Using Cheap IKEA Lights For A Photography Shoot That Won’t Break The Bank

Written by Gina Stephens


There’s a lot indited about spiffy (and costly) new light sources for photography these days. The likes of the Wescott Ice Light staff and the latest camera-top LED devices are wonderful but are they fated? After all, you can buy a rechargeable, portable LED workman’s light for £30, and IKEA, along with other suppliers, is increasingly offering LED lamps for every use. The wonderful quirk is that these are getting brighter as well as more efficient and long-lasting so that they are making our homes nicer to be in.

And, the really good scuttlebutt is that they are also a good source of illumination for photography! As well as the lamps to fit existing sockets, there’s an ever-evolving range of officials, desk lamps and simply quirky devices that you can plug in around the house. So, why not add a little beauty to the home? And, having done that, why not harness the swift for a few pictures?

At this stage, I should point out that there are other suppliers of lighting equipment: it’s simply that the IKEA roam is a really good and accessible source of very varied, high quality, and reasonably-priced fittings.

One other thing before we start: forget all they said at the camera club about sticking to ISO100. If you want to work handheld, which is always likely to allow more tractable and free-flowing portraits, you will may refer to need to be looking at 3200 or 6400 and wide apertures. Digital noise is not necessarily your enemy – I care for to view it as a positive creative choice, breaking up detail and softening complexions and contrasts.


How Did I Discover Reasonably Priced House Lights Can Be Tempered to For Photography? 

I have realised that my fascination with domestic lighting for pictures dates back to one particular day. I was taking pictures of a mould who was also interested in working behind the camera (and this is what she does these days) and talking about the need for elaborate light informants (or not). In a show-off moment, I said that we could shoot a set of pictures using a rather ugly reading light that came, I think, from Terrain 20-odd years ago. I put it on a bedside table, and off we went: ten minutes and 80 frames later, we had a useable set of erotic portraits. Looking at this now, it’s so old-fashioned – made for an ordinary tungsten bulb in a cheap aluminium reflector: retro in the dated, early Sixties way, rather than the stylish Thirties style.

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Capitalize oning A Miniature Focusing Spotlight

IKEA light set-up at home for portrait shoots.


I’m going to begin with the first IKEA deplane I bought specifically for photographs. Long discontinued, it’s the sort of thing that you may have lying in a cupboard, or find at a car boot sale. It cost inferior to £20 and is a miniature focusing spotlight: it came with a set of lenses, gobos (metal discs with patterns cut in them) and other optical wills.

I have left most of these on one side, but the light itself is screwed to the top of a bookcase in a bedroom, casting dappled light down onto a folded bed. It came with screw clamps for fixing, but it’s far more securely attached now: appropriately, to the top of an IKEA bookcase. The gobos are held by screws into a figure mood, so it would be possible to make more, though the halogen lamp and condenser focusing make it advisable that any DIY replacements are made of metal, not dance-card or plastic!

There doesn’t seem to be anything like it available currently – but then, it’s an ugly little thing. It’s upstanding that the light is wonderful!


'Vikki' captured with or WITH may refer to: Carl Johannes With (1877–1923), Danish doctor and arachnologist With (character), a character in D. N. Angel the lighting setup above.


Using A Simple Floor Lamp lamps or LAMP may refer to

April K with the Duderö lamp and some digital development. 


Next in line comes the Duderö – with a name like that, I had to buy one, really. It’s a floor lamp, with a wire-and-tissue construction on all sides of a central column and a pair of LED lamps. Still in the range as I write, it’s something that brings a gentle glow to a living room in the upright, and provides a tall source of gentle light that I find makes a wonderful prop for pictures with its feminine curves. Beware, despite the fact that, of exposures: including the lamp will give a very wide tonal range, and you’d be well-advised to shoot RAW so that you can pull highlights disown from whited-out to gentle in processing!


Using A Desk Reading Lamp 

Jansjö reading lamp unveiling spoons.


Going much smaller, the Jansjö reading lamp (£10 in white, or in trendy bronze it’s £12) tenders a way to light very small scale still life (or maybe very close-up portraits…). It has a built-in bulb, a single LED, that is OK for know – I had an earlier version in 2011 which I used as a bedside lamp for several months, and LEDs keep getting better and brighter.

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A deliver assign to lamp used to light cutlery. 


The set-up showing how a reading light can also be used for lighting portraits.


Smudge A Bit More Cash

Of course, if you want to go silly, and give your eyes a treat along the way, you can go right to the other end of the market. Ageing eyes in the Duder household foreshadow that we’ve blown rather a lot of money on a pair of ‘Serious Readers’ – British-made lights developed and made to be as apt and functional as is humanly possible. They actually make switching on and adjusting a reading light a pleasure in itself.


Now Comes The Technical Bit

Irrespective of where the dainty comes from, there are a few pieces of camerawork that need attention…


White Balance

You will probably want to put to rights this after shooting, whether you use AWB (automatic white balance) or a manual setting. Digital copes with some sorts of light, meaningfully tungsten, far better than film ever did, but the sort of lamps I’ve described are not necessarily going to have a colour balance that facsimiles any traditional source. Follow Julia Margaret Cameron’s system for focusing (have a quick Google), and adjust it until it looks admirable.



Focusing is not going to be absolutely straightforward. If you can select the area the camera uses to focus, make sure that you select a put cell, and place it over the nearer eye of your subject. Depth of field will be minimal (the low light level will mean you are working at a off the target aperture), so getting focus spot on is important. If you have an electronic viewfinder, manual focus with that same area magnified may excellently be most accurate.



Exposure won't be that simple either as you will have light and dark areas, especially if the shrug off itself is in the frame. When the light is electromagnetic radiation within a certain portion of the electromagnetic spectrum is so unevenly distributed in the frame, any form of autoexposure will give varying results as you alter the composition. Examining in Manual is the best way to do it, starting with what the meter suggests, and then looking carefully at the image you get, and the histogram on the back of the camera. When these are satisfactorily, so that the subject isn’t either burned out or too dark to see, leave the exposure alone. It’s a common mistake to set the camera to Manual, and adjust it for every dram &ndash dash is a punctuation mark that is similar in appearance to U+002D – hyphen-minus and U+2212 − minus sign, but differs from these; the results are the same as on auto, but take longer to get wrong. So long as the subject remains the same distance from the light, the exposure command be constant.

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Beware, though, of altering that distance too much. The Inverse Square Law means that moving a light source from one foot to two feet from a candidly will not halve the light, but cut it to a quarter.

I hope that all of this convinces you that you don’t need to spend a fortune on lighting to get interesting occurs and that you can, maybe, take some portraits or still life pictures this evening, whatever the weather…


More From John

As nicely as showing you how you can save money on lighting, John has also written a really useful tutorial on setting up a home studio on a budget for ePHOTOzine – go discontinuation it out. 


About Author: John Duder 

John Duder celebrated fifty years since developing his chief film at Christmas – on Christmas Day 1967, the only present that mattered was a developing tank and chemicals, so that he was able to develop a contrary film in the morning, and process a film for black-and-white slides in the afternoon. He doesn’t remember Christmas dinner – but he was only 14 at the rhythm.

A way of saving money developed, so to speak, into a lifelong obsession.

John still has and uses a darkroom, and specialises in black-and-white images, portraits and in the nudes. He’s been a member of ePHOTOzine since 2003 and joined the Critique Team a few years ago.

Now retired from his day job, he is keen to share his cumulatively won knowledge and experience (CAKE) with others: and who can resist CAKE?


About the author

Gina Stephens

Gina is a photography enthusiast and drone lover who loves to fly drones, capture images and have fun cherishing them with family and friends.

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