Whether you are an independent filmmaker working with little to no budget or are engaged in guerilla filmmaking, pushing things to the extreme and using whatever it takes to get your shots, you need every edge you can get. Whether it is a matter of cost or a need for speed, there are few tricks that can help you get professional quality lighting for your shots without expensive and bulky lighting equipment. Here are a few ideas that might help during your next film.
Check out the Home Improvement Store
Big box home improvement stores are treasure troves of inexpensive and portable lighting equipment. Head to the lighting section and walk past the fancy light fixtures until you find the less refined work lights and shop lights. For under ten dollars, you can pick up a portable clamp work light with a built-in reflector. Stop by the lightbulb section on the way out and choose the wattage and color temperature that works for you. You will also find a great selection of LED work lights. They are portable, and some even run on rechargeable batteries. The light can be a little harsh, but with a reflector or DIY gel, you can get exactly what you need.
While you are at the store, look around for anything else that might come in handy. Reflective insulation panels can help bounce your light for soft fills. Clothespins are a great way to get gels to stay on your lights. Get some garbage bags in white and black. The white can be used in a pinch as soft deflectors or even diffusion gels. Black bags can be used as lighting flags to keep light from going where you don't want. Also, don't forget to pick up plenty of extension cords.
Use the Light You Already Have
Often our location will offer us all the light we need if we just look around a little. The sun is always a great source, especially if you get creative. Your home improvement store trip will provide everything you need to create reflectors and diffusers to get the sun to shine right where you need it. Don't forget, the sun can be a light source inside as well. The natural light from a window, with a little help from some reflectors, can provide one of your three points of light. If you didn't bring any reflectors, mirrors and aluminum foil could do the trick.
If the sun isn't shining or you need some additional light sources. Look around for lamps, and don't forget that lampshades come off. Again, the creative use of DIY diffusers and reflectors can help adjust the light intensity and direction.
Independent and guerilla filmmakers are some of the most creative and resourceful people in the world. So, take that creativity with you out into the field. If you don't have what you need for the perfect shot, look around, take a trip to the local home improvement store, or find some other creative way to make it work.