You never know when the perfect photo opportunity is going to arise. As a photographer, this means you need to be ready to work with the lighting in any location, regardless of its challenges. That’s right, that includes the great indoors. Indoor lighting is notorious for creating awkward lines and unflattering shadows, but you can still shoot beautiful images if you follow a few simple guidelines.
Your setting is always going to be your greatest asset when shooting indoors. Arrange your subject a foot or two away from windows or open doors to catch the light. The little bit of distance will minimize any harsh contrasts on your subject. Try to set up some kind of focal background point. Perhaps your subjects are in front of a row of books, be sure to arrange them so the background and distance between them is symmetrical. Get them to split the barn door they are in front of, in half. Symmetry and angles will help you pull a beautiful photo out of any room. It’s also worth remembering that natural and artificial lights don’t mix well. Turn off your indoor lights, especially overheads, and let the natural sunlight do its good work. If there isn’t much natural light available, you might need to work on creating extra illumination with professional photography lamps and reflectors.
Sometimes, you don’t have the choice of arranging your subject. Say you’re trying to photograph a room’s décor, small pieces of jewelry, or food. For some you can move them to the nearest window, but for more bulky items, you’ll need to get creative. Use the tools you have available, namely the settings on your camera. First and foremost, switch auto mode off. If you have time to adjust, a custom setting will always be better suited than one-size-fits-all. Next, open the aperture on your camera. This may be called Aperture Priority Mode. You can also do this manually by lowering the f-stop. The lower the f-stop, the more light you are letting into your camera. An open aperture comes with the bonus of giving you a shallow depth of field, which will put your subject in focus and soften the background.
Other tools you can use to improve indoor lights are backdrops (like a light-colored fabric behind your subject) or reflectors. Reflectors can be as simple as a piece of white poster board held near the subject. If you’re photographing something small, like a custom-made decoration, you may also consider using a light box, which can be made by cutting the sides out of a cardboard box and covering them with white tissue paper. Place your subject inside, and voilà! Beautiful, diffused lighting!
Getting just the right lighting indoors is a challenge, but it’s one that’s easily overcome with strategy, resourcefulness, and ingenuity. Don’t let the bad weather outside stop you. Pick up your camera and create something beautiful!