Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Shooting with Natural Light - Indoors

So I’ve talked about shooting outside with full sun, even shade, dappled shade, sunrise/sunset, and cloudy days. What about when you want to shoot indoors with natural light? Easy! Just look for the best light. Anyone notice a pattern here? Look for the best light.

Indoors, the best natural light will be when you have your subject facing a window (the main light.) You should know that depending on the time of day, the light may be harsh. If so, just move the subject further away from the window (like 3 or 5 feet) until you get that soft light you’re looking for. If there isn’t much sun left and it’s late afternoon (or very early morning) you may have to move the subject closer to the window (like 1-2 feet.)

Just like all the other types of natural light, you want to move around your subject and shoot from different angles.  After a while you’ll find different angles produce better light than others.

Here’s an example of a dimly lit room or indirect window light. This room actually had a ton of windows so I had to draw the curtains to demonstrate. Anyway, this kind of light can be found all over your home where you have some light from one or two windows.

This kind of indoor light is okay, but it’s not amazing light. Also, darker color walls and floors tend to absorb light and make a room appear more dark. That being said, if you have a lot of white or light color walls, the light will be reflected and you can get a ton of light in a room that has only 1 or 2 windows.

Instead of shooting in a dimly lit room, try looking for places where bright window light fills the room, and place your subject in that light. Remember to move around the subject and try different angles.

Here’s a self portrait of me sitting in the dining room (in the light pictured above.) Yes, there was a couch in my dining room. Look at that nice, even light.

I can’t say this enough…. remember that not all good light is great light. In this example above, Ava was sitting on our bed, and we had several windows in the room. The image on the left is nice, but I moved slightly to the right for a different angle. The light looks much better in the photo on the right. See what I mean? I changed the angle just a few inches. That move made a big difference in the quality of light for this picture.

You can also use reflectors to add even more light to your subject when shooting indoors. You’ll want to do this especially when there isn’t much light and you need a little more light to light up the eyes or fill in dark details of the subject. This usually is the case when not much light is coming in a window. You can use inexpensive white poster board or foam core, wear a white shirt, even use natural reflectors like white or light colored walls. You can also buy small portable folding reflectors (they come in gold/silver.)

When using reflectors you’ll always want to position it so that the light bounces back the main light. In the example above, the window to the left is the main light and the reflector is bouncing that light back to Ava’s left side of her body. Since she wasn’t directly facing the window, I wanted to “fill in” the left side of her face with more light. This was not the only window in this part of the house – the right side of the couch had a couple of windows about ten feet away. So you don’t always have to have the subject face the main window, if you have enough natural light coming in from different directions.

Can you see that little bit of warm glow on Ava’s ear in the right of the photo? That’s that warm golden tone coming from the light bouncing back from that gold reflector. Now we have beautiful, even natural light in an indoor setting!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – look at your subject from different angles. Look for the best light. It doesn’t matter if you’re shooting in full sun, dappled shade, even shade, sunrise/sunset, cloudy or inside with window light. You must do this in each situation and at each new location. Try shooting different angles until you get that light that makes your subject glow.

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