In a perfect world, every time you pulled out your camera a perfectly crafted, elaborate set-up would magically appear before you, complete with all the lights, tripods and pristine white backgrounds your little heart could desire. But sadly this is New York, not fairyland, and sometimes, a photographer’s got to make do with what she can get.

Luckily for you, Photo FocusNicole Young has the 4-1-1 on how to create beautiful, commercial-quality shots in ambient, natural light. With just some basic gear and craft store supplies, you can shoot crisp, clear, luminous shots right in the comfort of your own home.

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© Nicole Young, Via Photo Focus

First things first: you’ll need a tripod. When photographing with ambient light, you’ll want to keep your ISO low to avoid excess noise, which means your exposure can get upwards of several seconds. In this situation, a tripod is your best friend. Nobody wants to waste a whole afternoon shooting only to end up with a blurry mess.

Next, you’ll want to set up your shoot somewhere with lots of window light. Ideally, the room will have multiple windows, so you have light sources coming from multiple angles. If you’re going to be using electric light, try to use a daylight-balanced CFL bulb so it won’t adversely affect the light of the shot and can instead act as a great fill light.

Once you’ve got your camera on your tripod and you’re in your sunniest atrium (we all have those, right?), you want to make sure you have a diffuser. This allows you to control and soften the natural light you have coming in. For this shoot, Young used a 4-ft by 6-ft Lastolite Panelight Collapsible Diffuser, which she gives an A+.

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Lastolite Panelight Collapsible Diffuser/Reflector
Via Amazon

Last but not least, much like the book reports and science fair projects of yore, you’ll need some white foam board. This stuff is super cheap and perfect for a set-up like this, and you can find it at any craft store and even some drugstores. It works like a dream for blocking light and controlling reflections, and if you’re concerned about cutting light in some areas instead of reflecting it, it also comes in black.

If you’re looking for a neutral white background shot, you’ll also want a white board under the subject. For this shoot, you want a board with a reflective surface, which you can find at a home improvement store. Otherwise, you can use fabric or some other material under the subject.

And there you have it! Easy, breezy photo shoot. Best of all, this set-up works not only for white background shots but also for other product images, which can come in handy for your second career moonlighting as an Etsy crafter, an eBay fiend or a Craigslist vender.

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© Nicole Young, Via Photo Focus

For more helpful photo tips, check out Photo Focus, or you can find more tips on Nicole Young’s blog!

Via Photo Focus