I often struggle with lighting on my photos; particularly those taken indoors. The layout of my house is not so good, and our weather is often so dark and dreary that very little light comes in the windows anyway. Sometimes it is so dark that the best shutter speed I can get (to allow for the depth of field I want) with natural light is 5 seconds!
I have a hotshoe flash, and have tried bouncing it off the ceiling, and using white paper to try and bounce the light back. Sometimes this works ok, but often I still have too much shadow, or light drop-off. As a result, not only are lighting rejections my most common kind, but also I reject most of the photos I take in my prescreening process, and don't bother even submitting them.
Plus I found the process of tinkering with adjusting everything painfully slow and very frustrating. It would sometimes take me more than and hour, and usually I just gave up when nothing seemed to work. I tried making my own lightbox, but that wasn't practical for things like food photography.
I toyed with the idea of buying studio flash equipment, but they can be very expensive and so didn't seem like a practical solution for me.... I am not a professional photographer, and have no intention of doing portraits or anything like that.
Finally last month I decided I would buy a proper light stand and an umbrella for my flash to see if that helped. The reason I decided to try this first was because it was not an overly expensive solution...the total cost for the light stand, clamp and umbrella was only about $65.
Well, I really wish I had bought them sooner; it has made everything soooo much easier! Positioning the flash is faster and easier (no more trying to clamp it to the back of a chair or a table!) and the umbrella really helps spread the light and soften the shadows.
And the best thing is that not only is it faster for me to take a series of photos, but I end up with lots more to choose from, and my acceptance ratio on the shots I have submitted so far has jumped to almost 95%!
Here are a few of my first accepted photos using my flash with the umbrella.