Get great images using the light in your home

During this often gloomy and frequently cold time of year, learning how to find and use the light indoors can be key in keeping us actively shooting and getting great images.

Notice the Quality of Light

Hard light has bright highlights, deep shadows, and a fast transition between the two.  This edgy light must be used with care when photographing your children.  It can make a fuss of things.

Soft light is smooth.  Creamy highlights, open shadows, and a gentle transition between the two.  Soft light has a ‘wrap-around’ effect.  It’s often the perfect light for photographing children.

Observe how the natural light moves around your home throughout the day. 

Give yourself a day or two to just watch and take note.  You may be surprised at the difference in quality and quantity of light in different spots and at different times throughout your home.  Start gathering ideas of how you’d like to use that light in your photos. Pay attention to which rooms in your house provide great light.

Image courtesy of SPS Staffer Sarah Bednar

For example, both of the images below were taken at the same spot.  The windows face east.  In the early morning, direct sunlight, which is a very hard light, comes pouring in through the windows:

Image courtesy of Kyle Shultz

In the afternoon, however, without the hard direct light of the sun, the window light gives a much softer light:

Image courtesy of Kyle Shultz

Now that you know a little more about how to look at the light in your home…

Turn off all artificial light and only use natural light.  

Mixing natural and artificial light creates different white balances (color tones) in your photos, and can reduce the natural contrast of light and shadows.  In the photos below, you can see how turning off the overhead lighting allows the room to have one kind of white balance (on the cool side), and beautiful deep shadows.

Embrace the shadows. 

You may find that indoor light has more shadows than you may be accustomed to with the flexibility in positioning that outdoor light allows. Instead of dispairing, enjoy the patterns and intrigue that shadows create.  Your photos do not all have to be front lit with the subject’s face completely illuminated.  Think outside of the box and enjoy the play of light and shadows throughout your home.

Image courtesy of Sarah Bednar
Image courtesy of Sarah Bednar
Image courtesy of Sarah Bednar

Experiment with backlight.  

Such fun can be had using silhouettes, sunflares, water droplets, dust, etc.  Shoot with the sun shining in the window directly toward your lens.  Place your subject between you and the sun.  Move around, shoot from different angles, and play with how the light falls on the subject and comes into your lens.

Image courtesy of Sarah Bednar
Image courtesy of Sarah Bednar

On dreary days, get close to a window.  

This season can be full of dark, cloudy days.  Open the shades and front doors, and get your subject close to the light.  The quality of light on cloudy days can be so soft and beautiful.

Image courtesy of Sarah Bednar

Whether it’s cloudy or sunny, remember that when you place your subject close to the light source, which will result in softer light and more dramatic light fall off.

Image courtesy of Sarah Bednar

As you learn to use light, indoors or out, You’ll choose light over backgrounds every time. And your photography will take a huge leap forward in quality.

It all starts with baby steps. There’s no better time to start now, and no simpler place to start than your home. Get started today!

Thank you to Sarah Bednar for her lesson in this month’s SPS Members “Indoor Lighting” theme and to Kyle Shultz for his previous blog post about finding great light in your home that provided the content and images for this post. 

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