If you are just starting out on your photography journey, navigating the world of indoor lighting can seem overwhelming… at least it was for me. I thought you had to have all the special lighting equipment to be able to do photography indoors, but over the years I realized that all I needed was my camera and natural light coming through some windows.
These are some steps you can take to help get you started with learning how to navigate indoor lighting.
1. Learn the light: Learn the light in the room are wanting to photograph in. If you are going to someone else’s house for a photoshoot, I almost always either go before hand to look at the rooms we are using so I can get a sense of how the lighting is or I ask the client lots of questions like time of day the best lighting is in their house or room, can they send me a photo of the room(s), etc. If its your own home, you will . have the flexibility to learn what works and what doesn’t and the time of day is best. Also note that soft light will give you a soft glow and harsh light will give a more dramatic moody look. You’ll want to experiment with back light, side lite, and full light in a room which depends on where the light and subject is located. Most of my photos at home are side lit photos with the light coming from the side.
2. Turn artificial light: I try to avoid artificial light as much as possible. My home gives ample natural light so I will turn off the lights. Natural and artificial light compete with each other and can effect the color balance of the photo. There might be a point in time that artificial light is used like if you take a photo in a public space or if your experimenting with nighttime photography (I used flashlights to create the lighting in this dark room). If you have the option to work with natural light, that is the best lighting. It’s all about experimenting with the light in your space until you find the right look your going for.
3. Using manual mode: I always use manual mode in my camera so I have the flexibility to navigate the look I am going for. I use a 1.4mm lens so I usually set my f stop at a 1.4 or 1.6 and the iso depends on how much light I am getting in the room… it can be anywhere from 200 and up, it just really depends on the light that is already in the room. Some days in my house I can be at an iso 200 and if it’s a cloudy day, I’ll have to use a higher iso number. There isn’t one specific number to use. Again its all about the light source coming in and the look your going for.
4. Use curtains or blinds: to help filter the light through the room to help create the lighting and look you are wanting to go for. Also this will help filter with direct sun light that is too “harsh” or light that is spotty throughout the room.
5. Get creative: the best thing about indoor photography is you can really get creative with different things like light/shadow, bright/moody, the possibilities are endless. Indoor light does take some practice to learn but once you get into a place you can work with it, you’ll start to feel comfortable in almost all indoor situations.
On another note, I avoid using a flash as much as possible. If I am photographing in a darker room, I just crank up my ISO. I always felt flashes were bulky and really didn’t ever care for the look it gave so I just use my manual settings as much as possible. I might be breaking the rules here, but I say its your photography and your style.
Have fun experimenting with indoor lighting! You can create so much when you are indoors especially with kids at home!