Photography Tips for Using Natural Light Indoors

Have you wondered how to improve your photography when using natural light indoors? Natural light photography doesn’t have to be complicated or difficult.

Light was one of the things I often overlooked when I started getting serious about photography.  I was learning about composition, how to shoot manually, and all of the little details.  But I was often shooting in less than perfect light, (even when there was better light within a few feet of me or just by changing the angle a bit!)

Photography is all about the light.  Literally!  Did you know the Greek roots of the word photography are photo and graph?  Photo means light. Graph means write or draw. So photography is literally drawing with light!

Good light will make or break a photo.  The whole mood, clarity, and quality of a photo are affected by light.

How to use natural light indoors to get great photos

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Here are some tips for using natural light for your photography indoors:

  • Try to find a big window or glass door.  Experiment with different angles. Front lighting, back lighting  and side lighting will all give different effects.  For portraits, make sure you are getting catch lights in the eyes. Re-position your subject until you see catch lights.
natural light portrait
wedding dress photo in natural light
newborn photo with wedding rings in natural light
  • Use a wide aperture (low f-stop number.)  A 50mm 1.8 lens is an inexpensive lens option that gives great results indoors, with a wide aperture.  Canon version here.  Nikon version here.
  • If the light from the window is too harsh, use a thin white curtain to diffuse the light a bit.  The color and intensity of the light will vary with the time of day.  Morning light is wonderful when streaming through a window.
  • Use a reflector.  I have one similar to this set, and I like it because I can get different effects from the white vs. gold, etc,

but I have used a white foam board too!   Have someone (even your subject!) hold the reflector on the opposite side of the window light, and the light will bounce onto your subject, filling in the shadows.

  • Turn off lamps and overhead lights.  Having light from both electric lighting and window light together can confuse the camera and result in some white balance issues.
  • Don’t have a great window?  Try using the garage as your studio!  The open garage door is a nice big light source.

Natural light is the most beautiful and flattering, but sometimes there isn’t enough of it, and the flash becomes necessary. Even then, there are ways to improve the light from the flash.

I wrote a post about bouncing an external flash here, and it also has a couple of suggestions for ways to even improve the built-in flash.

I hope these tips are helpful for you!

This post was originally published in 2019 and updated in 2023.

Linking to:

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  1. Love it! Indoor photography has challenges, but ultimately it's sort of my favorite. A well lit newborn baby shoot indoors has always had more striking results for me than open shade outside.

  2. So enjoyed the photos that go along with your tips. Will definitely give them a try. Beautiful dress and adorable ring holders. 🙂

    1. Thank you! The newborn shot was from a completely different day, but I love how he holds the rings too! (It was his parents' idea to shoot that and has been one of my favorites.)

  3. Great photos and tips with natural light photography. We would like to feature your post on the next Blogger's Pit Stop. Well done.

  4. Pam, thank you for sharing these great tips. A post well deserving of being featured at Blogger's Pit Stop!

  5. awesome and practical tips here that anyone can apply. I'm going to check out those filters too as I am experimenting more and more with photography. Thanks for also linking up with us at #OMHGWW.

  6. Yahoo Pam. What great tips and will pin this post. Visiting from #TFT where I shared "Frugal Ways to Live Greener and Healthier at Home." Have a beautiful weekend and stay safe and well.

  7. These are great tips! I have been really struggling with photos lately as we have had such awful dark, dreary, rainy days and my natural lighting is so diminished.

    1. Joanne, yes, dark days do make it more challenging! If you’re using a camera with a hot shoe, you can get an external flash that allows you to bounce the light so that it gives some soft light.

  8. Perfect timing! I take all my photos outside on the porch, and the Florida heat this Summer has me melting! I’ve been thinking about clearing a corner out in my office to try and use. It has a window on either side so I’m hoping that will give me the lighting I need. Perhaps a camera upgrade is in order to?

    1. I’m so glad it was helpful, Alexandra! Your office sounds like a great spot. A camera with a fast lens makes it easier, but if the light is good, you can absolutely get well-lit photos, even with a phone. If you use any photo editing software (even the most basic), that will help lighten and sharpen photos, too. (I have saved many dark photos with Lightroom!)

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