5 Tips for Finding Light Inside
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So, you're here because you want tips on how to find light inside. This is definitely one of THE hardest parts when you first start on this crazy path of photography. I was left many times scratching my head and feeling SO limited when I wanted to photograph my girls inside. Winter, rainy days, or just capturing their cute bedhead and pajama feet - I wanted beautiful indoor images of their childhood. And let's be real, we can't always photograph our kids during the magical light of golden hour. We're doing real life over here! And our kids do cute and amazing things all the time at home.
Tip 1: Douse the artificial light and open all the blinds. Any overheads, lamps, switches - nix 'em all. Now, open every blind, curtain, door (if there's a screen door, etc) and let in as much natural light as you can. Sometimes I take a minute to fiddle with venetian blinds so that the angle of sunlight is spilling in and creating even 'flat' light in the room. OR, I will pull the blinds completely up. Whatever you need to do, take these steps first.
Tip 2: Become an observer of light. During the day, watch how the light changes in your home. Where does the morning sunshine stream through and how does it disappear around mid-day? Does it heat up the front bedrooms around 4pm? Track which rooms, hallways, nooks and crannies of your home have interesting light. This light could look different depending on the season as well. And remember, you only need these pockets of light to create images. Your entire house does not need to be immaculately lit with sunshine to get quality images!
Tip 3: Nail your settings in camera. If you are shooting in manual mode, be sure to meter on your subject or scene correctly. For indoor images, I tend to stay right at the middle, close to or slightly above 0. If you feel like your ISO is getting too high or it's still too dark, take a moment and consider your settings. Can you move your body to find more light? If you are standing with your back to the light source (a window or screen door), be sure you're not blocking light from your own shot.
Tip 4: Embrace the grain! It is far better to have a properly exposed image with minimal grain than to save a very underexposed image. Saving it in Photoshop or Lightroom will only create more grain, especially if your camera does not have strong low-light capabilities. So, don't fret if you feel that the ISO is getting higher than you'd prefer. A little bit of grain can be quite dramatic and beautiful, especially for moodier indoor lighting. Let go of the thought that every image must be perfectly smooth and grain free. Some of this can be fixed in editing, but no need to rely on it.
Tip 5: Think outside of the box. If you did your work properly in Tip 2 above, hopefully you've found lots of spots around your home that the light is even, interesting or dramatic. Play with the blinds, sheer curtains, climb on stools (carefully!) and look at your home through the eyes of an artist. Ignore the laundry pile and find where the light catches your attention. Experiment and try again. Your home holds so much potential. It is a beautiful canvas to capture the perfect imperfection of your family's everyday life!
Bonus Tip: If you are still feeling frustrated and limited by natural light availability, consider using tools to help you control the light. A white blanket on the bed will help cast light onto your child's face better than a dark navy bedspread would. Maybe you need to invest in a reflector to position near a window to help direct light flow. Light from the refrigerator, a child looking down at an iPad - these work too! Just know artificial light does affect white balance and may take some editing tweaks. You can always find adequate light to make an image in your head become a reality. I am cheering you on, friend! :)