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. Your photography gets better and better each post :) loveee it!

  2. I LOVE summer because I feel like my pictures are so much better in the summer when the lighting is good. I have discovered all the “good light” spots in my house.

  3. i NEED to get one of these!!!!! i just need to get a good camera and take better pictures period!

  4. What a fun project, you’re become the MacGyver of photography. :-) Great pics and info, thanks!

    1. Sure, but truthfully time and space are an issue for me now and this is not the week for a project like that with so much going on at work.
    2. Yes, I’m not a fan of bright lights or flooding rooms with light at night, it stresses me out. But mood lighting isn’t ideal for good food photography.
    3. Sure and one day I’ll do a post about it – I’m just so fried today. :-P

  5. I have been meaning to make a light box for a long time now…I’m such a procrastinator. I like your idea of a light bounce though!!
    Your photographs look amazing!

  6. I am going totally have to try this! Thanks for the tips. I am always dealing with shadows or light issues.

  7. Wow, you’re really getting serious, Averie! Thanks for sharing with us. I’ve tried using boards but in some areas, boards just cause this unsightly glares…or maybe I’m using it the wrong way!

  8. Now THIS is something I can try…cheap, easy, fast…love it! Thanks for sharing so many photography tips lately, they are really helping me. Even if I don’t always have time to apply them. ;-)

  9. Love this post! You’re right; natural light can be some of the most beautiful light there is if you use it to your advantage. I used to just shoot away, paying no mind to the shadows that even natural light casts…but it really makes a huge difference if you bounce a little light back onto the plate to lighten up those shadow areas – for food, at least :] I have a big white priority mail box that I never ended up using conveniently located by the table for just this purpose. I have never tried mirrors, though. I’ll have to play with that next!
    I have the same feelings about the lightbox. I made a (poorly executed) lightbox once and just hated it. I just feel too confined, and like it’s too much…preparation? I guess just because I tend to go for the “less formal but still nice”, haha. Sounds like a bad excuse for poor photography :P Anyways; I have a flash attachment that I’ll use and bounce off a wall or ceiling if I need to take a picture at night. It takes a lot of tinkering with to get used to it, but the results are way better than kitchen lights or pop-up flash. Probably not as nice as a lightbox, but much quicker and “roomier.”

  10. No photography tips! I don’t take good food photos.

    I am doing 30 days of different makeup looks on my blog with instructions and such(when it’s a look I created myself or came up with based on a picture; if I’m using a real makeup artists idea I just show my final result and link to that tutorial)…so that’s kinda like tips right?

  11. I love this post! After your fabulous workshop post I made a list of things to get at the craft and hardware store. I was most excited about the light bounces. So simple but such a huge help!

    I agree: natural light is way better than artificial. I don’t use my light box much at all, I don’t lie it, lol! Being I’m up at night so often, I do need all the help I can get. Glad it’s staying lighter out longer now! But it’s raining and cloudy so even my sunlight isn’t so awesome at the moment. Still better than dark, though! I have been using the new version of Photoshop instead of lr3, I am more familiar with it, but hope to practice with lr3 more soon. :)

  12. Mirrors = duh!! Why did I not think of that before! I am catching up on posts and have to go back to read all of your photography tips. That workshop sounds awesome. How did you find out about it?

    I would say that one of my health tips is to have hot water with lemon and ginger whenever possible. It’s a great relaxation tool, aids in digestion and alkalizes your body. And it tastes good!

  13. Great post! I have many light issues that annoy me SO MUCH, and I find myself racing to catch the daylight in order to get good pictures. The way my townhouse is situated, after a certain hour the sun goes to the other side of the house and all is lost…thank goodness for editing software!

  14. I just play around with natural light. I like the idea of the foam core. That’s a great fix!

  15. you’re getting your cam ready for vaca aren’t you ;) i hope you set up some light boxes in the beautiful aruba weather!!

  16. Averie, I’m LOVING these posts! I’m sure you already know this, but you are so down-to-earth and that’s what makes your blog incredible. Saving probably hundreds of dollars and major time by using the most simple, yet totally effective props… genius! I see the difference in both of those photos as far as the new props go, and it’s just great to have more options to work with in your photos. Thank you again so much for sharing!

  17. So badass!! I love the foam board idea!!!

  18. thanks for the photography tips. That photos look amazing :D

  19. 1) YES. This phtography thing is SO addicting. ;) I can’t seem to learn and make things (like light boucers) fast enough.

    2) My house SUCKS as far as lighting goes. …and I mean sucks as in my kitchen is DARK unless the light is on bc it’s in the interior of our town house. I mostly take my pictures outside, but am learning that LR3 will help me be able to take some pictures in the house and then edit to make them look acceptable. Sometimes its just not convinient to drag a pan full of cooking food outside to get the perfect shot. lol. I actually never do that. You can tell which pictures were taken inside. Hello yellow.

    3) I have no tips (other than always try and use natural light)! This is where I go to learn ;)

  20. see, i like to learn this lighting info like this: through your blog, a few steps at a time. your info is so “illuminating!” (haha!) – i’d never buy a book, take a course, read online, but i LIKE getting tips in this low-key way and you explain things very clearly.
    i live in a converted loft with 20 foot windows so natural light abounds. there’s too much light sometimes (maybe?!)
    i could share tips on picking a running shoe or getting started on knitting…i’ll leave photo and lighting and styling to YOU! :)

  21. My biggest photograpy challenge at the moment is that I don’t have a camera – of any kind. I know it’s 2011 in blogsville. It’s on my list and I hope to aquire one soon. In the meantime, I’m enjoying the posts on photography and am keeping the tips on file for the future.

  22. YES!!!! This was what I wanted to know from your post the other day. Thanks so much!!!! So excited to try this. Will have to hit up ACE this weekend. Already have the perfect sized mirror!!! You rock!!!

  23. Averie I love all of this photography info — the boards and brackets look super simple but I can see the difference they would make! I love that for $5 or less you can make a big impact on your photographs. I definitely want to try this out!

    My lighting challenges — finding good natural light in our house. We’re in a corner townhome, so there are only so many windows (none in the actual kitchen) so finding light is sometimes hard!

  24. I totally want to make a lightbounce now! My food photos leave a lot to be desired, and they are not the focal point of my blog. My blog is about trying new foods, trying new recipes, and tracking what works and what doesn’t for my family. But it wouldn’t hurt for my photos to have an extra “oomph!” :-D

  25. I love this post!! I learned so much from your already :)

    When we move to SD you’re going to have to show me all your tips ;)

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