For those of us in New York City, winter came a little early this year. But no matter what the season is, sometimes restricting conditions will require indoor photo shoots. You might think shooting indoors is easier, since you can usually control all of the elements around your shoot — but often times photographers struggle with getting that stunning photo while indoors. Whether their blurry, too dark, too contrasted, or too yellow or blue, we’re here to help you master the art of the indoor photo with these quick tips.
Check your White Balance…
Before you start shooting in a certain area, be sure to adjust your White Balance. Most cameras’ automatic White Balance works well, but sometimes you’ll find yourself with photos tinted yellow or blue, in which case you take a moment to manually change your settings based on the type of lighting your working with. Here are a few of the basic presets you might find on your DSLR camera:
- Auto: The camera takes a guess on the lighting from shot to shot.
- Tungsten: Symbolized by a bulb on your settings, it is especially useful for shooting indoors under tungsten (incandescent) lighting (like, for example, bulb lighting). Since tungsten is usually more yellow, this feature cools down the color temperature.
- Fluorescent: If you’re in a situation with harshly blue fluorescent lighting, this feature will warm the temperature of your shots.
- Daylight/Sunny: This setting isn’t used very often indoors.
- Cloudy: This setting can warm photos up just slightly.
- Flash: The flash of a camera can often be on the cooler side of the light spectrum, the flash option helps warm them.
- Shade: Shade also tends to be more blue, so this setting also balances out the cooler tones.
Making these small adjustments can make a huge difference in the look and feel of the photos.
Shoot near an open window or door…
As you can see from above, indoor light can be quite complicated — however, who says you can’t take light from outside and use it indoors? The light coming from outside acts as natural highlight, and by having your subject post near the natural light source, you’ll create a more flattering look.
When it’s time to use a flash…
Sometimes the lighting will just be too dark to get the effect and details you want just the ambient light — that’s when it’s time to whip out the flash! Careful though, flash can be trickier than it seems.
The pop up flash attached to your camera may not necessarily be a good option to getting quality photos, as they tend to usually look flat and washed out generally. Instead, invest in a solid external flash that you can manually attach to your camera.
- Typical external flash: Most external flashes are a bigger, more adjustable version of the pop up flash atop your camera. You can point it in any direction, but usually the best way to use it is by pointing it up at the ceiling so that the light disperses in all directions.
- Soft box: This form of external flash creates a soft light and shadows on your subject. Light from a pop up flash can sometimes be too harsh and high in contrast, soft boxes solve this problem, and revealing more texture and definition.
- Ring flash: This gadget that has multiple flash units that wrap around the lens instead of sitting atop your camera, essentially generating a single source of light. As they all fire together, a ring of light illuminates your subject from every direction. These are great for capturing close up shots (hello beauty bloggers!). Here’s an example of Keiko Lynn using a ring flash:
Stick to a single light source…
Mixing natural and artificial light can sometimes cause a hazy effect in your photos. If you start with natural light, and need more illumination, try to experiment by adding more natural light elements — the same goes with unnatural light. Again, always readjust your White Balance as you change lighting/locations.
Be aware of your “studio” (your surroundings)…
When shooting indoors, details in your surroundings may be more obvious in your photos. For example, keep an eye out for any unnecessary clutter popping up in the background of your pictures. Sure, sometimes you can photoshop these things out afterwards, but generally it’s a easier to take care of it in person rather than in editing post-shoot. You don’t want to become too reliant on photo editing — think about how you want the final image to look as your shooting, not “oh I’ll fix this later.”
Use a fast lens for lighting up photos without a flash…
If you find yourself stuck without a flash, here’s a way you can attempt to get some light in your photograph by toying with your camera’s settings: Crank up your ISO as high as it will go, set your camera to RAW (if possible), and set your aperture-priority to the lowest f-stop on the fastest lens you have. If this causes your shutter speed to be too low to take a hand held shot (aka if it’s blurry), you can try to set your exposure compensation down a stop, which should increase the shutter speed. Then, when your editing the photo, you can heighten the exposure. Careful with this technique, as it may cause a graininess in the photo. However, if you have significantly fast lens (like the 85mm f/1.8 Canon USM), you can get away with lower light.