IPad Photography Hacks: Creative Lighting Ideas for Cheap Photography Projects

Watch the video: How to use an iPad to illuminate your subject

Taking brilliant photos doesn’t necessarily mean using a high-end kit. We’ve got eight awesome iPad photography tips to help you inject creative light into your portraits and still lifes. Check out our cheap photography project ideas and have fun with your photos!

Did you know you carry a brilliantly versatile little softbox in your backpack? Your tablet or laptop is not only useful for editing and sharing photos, it is also easily converted into a light for illuminating portraits and still life images. Plus, it’s much cheaper and more portable than heavy, expensive lighting systems.

Laptops emit a lot of light, especially in a dark room, and when using a program such as Microsoft Paint or a bespoke lighting app, such as Pocket light box, you can open a white screen which will act as a light source in the same way as a softbox. The great thing about a digital lighting system is that you can choose new backgrounds, colors, and shapes to instantly customize the effect.

The closer your screen is to your subject’s face, the stronger and softer the light will be (Image credit: Avenir)

In this guide, we’ll take a look at six different light setups that only use your tablet as a light source. We take portrait photos of our model, Charlotte, using iPads as softboxes to light up her face, and experimenting with shapes to create unusual catchlights in her eyes for a truly striking look.

We’ll also see how to use your tablet to light up a simple still life for better photos of food and produce. Plus, we’ll show you how to add patterned backgrounds to your macro photos, play with cross-polarization effects, and even paint with light for some truly creative photos.

01 Appropriate support

(Image credit: Avenir)

Tablets and laptops produce a nice soft light, but there isn’t a lot of it, so you need to choose your settings carefully. First, mount the camera on a tripod – this will allow you to choose the aperture you need for the composition to work without having to worry about shutter speed.

If you’re shooting portraits, however, you’ll need to increase the ISO sensitivity as your subject won’t be able to stay still enough for long exposures. We were using our 18-55mm kit lens at its maximum aperture of f / 5.6 at its maximum zoom setting, and ISO1600 gave us shutter speeds in the range of 1/15 s to 1/30 s. s at f / 5.6.

Read more: Best tripods

02 Light up a portrait

(Image credit: Avenir)

For this technique, you will need to shoot in a dark room so that the light from the tablet is the only thing that illuminates your model. Use a tripod for more stability and choose a high ISO sensitivity to compensate for low light. We used a shutter speed of 1/15 s and created a shallow depth of field with an aperture of f / 5.6. Place your tablet at an angle to the model’s face and adjust the angle until you get the effect you like. This technique also works well with a laptop screen.

The best iPads for photo editing and video editing

03 cute catchlights

(Image credit: Avenir)

This eye-catching effect looks like a smart Photoshop trick, but it’s actually very easy to do. Instead of a solid white background, load a white shape on a black background on your screen, and use it to light up your model’s face – the shape will be reflected in the spotlight in their eyes. It works great with portraits. For a striking close-up like ours, use an f / 2.8 macro lens to focus on your model’s eye.

04 Use Live View Focus

(Image credit: Avenir)

It’s important to focus carefully when shooting close-ups, as there isn’t much depth of field and you need to make sure that the key area of ​​your subject is in focus. Live View mode uses the image actually captured by the sensor to focus, so it’s the most accurate method. You can move the square focus area to any part of the image, and when you half-press the shutter button, the camera will focus on that point – the square focus. must turn green. It is essential that the camera is on a tripod when doing this, as even a small change in position will change the focus. And be patient: Live View autofocus is slower than the normal method.

05 light a still life

(Image credit: Avenir)

Still life arrangements, especially food, look much better in bright, natural light. If there is no sun, however, you can still achieve a great effect by using two tablets or laptops in a clamshell arrangement for even lighting. Place a screen on either side of your subject and use a tripod to stand level with what you are photographing. Tilted shelves will give uniform light, but be careful to compose the shot so that the screens are not visible.

06 Macro backdrop

(Image credit: Avenir)

Close-ups lacking in punch? Place them on a brightly colored background and they will instantly be much more striking. If you use a shallow depth of field, the tablet screen will be slightly out of focus and it won’t be so obvious that it’s not a real background. Using your tablet means you can choose any backdrop, texture, or color you like to complement your subject. For a more daring composition, we could have placed our flowers against an image of blue sky.

07 Cross polarization

(Image credit: Avenir)

It is a technique that looks impressive but is very easy to do with a tablet. Unlike other light sources, such as a light box, a computer screen is already polarized, so you only need a polarizing filter installed on your camera and the two will interact to polarize the final image. Place a clear plastic object on your tablet screen and position your camera directly over your head using a tripod, then rotate the filter and see what futuristic effects you can create.

Read more: Best circular polarizers

08 Painting with light

(Image credit: Avenir)

You can illuminate a still life by painting it with a moving light source. Traditionally carried out with a flashlight, a torch application downloaded to your tablet or smartphone will also do the trick. Set a long exposure (we chose five seconds) and make sure the room is dark, then press the shutter button on your camera and use the beam of light to paint around your object. You can just draw around the shape or use the light to illuminate part of the scene. The slower you move the light, the brighter it will be in the shot.

Read more:

Gobo lighting: tips for dramatic portraits and film noir photography
Worm’s Eye Photography: Tips for Unique Flower and Nature Photography
Perfect the strobe look with off-camera flash photography
The best iPads for photographers and photo editing
The best iPad Pro cases
Best stylus for iPad and iPhone

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