

What You Need

  • camera
  • speedlight
  • radio trigger
  • big white shopping bag—the bigger the better!

shopping bag light modifier

1. Set your speedlight to 1/16 power and place it inside a white shopping bag with the head pointing upwards.

2. Place the bag about 60 cm (2 feet) away from and at a 45 degree angle to your model.

3. Set the camera to 100 ISO and f/2.8, then choose a shutter speed that is right for your camera. Zelbel uses 1/200 of a second.

place speedlight inside shopping bag

Tip: Set up your camera so you can see your histogram. When shooting, check to make sure there aren’t any highlights—you don’t want any spikes on the right side of the histogram.

portrait lighting trick

This is a great little trick for any photographer, on a budget or not. One way to remember this tip is with Zelbel’s proverb:

“A bag from shopping makes your light jaw-dropping!”

For further training: The Art of Boudoir Photography with Speedlights

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One Comment

  1. Pat G says:

    I love this tip. I will have to get a radio trigger next but the idea is so simple and so do-able, even in my small, cramped and dark space. Thank you a lot for sharing it.

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