No need for special equipment to light the perfect frame

If you want to pursue cinematography, or simply want to take a good picture in your own living room but don’t think you have the right equipment, fret not – there is always a way with things you already have in your house.

This was my attempt at three-point lighting with things I found at home. I hope it’s a help to you as well.

What I used:

  • Camera
  • tripod
  • a window
  • curtains
  • coat hanger (or something usable as a makeshift bounceboard)
  • aluminum foil
  • tape
  • bendable desk lamp
  • practical light (optional)

It is advisable to open your iris as much as possible and have a low ISO in order to make the background blurry and the image less grainy.

As my key light, I used the window and stood right next to it. But, the right side of my face was consequently too exposed (because I opened my iris as much as possible).

To block out the light, I hung curtains over the window.

As a result, the light was diffused/softened and the background was darkened.

To even out the shadows on the left side of my face, I taped a sheet of aluminum foil on a coat hanger, doing the same job a bounce board would. It takes a bit of trial and error to let the light from the window bounce off of the foil to the spot you want it to, but you should get the hang of it soon.

The difference is subtle, but noticeable:

To create three-dimensionality, I used my desk lamp as a backlight and angled it towards the back of my head. I had to put it on a stool and another box to get the right height. I’m sure you’d be able to find boxes etc. in your house to fiddle with it and figure out the same.

It turned out looking like this:

I also switched on the light in the background, to make it a bit more interesting, and to ‘clean up’ the background. Usually, practical lights in the frame make the rest of the lighting credible. This step is optional, so feel free to play around with different lighting sources you might have at home.

My face was still a bit too bright, and so I lowered the exposure slightly.

Ultimately, the basic setup looked something like this from the viewpoint of the camera:

I referred to this Youtube tutorial in which the same setup is explained with excellent detail and more information.

There is almost never an excuse not to start creating, filming, taking photos, creating art etc. While special equipment is handy, you’d be surprised how much you can achieve without it and how much it works you creative muscles as well.


  • Annette is part of the acting team with The Initiative Production Company. She is a German South-African, loves the smell of freshly baked bread and constantly has a list in her head of countries to visit and more languages to learn.


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