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.
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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.
- 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.
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