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I suppose I could go the route of getting dedicated light stands and umbrellas, but my productions are just for personal amusement, and I'd rather not over do it. Nonetheless, I'm confronted with a challenging lighting situation in my kitchen (where I do must of my shooting). The light seems very harsh and it shows in the photos. If I turn on the adjacent room's lights, the result is too dark. So it's tough to find a solution that is "just right." Some light fixtures can adjust light level using a gauge, but I'm renting and the utilities are beyond my control.

Anyway, my idea was to simulate a shoot-through umbrella by taping white printer paper over the lights (they are flat ceiling lights that don't protrude). While this is definitely not cost-prohibitive, it's somewhat effort-prohibitive (ceiling is a bit high and I'm a bit short).

Question

Are there any other DIY methods for more control over home lighting I can exhaust before I go for actual equipment?

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Some light fixtures can adjust light level using a gauge, but I'm renting and the utilities are beyond my control.

There are many options for smart lights these days (Philips Hue for example) which offer levels of dimming via an app on your phone.

my idea was to simulate a shoot-through umbrella by taping white printer paper over the lights (they are flat ceiling lights that don't protrude)

You'd be better off with a thin sheet. No matter what you do, make sure you're not risking a fire. Switch to efficient LED's and make sure there is adequate airflow. Instead of completely covering the light at the ceiling level, you should place the scrim at least a few inches away to allow for airflow.

The light seems very harsh and it shows in the photos.

A straight bulb is a point light source or hard light. This is because none of the light is being scattered but instead is all coming from essentially the same angle. You need modifiers to scatter the light.

If I turn on the adjacent room's lights, the result is too dark

Then your exposure setting is wrong. What you probably mean is that there isn't enough light to allow for hand-holdable shutter speeds. Well, get a tripod. It takes a good bit of light for a photo and normal indoor bulbs are hardly adequate. Indoor lighting is good enough for us humans to see but it is considered difficult lighting for photography simply because of the lack of light.

While this is definitely not cost-prohibitive, it's somewhat effort-prohibitive (ceiling is a bit high and I'm a bit short).

Your post is coming off as very lazy. Get a ladder.

Anything you are going to do in DIY lighting will require more effort than taping a sheet to the ceiling. Are you sure you really want to do this?

Are there any other DIY methods for more control over home lighting I can exhaust before I go for actual equipment?

At the end of the day, you're the photographer and the lighting is up to you. You can get by with table lamps with homemade snoots and scrims/lightboxes for smaller objects - but the tradeoff is going to be the need to use a tripod and a difficult time controlling your ratios (unless you've got dimmable bulbs).

At some point, if you want to take your studio lighting to the next level, then you need to get yourself a strobe or speedlight.

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    RE: light in adjacent rooms. If increasing the amount of light makes the image darker, it's highly likely the camera is in an auto or semi-auto exposure mode (or the user is following the meter's recommendation in manual exposure mode). The additional light, probably visible in the background of the frame, is being measured by the meter which is causing the camera to reduce exposure. If the main subject is not benefitting from the additional light, it will be darker due to the reduced exposure. – Michael C Oct 25 at 6:45
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    @MichaelC I took it as OP turning off his kitchen mains and turning on the adjacent room in an attempt to use the reflected light for the softer lighting. But yea, your scenario is very plausible, if not probable. – Hueco Oct 25 at 6:58
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Your question is about DIY but you are not a DIY person.

Perhaps you need to hire someone to do the work for you?
Replacing the light switch to a dimmer is not hard, but depending on local laws it can be illegal for you to do it yourself.
If it is legal then it usually requires some basic electric knowledge, a flat and a star head screwdriver and 10 minutes of work.

However! A more dynamic and easier approach is to use a lightbulb and a cable with a dimmer.
This can be bought but perhaps not locally, but building it is easy when you get the parts.
This makes for a light source that can be modified in both intensity and position as opposed to ceiling lights.

If you are unsure of any part of the electric work then don't do it yourself.
Ask someone who knows how and what to do or hire someone to do it.

Edit.
Another idea is to buy a lamp like this:
https://images.app.goo.gl/gmTWzY3JF496K6HG8
Cheap version can probably be bought in a local store.

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