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Monday, July 30, 2012

Photography 101 {Easy-peasy indoor technique}

Photography is all about light.  
Without it, there is no photograph.  And how it comes in and is captured by your camera is one of the biggest factors that will determine how good your image is.  So the lesson this week has two parts.

The first part of this lesson is kinda nebulous.  But bare with me 'cause it's really important. 
See the light.  Look for the light wherever you are.  See where it comes from and how bright it is.  Is it direct or indirect?  Diffused?  Splotchy?  Does it come from one direction or from many?  Is there a lot of it or not much?  Is it natural light or artificial?  If it’s artificial light, is it tinted green or yellow?  In general, if you want to be a good photographer you’re going to need to be a student of light, so start looking at it and learning to “read” the light in settings you find yourself in.  Maybe a whole ‘nother separate lesson on light is in order?

Second, and more specifically to the chosen topic, how to use indoor light with good results.  Because you know I’m all about keeping this simple with minimal techno-talk, we’re only going to talk about using natural light.   So here is the easiest way I know to capture the natural incoming light inside.  

Before we start, I'm assuming you're still shooting in auto-mode.  But let's {get crazy!} and take a step off auto and set your ISO.  Hu?  Go here for a refresher on setting your ISO.  You're inside so it will likely be high.  (Make sure your flash is turned off.)

Pick a room that gets the most light.  I'm not talking direct sunlight, but indirect light.  For this technique, direct sunlight will not produce good photographs.  So look for the room that gets the most indirect light.  For 1958 Little Cabin in the Woods, there are no rooms that get a lot of light.  I picked the room that gets the most light, my bedroom.  

You have a window in that room, right?  Open her up.  Pull back the curtains, draw the blinds, and roll up the shade.  Let the maximum light in that window ‘cause we’re gonna need it to get good photographs. 
I pulled up the blinds on the biggest window in my bedroom.  This room gets the most light in the cabin, although it's still not much.  In this pic, you can see the light coming in on Jude's face. 
In this case, my subjects are the 3 littles on my bed.    

Now with your back to the window, and your body facing into the room,  position yourself somewhere between the window and your subject.   In this situation, I was standing in between the bed and the window where there was only about 2-3 feet.  But be sure not to cast a shadow on your subject or block the light.  With this shooting position, the natural light from the window will light up your subject.  
This image is taken directly in the line of the light.  Jude is directly facing the window, and I was sitting on the floor so as not to block the light.  You see very few shadows.  Often I was standing next to the window.
Now, you don't have to be directly in the line that the light travels.  You don't have to be directly in front of the window.  You can move about 45-ish degrees from the window, still facing your subject, and still capture great light.  In fact if you move 45 degrees from the light source, you're going to capture some interesting shadows on your subject.  
Contrastingly, this image is taken about 50 degrees to the light, source, the open window, from the foot of the bed.  The window is directly to the left.  Notice the direction that the light is coming from, and the shadowing on the right side of Jude's face.  This bit of shadowing adds some nice texture and depth to the photograph.  
These photos make the room look MUCH lighter than it actually is.  My bedroom, like the rest of the cabin, is quite dark.  But putting myself between the window and subject, let me capture the available light and illuminate my adorable subjects.
I took this photo standing at the side of the window.  You can get a pretty good idea of where the window is by looking at the lights and shadows on Jude's face and on the comforter.  
A short recap for an easy-peasy indoor lighting technique-
1--Set your ISO higher for your indoor setting
2--Open up your window
3--Position yourself between the light source (up to 45-ish degrees) and your subject 

And I'll be posting the rest of these pics next.  Silly monkey's jumping on my bed!


  1. Great stuff - so different than crime scene stuff tho! And you really nailed this one - you have described what I have been calling "the eye" - it's that ability to 'see' the light - to 'see' the image - you really have got the gift!

    hugs - aus and co.

  2. very enlightening post. I know nothing about taking pics except clicking the button so do a lot of photoshop work on them. Love your black and white ones. beautiful .

  3. Thank you so much for this post. I am new to your blog (from SITS) looking forward to following you.

  4. Love theses tips!

  5. Thanks for the tips :)

  6. I really like the stand in front of the light (well direction) tip..I'm terrible at finding the light.

  7. I may be slow, but I get there eventually...

  8. Thank you for this great post - I hope to learn from it.


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