Turn Your Tablet Into a Studio Light

Your iPad is your Sunday Times. Your game console. Your encyclopedia. The guardian of your deepest, darkest secrets. (Better put a password on that!)

And now, it’s your new studio light!

It’s true. Your tablet is powerful enough to illuminate your subject in almost any photo situation.

This guide will show you how a tablet can super charge your shots with creative backdrops, custom light shapes, and pop art colors.

Just when you thought your tablet reached peak awesomeness, it suddenly got so much awesomer.

Why It’s Cool:

beforeStudio lights and softboxes are big, cumbersome, and cost a bundle!

By comparison, your tablet is like a cheetah vs a hippo. It’s quick, versatile, and light on its feet.

Download backdrops for free and create customized shapes and reflections that will make your photos stand out from the crowd.

The Ingredients:


Shape It Up

beforeWith a little help from your tablet you can add shiny shapes to your reflective subjects.

For this shot you will need a something reflective like a camera lens or a wine glass.

Download a simple shape like a star or a triangle or select a shape on your lighting app.

Setup your tablet at an angle so that it bounces off your subject and into the cameras lens.

It takes some experimentation to get the angle just right so if you are using a DSLR try turning on live view on your rear LCD screen.

This should make it easier to see the reflections.

Glitz Up Your Portrait:

beforeFor a playful sparkle in the eye and dramatic portrait lighting, look no farther than your tablet!

A tripod is helpful if you are doing a self portrait and you will need to shoot this pic in a dark environment.

Select a shape on your tablet and setup your camera with a short timer.

Focus the camera on your face and shuffle just slightly to the right.

Hold your tablet out in front of you and up to the left and let the magic happen.

Open That Aperture:

beforeThis technique will leave you with a softly glowing background like the embers of a camp fire.

First, pick a subject with some depth to it like a large leaf or a clump of berries.

Put a circular pattern on your tablet that complements your subjects color.

Get up close and open your aperture as wide as possible.

This shot works great with a DSLR and a macro lens but is more difficult with a phone’s camera which produces very little shallow depth of field.

Double Glow:

beforeIf you have two tablets you can make a light teepee for bright and shiny macro closeups.

Place your tablets with their screens turned inward so they make a roof over your subject.

Hold the tablets together at the top with your fingers or use a little tape.

Now shoot your subject down the corridor of your glowing cyber tunnel.

Make a Silhouette

beforeLike the iPod commercials of yesteryear you can use your tablet to create cool silhouette style photos.

Put a solid color on your screen and place your subject halfway between your camera and tablet.

If you have a DSLR change your light metering to spot and aim your focus point at the tablets glowing screen.

You may want to focus manually since the room will need to be pretty dark.

Shine Up Your Food Shots:

beforeGive your food shots that extra sparkle by zapping your snack with a tablet softbox.

Place your food items against a black backdrop in a dark room.

Set a long exposure, maybe 25 seconds, f/11, ISO 200.

Start your exposure and paint your food with your tablet making sure the screen is facing away from your camera.

This trick work great with a phone too!

Pick a Backdrop

beforeA matching background will do wonders to enhance your macro shots.

Simply download a backdrop and place your subject on top of your tablets screen.

If you are shooting with a DSLR use a small aperture, maybe f/22.

Phones will work great for this shot as they already have a wide depth of field.

You can avoid glare by shooting your tablets screen at a sharp angle instead of straight on.

Incorporate Movement

beforeCreate ghostly effects in your photos by moving your tablet through the background of your shot.

To achieve this pic you will need a completely dark environment so decide on your camera settings before you turn out the lights.

First set your camera for a long exposure maybe 20-30 seconds and pick out a pattern on your tablet.

Mount your camera on a tripod, focus on your subject, and then switch your camera to manual focus so auto focus doesn’t kick in with the lights off.

Hit the lights, press the shutter button, and move your tablet through the back of your shot while the shutter is open.

You can use a phone set to a white screen to paint in your subject with light.

Shine a Spotlight

beforeA circular shape is a great way to highlight your subject with dramatic lighting.

First select a shape from your softbox app or download a picture from the internet.

Place your subject on top of your tablet so that it’s illuminated from beneath.

Setting your camera to center weighted light metering will allow you to just capture light from your spotlit subject and keep out background light.

If the object you’re shooting is clear, you get a cool glowing effect all the way up to the top.

Take it further

Thanks to the members of the Softbox Pro Flickr group for their photo inspiration!