Making Lightbounces & Using Light

Over the weekend at my photography and food styling workshop, Matt and Adam had white foam core boards with L brackets affixed that were wonderful for reflecting, diffusing, directing, and bouncing natural sunlight.

So yesterday I went to Ace Hardware, bought 3 foam core boards ($1.99 each) and 3 L brackets (99 cents each) and for under $10 bucks, I made and have 3 lightbounces

I kept it old school with a piece of clear tape on the back of each board.  I am not doing anything other than standing these up in my house so they didn’t need to be well made or re-inforced. Just having them at my disposal is what I care about.

The 60 second but helps-your-photography-in-a-big-way craft project.

In action: The sunlight is coming in from the right hand side (as you view this image).

The sunlight hits the lightbounces and reflects back onto the tomato to brighten up the shot.

Use it when your shot needs all over brightening up or brightening in one area.  You can also hold the lightbounces in your hand, put your camera on a tripod, and tip and tilt the lightbounce as needed, too.

Next up, Mirrors.

Matt & Adam also had mini-mirrors with soldering wire and clips that they could prop over or near the food.  Matt is holding one and the mirror reflects the light back onto the pasta bowl.

Since I wasn’t going to monkey around with soldering wire, I did what any smart girl would do: just find a makeup mirror or cosmetic mirror and use that.  Most makeup and cosmetic mirrors “fold” in half and are perfect for the job.

Case in point, this mirror that I found at the grocery store for $5.99

I’m sure you could find cheaper mirrors but this has a nice, really sturdy hinge that’s very “tight” so I know the mirror won’t flop around.

Set up the mirror and watch the sunlight that’s coming in from the right reflect off the mirror and illuminate the bananas, especially right in the center of them.

I purposely did not edit these banana pictures so you could see that even though the room was dark-ish and there was no direct sunlight shining onto the bananas, by using a mirror to reflect the light, the bananas become much more well illuminated.

The major difference I notice between lightbounces and mirrors is that lightbounces brighten up the whole subject matter whereas a mirror offers a smaller and more directional placement of bright light in a specific area of the subject, i.e. the bananas are brightest in the middle of them since that’s how I directed the mirrors.

Those are my tricks and tips to help you get better images and shots by playing with light, bouncing it, and reflecting it.  Light is your friend but you have to know how to use it, and how to use and harness it to your advantage.

I posted recently about an at-home studio lighting setup I bought and although I’m glad I have it, not sure if I will use it much.

After the focus on using natural light at my workshop, and having my three homemade lightbounces and mirror at my easy disposal, the thought of setting up studio lighting is super unappealing.  Read: probably not going to happen often, if ever. But I’m glad I have it, just in case.

Many others have made and enjoy Lightboxes.  My issue with them is that they are a small, confining, and much more time-consuming to make.

I’d rather prop up a lightbounce or mirror because then I have the freedom to have my food anywhere and not keep it in a claustrophobic little box and try to shoot in that.

Beautiful photographs with backdrops, place settings, cups, bowls, and other props in the shot are next to impossible to shoot inside a lightbox because they are not typically big enough to house everything one would want to put into an entire shot.

I prefer to direct the natural light, shoot on a wood tabletop, with silverware, a wine glass, fork, and a napkin in the shot because that tells a story and keeps the photo authentic and organic.

I have all my photography posts organized in my Popular Posts Section under the header Photography/Camera/Lens Info in case you want to read up on what I’ve learned and posted about the past few months on those topics.

From my last post on It’s In the Mail, it was fun to hear what you’ve mailed off recently and what the best things you’ve received lately in the mail have been.  Sadly, many of you have just been mailing out and receiving bills.  Sigh.

After all that talk about light, let’s go for something dark.

Raw Vegan Dark Chocolate Fudge Balls

Or how about Raw Vegan Chocolate Macaroons

You can bake these in the oven.  Try 350F for about 10-12 minutes and see who they look.


1. Do you want to run out and make a lightbounce or dig through your bathroom drawer and see if there’s a mirror that you have on hand and put it to use for your photographs?

After I saw Matt and Adam’s lightbounces this weekend, I knew I had to quickly make them for use at home.

2. Do you have lighting challenges in your house or when you’re taking pictures?

I do!  I take lots of photos at night (and so does anyone who works a 9 to 5 and takes pictures of their dinners).

The lighting in my house because my house is a long/narrow urban townhouse lends to weird shadows, and there are many hours of the day where although it’s very bright outside, my kitchen is horribly lit or shadowy.

Nothing frustrates me more than making great food and really wanting to photograph it well but because of lighting issues, I feel I get sub-optimal images.  Grrr. So using lightbounces, mirrors, and anything I can to brighten up my shot are things I need to do.

3. This post had tips and tricks for photography, do you have any tips or tricks you want to share? Not just about photography, but if you have makeup, cooking, cleaning, parenting, workout tips, you name it, share!

I have other posts with Tips:

Tips for Saving Money on Your Grocery Budget

Tips for Staple Items to Keep in Your Pantry

Morning Workout Tips

Exercise, Diet, & Life Tips

What tips do you want to share? C’mon, give me some good ones!

Have a great day!


45 comments on “Making Lightbounces & Using Light”

  1. Beautiful pictures and wonderful post :)

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  3. Thanks for this…I’m running off to Ace Hardware immediately to make some lightboxes. And I NEVER would have thought to find vintage scarves. I think a trip to my local Junior League Wearhouse or Goodwill is in order. You’re the best!

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  6. I’m loving your tips on lighting! I make my own light bounces from binders + tin foil OR old white plates held by plate holders OR paper towel if I’m in a rush. I just bought a bunch of supplies to make my own photography table [I’m using the kitchen table right now and I’ve scratched it to heck… so I’m building my own table this weekend].
    I built a mini studio a couple of months ago as I was taking most of my pictures at night and had NO light to work with. Here’s a link to the studio: if you’re interested!
    I love the idea of building the light bounce with the L brackets. I have a bunch at home… so I’ll have to try that. The binders are GREAT but sometimes I get the coils in a shot or two, which is super annoying!

  7. I don’t pay too much attention to lighting my photos. I make sure that you can get the basic idea and write from there. But, I LOVE looking at photos where so much care has been taken.

  8. I think it is great that there are simple & in-expensive ways to boost & play with lighting your shots.
    Maybe you can do a photo-shoot of Skylar for the grandparents and make use of the studio equipment you bought? Could make for nice Christmas gifts.

    Sometimes when there are lighting issue, my husband using his Gary Fong flash disfusers ( to help. Mind you, that is more with family gatherings.

    Cleaning tip: for a dirty blender or food processor, add warm water with a drop of soap and run for about a minute. Rinse and leave to dry.

    Opening jars: for those hard to open jars. Wear a pair of dish gloves. The jars open just like that ~Snap!~

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  10. Haha I use my white sweatshirt as a light bounce! I should probably invest in something that stands up on it’s own. I usually use a bounce when it’s dark…not so much to make the entire subject bright. Does that make sense? Like I use it when it’s early morning (okay not early) when the sun is coming from the side. I still like having some shadows around.

  11. GORGEOUS photos! The number 1 key to a good food photograph is LIGHT. So true, you can make pretty much anything look pretty if it is lit with a generous amount of light.

    I try to take all of my pictures outside in the middle of the day. Here in Saudi Arabia, that is a guarantee of full on scorching sunlight. It’s annoying when I cook something in the evening, or at night, and want to take photos and can never get the right light. I’m definitely going to try these tricks! Thank you!

  12. Again, I had no idea how much went into food styling!

  13. I have a single window that gets good light and it is extrememely awkward taking photos, but I’ve mastered the lightbox now, so that definitely helps with nightime photos. Now, I just need to cook earlier so that I am not STARVING by the time my food is done. Because that is what normally happens and then I don’t take any photos. Alas.

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