I'm an enthusiastic beginner with Canon 550D, shooting both stills and videos, indoors and outdoors.

My biggest problem is strong shades and insufficient light when photographing people. I figured out that the solution is some basic lighting equipment.

My current wishlist is:

enter image description here

On a budget of $25-$50, what general-purpose lighting equipment should I buy?

  • Please create the "reflector" tag and add it to my question.
    – Adam Matan
    Feb 24 '12 at 12:02
  • I've created the tag, but isn't this question a duplicate of photo.stackexchange.com/questions/1902/…? (Except with an even more restricted budget?)
    – mattdm
    Feb 24 '12 at 12:15
  • 1
    Isn't the budget a serious difference?
    – Adam Matan
    Feb 24 '12 at 13:39
  • 4
    $150 and $50 are both on the order of "basically no money at all for an expensive hobby". :) I think that realistically, though, any answer that would apply to the lower amount could be part of the answer for the higher value, and any answer for the higher value which exceeds your limit is still helpful because it provides context for what you could do with just slightly more money.
    – mattdm
    Feb 24 '12 at 14:12

With that type of a budget, you are much better going the DIY route, putting in some of your own time instead of your own money.

For portrait photography, you can find a huge benefit to having a beauty dish. I made one of these myself for only a few dollars. You can find examples of how to do so on many internet forums, but here is one example. These were the materials I used: enter image description here

You could also do things like

Just take a look at the instructables website, or Google the lighting accessories that are mentioned in this thread and see if you can make it yourself on the cheap.

Instead of going to an expensive photography shop, think of the hardware store as your new photography store, you can find many many things that will suffice just fine for non-professional use.

  • hows your DIY one work? This has been on my list of projects to do, but I can't convince myself to do it
    – rfusca
    Feb 25 '12 at 17:43
  • @rfusca I think the results are very good. I don't have any great way to support it though, so I just end up holding it by hand at the moment. If you can figure out that part of it, it would be great.
    – dpollitt
    Feb 25 '12 at 18:26

I was in your situation and after playing arond with some light bulbs and a borrowed manual flash I've discovered that (unsurprisingly) a flash is better.

You can get a YN480 flash on eBay for arond $40 - it's a manual flash, that means you have to put the camera on manual mode and adjust exposure and flash power manually (but it's easier than it sounds, I can get the correct settings with just 2-3 test shots, and I'm not an expert).

Or, you can do what I did and get the YN485, that's a TTL flash, that's means you get the correct flash power automatically on every shot, but it's just a little bit above your budget.

You point the flash at the cieling or a nearby wall and use it as a reflector to get nice soft light.

You can easily make a DIY reflector from stuff you already have or from really cheap items you can pick up at and hardware store, so I wouldn't buy it unless you have the money to pay for the conviniance of a folding reflector (the same goes for softboxes and most other light modifiers).


With such a tight budget every penny counts. Instead of getting the 5-in-1 reflector I recommend saving $9 and just getting a sheet of white posterboard. Alternatively save $7 and get a sheet of white foamcore.

With the remaining budget I think you're basically limited to using standard high-wattage CFL light bulbs in clamp lights like can be found at a hardware store. Then get a piece of iced acrylic to clamp over the light to diffuse it for softer light.


You can also have a look on Amazon at YN 462 it's under $35, I have two of YN 460 and I love them. Add to it a white umbrella for around $7 and if you can stretch your budget a few more dollars, you can also buy a light stand for about $12.

  • Can I use it for videos?
    – Adam Matan
    Feb 25 '12 at 13:42
  • Nope, only for photos.
    – TheMalni
    Feb 25 '12 at 16:56

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