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How to Build Your No-Budget Lighting Package

Laura Beth Apr 06

As NAB is around the corner again this year and we all get excited about the premiere of new gear, I am reminded about the simplest gear…

Sometimes we can’t afford to have all of the nice stuff we want.
Sometimes, we can’t afford to have ANY of the gear that we need. 

How to Work with a No (I mean ZERO) Budget

Here is a list of “gear” that you might already have lying around the house, or in your parents garage.

Even on my shows with full g&e packages, I usually end up putting at least one of these make-shift ideas into action…


  • Cardboard = Solid (Flag)
  • Sheers or mesh laundry bag = Scrims or Nets
  • Foamcore or poster board from a drugstore = Bounce Cards
  • Opaque (solid) white shower curtain = a Large Bounce that can fit almost anywhere!
  • Translucent or frosty shower curtain = Large Diffusion, to help with a day exterior with no budget! (Don’t use plastic as diffusion on hot lights, it will melt!)
  • Cardboard covered in aluminum foil = Shiny Board (maybe aim it through Opal, too)
  • Household mirrors = Mirror Boards! “Shoot pool” with the sunlight, and put it where you want it!
  • Lace, plastic plants, vines, tree branches found on the ground = Cucaloris (create gorgeous dappling anywhere!)
  • Flashlight with diffusion = Eye-Light
  • Christmas lights in a thin pillow case or electric bulbs in paper lanterns = Soft Light
  • Christmas lights in a wreath = Ring-Light (for eye lights)
  • Led lights from an arts & crafts store = Accent Lighting that you can put anywhere
  • Skate board on a tabletop = Slider or Skater Dolly
  • Wheel chair or Wagon = Dolly
  • Hair spray = Dulling Spray
  • Scarf or jacket = expensive Lighting Gloves

And remember that you can buy small sheets or scraps of gel and diffusion really cheaply!

Expendables Recycler in Van Nuys, CA has a whole wall of $2 gels!  As long as you take care of them, they can last a long time and are great for experimenting with color and quality of light!  Tell them I sent you!

Here are 10 More Helpful Tips for your No-Budget filmmaking endeavors!  Best of luck!

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