Make the Most of Indoor Natural Lighting

Spring is just around the corner. However, unless you live in a state that is warm year round, you and your kids have spent the past few months indoors. Indoors or out, children’s ability to be cute and our desire to capture that cuteness doesn’t get put on hold just because it’s cold outside. That said, today we offer a few tips for making the most of indoor natural lighting.

1. Look for Your Light Source

You may think that your house is dark, but very few homes are built without windows and doors. Take a tour of your house and watch how the light pours through the windows and doors in each room. Examine the light at sunrise, midday and sunset. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. If you can identify where your home is as it relates to the sun, you will have a much better idea of which rooms have the best light. Make a mental note of these rooms. When you are able, set up activities for your children in these rooms and have your camera ready.

Example: The light in the room pictured above is best first thing in the morning, but is generally the best lit room in the house. In addition to the window and door pictured, there is another large window on the right and a smaller window to the back.

2. Experiment with the Light

Using a prop (or your child if either of you have that level of patience), set your camera to Aperture Priority mode (AV) and dial your aperture to f/4. In the rooms you believe have the best light, place your prop in front of the window (floor or table). Place the prop close enough that your subject is well lit, but far enough back that you can easily move around the prop. Now, consider the following types of light:

Backlighting

For a back-lit image, face the window and shoot. Your subject will have a nice glow but the details will be lost in the shadows. If you want to properly expose your subject, you can overexpose by adjusting your camera’s settings (only try this if you are already shooting in manual mode). For purposes of this experiment though, just face the window and shoot.

Front Lighting

In the case of front lighting, simply back yourself up to your light source and shoot.

Once you’ve photographed your subject with the light in front of you and behind you, take this experiment a step further. Step to the side. Move closer. Move further away. Photograph from above. Get down low. Pay attention to how the light changes based on your position.

3. Indoor Catchlights

Catchlights are those beautiful reflections of light that you often see in a person’s eyes. Catchlights make a photo come alive and your goal is to capture them whenever possible. Much like outdoor photography, capturing catchlights indoors has everything to do with you and your subject’s position to the light source. The easiest way to capture light in your subject’s eyes is to have your subject face the window or door. You will need to have your back towards the window or door. You can also capture them by having your child look up towards the light.

4. Say NO to Flash!

The pop-up flash on your camera is typically unflattering and should be avoided. If your indoor lighting is dim, you have a few options.

  • Dial up your ISO. If your camera supports high ISO (above 1600) and you don’t mind a little grain in your photos, dial up your ISO. You an also widen your aperture (again, if your lens is capable). Just remember to keep your shutter speed over 1/160 to avoid motion blur, especially if you’re photographing little ones.
  • Redirect your flash. Options for redirecting light are to add a flash to your hot shoe, such as a Speedlite or use a Lightscoop with your pop-up flash to bounce the light off your ceilings and walls. We’ll spend more time discussing flash photography in the future.
  • Get creative. Use a flash light or your mobile device to add a little light. The lighting will be dim, so you’ll want to dial up your ISO.

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With all of that said, if it’s warm, take your kids and your camera outdoors. But, don’t let the weather steal your joy of photographing your children. Beautiful light can be found anywhere. Simply find it and use it!

Photo Credits: Ashley Sisk

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Ashley Sisk

Ashley lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children and Kitty Paw. She's a work-from-home mom with a natural light photography business and a passion for sharing everything she knows. Since leaving the corporate world, she now spends her time chasing her preschooler, nursing her new baby, writing and finding ways to enjoy life. You can find her on Facebook, Google + or on her website.

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