“Quick. I need to look great!” This tip is all about how you can get fabulous lighting on anyone, including yourself, in one minute in a space as small as 6 foot square. It isn’t free, but it isn’t terribly expensive either. And the time and energy it saves you, plus the huge boost it will give to your brand is kinda breathtaking. But enough of me gabbing about it. Here you go! I created this hack out of pure desperation, but it not only got me out of some pretty sticky jams, it got me a lot of high-profile shoots. I’d love it if you would leave a comment on how this sits with you. Does it make business sense as well as image sense? Is the time saved worth the cost? What do you think?

    41 replies to "A Cool Lighting Hack"

    • Marina Brito

      Hi Steve,

      Lovely hack! It’s definitely worth the cost for me. But then, why would I get and use a “real” lighting kit? Couldn’t I use this instead?

    • admin

      For 90% of what you do, I think you could.
      But now you’ll have a new problem; fewer excuses not to shoot more 🙂

      • Marina Brito

        I love those kinds of problems. Thanks for the hack! 😉

    • Bill

      Very cool, thanks!

      • admin

        Hope you enjoy using it!

    • asa hersh

      OK… Finally an INTELLIGENT, WELL-SPOKEN, practical, thoughtful presenter! Wow.. what a breath of fresh air amongst the video goons out there trying to flog this or that! Bravo.. I am a believer!

      • admin

        …and I’m a little embarrassed. But thank you!

        • Dane

          Well, Steve, feeling a little embarrassed sure beats being a “video goon!”

    • Mark Cato

      Great Hack, Surprised that you also didn’t include a light behind you to give the wash on the wall.

      • admin

        Baby steps. We walk before we run 🙂

    • Jes

      Is the light reflected from the inside of the umbrella onto the subject? Confused is my middle name and I live up to it every day. Thanks.

      • Admin

        Yep. Just as it shows in the video. So you aren’t confused at all!

    • Dave Pipitone

      Steve, thanks for the tip. I loved the introduction! Where do you find the footage of subjects, like the raiding Romans (blogger stampede)?

      • admin

        Monty Python actually. (Don’t tell John Cleese!) Usually I can find something good in my own stock footage files or the stock footage sites, but this one stubbornly defied all my efforts.

    • Tammy Redmon

      Brilliant Steve!! I was just talking to someone about setting up lighting for video – the unknown of it that is…Thank you for breaking it down so easy for me to get my mind around. Off to google some prices on lights!

    • Joshua Popenoe

      Fabulous, Steve. I’m using Home Depot work lamp globes with daylight spectrum bulbs covered with diffusion paper, but maybe I can add this to my REALLY tiny shooting space for even more light. Thank you.

      • admin

        Don’t worry. It’ll work in the smallest space you can find, as long as there is enough room between you and the camera so it can see you clearly.

    • Kathleen M Whalen

      Thank you again Steve. I really want one of those umbrellas now. I think I will try the umbrella with my oh, so cheap aluminum work lamp that I currently use and shine the light on the umbrella for an experiment. Baby steps indeed.

      • admin

        Actually, the umbrella could be total overkill with those lights. You need about 200 watts before it’s worth it to turn the lamp around.

    • Dave Trimble

      Great tip. Thanks.

      P.S. Are you losing weight and working out or is it just the lighting?

      • admin

        I was going to tell you it was a special “Thin Filter”, but yes, I lost 30 pounds.
        Hey, I just realized someone has seen more than one of my videos! :))

    • Ange L

      This is one of my favorite videos I’ve seen you do. I love this, love the way you present, and can’t wait to try this in my oh-so-tiny space. Because of you, I’m running out of excuses not to be on camera.

      • admin

        That’s what I like to hear. At some point, you’ll just kind of get bored with excusing yourself from the video table and let your genius out!

    • John Charbonneau

      What a tremendously simple idea, I could use that with the portable light I already have, just need to get the umbrella.

    • Denise

      Love this video. It is done so well and with just the right amount of professionalism and humor both. It is really something to emulate and learn from! Thank you.

      • admin

        Glad you found it helpful on more than one level!

    • Zander

      Like Marina says… Great Hack!

      And good timing for me – I’ve got 2 softboxes and find this a little limiting (or perhaps that’s just my inexperience with “commanding” them). I receall from one of your earlier videos you were advocating for an overhead key light… I find it challenging to accomplish everything with just 2 softboxes…

      That being said: would I also be able to use this lamp WITH my daylight balanced CFL bulb softboxes for highlight / emphasis etc., or would they probably be somewhat antagonistic re: white balance or light colour?

      Also – it looked like you had an overhead lamp (a key light? or am I mixing my jargon?) going on when you turned on the light in the early part of the video. Did you only use the one lamp with the umbrella?

      • admin

        I love using the overhead Pro Light, but often the ugly fluorescent overhead will work with the light I showed because the head-on Pro Light balances everything out just well enough.

    • Zander

      Just read everyone else’s posts and replies.. CONGRATULATIONS on progressing with your weight / fitness goals – wonderful!

    • Samuel Heins

      Steve, Thanks for the tip. I am wondering why you did not post an affiliate link to amazon or the company website? I did not catch how to spell the product or purchase it. I want to buy.

      • admin

        The model number is right up on the screen while I’m demonstrating, so you can find it in any number of locations. Plus Michael just gave us some great links to the stand and the dimmer!

    • Michael

      Thanks Steve – well done. If I may add a few safety tips:
      1) Be aware using a 3 prong to 2 prong a/c power “cheater” defeats the ground protection. Should a power wire get frayed inside the light and touch the case, 110 volts will be “live” on the metal case. This could result in a shock hazard or worse if it started a fire or electrocution if touched when wet.
      2) Be aware the 250 watt light will get hot and should not be touched for around 5-10 minutes until it cools down. Also, moving a hot light immediately after powering down might case the filament to break.
      3) Consider using a weight (sandbag) to provide more stability to the light stand. This is especially important if the wind catches the umbrella which becomes a sail (particularly outside). Incidentally, the Manfrotto/Bogen 5001B is quite popular and easy to secure the base to provide stability for a small light:
      Happy Trails, Michael

      • admin

        Great tips, Michael, though I wouldn’t expect anyone to use this equipment outside. And thanks for the link to a less expensive stand. It looks like a winner!

    • Michael

      BTW, rather than use a two-prong dimmer, consider using a variable speed router controller – something like this one:

      • admin

        I want you on my next shoot :)) Thanks again!

    • Wiz Withers

      Hey Steve – congrats on the weight loss!!! I’m down 10 since I last saw you – still have some more to go. 🙂

      This looks like it would be a good fit for shooting in my tiny bedroom office. I just need to be far enough away from the wall to avoid shadowing.

      Thanks for the great tip!


    • Leo Keukens

      Hallo, Steve.

      I am starting to appreciate you more and more. You are a smart man.

      Till I see you again.

      Leo Keukens

    • Laura

      I caught the product code and other info in the corner while you mentioned each component of the setup. But I couldn’t quite catch the brand name you were using? Lola? Something like that?

      Thanks for another great video! And yes, lots of us watch more than one of your videos. 🙂

      • admin

        It’s Lowell Lighting. And thanks! 🙂

    • Denise

      Do you have any advice regarding using the Tungsten bulb lights versus the 85 Watt flourescent bulbs that are coming with some of the EZ Lighting kits on the market? It doesn’t seem like the fluorescent bulbs can be dimmed but they don’t get so hot. Can they be used in conjunction with this hack? Do the Tungsten lights mesh ok with the fluorescent?

      • admin

        The fluorescents will work fine, but you’d have to move the umbrella much further away from yourself. Also you’d have to make sure the camera’s white balance was set to outdoor.

        They definitely do NOT play nicely with tungsten because of the color balance issues.

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