5 Tips for Shooting Indoors with Natural Light

Shooting Indoors with Natural Light

Do you want to drastically improve your images with one simple tweak and without a fancy camera upgrade? Please believe me when I tell you, “It’s all about the light.” Simply turning your subject towards beautiful natural light will greatly improve your image. With these 5 foolproof tips you will know exactly how to find the perfect light and shoot beautiful pictures indoors.

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1. Let ALL the Light In
First things first, let’s scope out a spot. Walk around your space and look for the largest windows or doors. Your best bet when shooting indoors is to open the blinds on a big window or open the doors to let all the natural light come streaming in. BUT, be careful. You are looking for a soft, diffused light, not bright light where the sun is streaming directly in.

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2. Be All Natural
Turn off all overhead lighting and lamps so you are working with 100% natural lighting. Mixed lighting can cause weird shadows as well as color issues from the unflattering yellow color from ambient light sources.

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3. Get Correct Color
Ever take a picture and everyone in it looks like an oompa loompa or maybe a smurf? This is because your white balance setting was not correct. Adjust your color settings by changing the white balance option on your camera. You can choose from several preset options (automatic, shade, bright sun, etc.) to match to your lighting conditions or use custom white balance.

Don’t forget, if you move to a different light source or your lighting changes (ie. sun goes behind clouds), you will need to change your white balance again.

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4. Catchlights
Want a trick for knowing if your subject is in the best light? Look into your subject’s eyes and move them around until you see catchlights, the reflections of light in the eyes. Typically you want to see the catchlights at 10 or 2 for best lighting.

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5. Open Wide
Indoor lighting is often dark and as you become more familiar with your camera and start shooting in manual mode, you will quickly realize you want a lens with a wider aperture (lower number) to let more light into your camera and as a bonus create more background blur. Most consumer level cameras are sold as a kit, which means that you get the camera body plus a lens. Typically this is a zoom lens with the widest aperture value of f/5.6 (translation: this lens won’t work well in low light situations). Learn what lens does work well in low light, and won’t break the bank.

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Learn more about Beginners Photography Class on their websiteFacebookInstagram and PinterestFor more photography tips on the Mpix blog, check out 6 Key Tips for Composing Your Photos, Photographing Young Children, and Improving Phone Photography.

21 Responses to “5 Tips for Shooting Indoors with Natural Light”

  1. Rahul September 3, 2014 at 12:46 pm #

    Great tips! Any advice on how to take a picture against a bright window?

    • Jay September 3, 2014 at 5:45 pm #

      Great question. I was up against that this past weekend. There are a few choices I have found.

      1. Underexpose the room and bring the room up in editing and the window down in exposure.
      2. Bracket and bring them together in editing.
      3. Leave the bright window blown out. It can have an artistic effect.
      4. Of course expose for the window and light the room with a strobe.

      Looking forward to hearing other comments.

    • Sue September 3, 2014 at 7:25 pm #

      Easy cheap fix, go to big box store or Walmart, Costgo, get straight rods size of window. Get some plain sheers. Hang in the window. may not need a high iso either.

    • Kristin Tatem September 4, 2014 at 11:45 am #

      Hi Rahul,

      Glad you enjoyed the tips! When taking a picture against a bright window (or on a patio with the bright scenery behind you), your camera can easily get confused. It can either see the background, or it can see the subject, but it has a hard time seeing (exposing for) both. If you expose the subject properly, the background is going to need to be very bright. Try using the spot metering setting on your camera. Instead of reading the entire scene, it will only read your subject. Hope that helps!

      Best,
      Kristin

  2. Rae Sews Art September 3, 2014 at 4:17 pm #

    Thanks for the great ideas! I know this post leaned towards photographing people, but I will definitely be trying some of these tips while photographing my art in my studio! I have huge windows, and I will probably get more accurate colors that way.

    • Kristin Tatem September 4, 2014 at 11:47 am #

      You can absolutely still apply these same tips. I often shoot products shots indoors and use all the same principles. Huge windows are awesome!
      All the best,
      Kristin

  3. Neil vanHooydonk September 3, 2014 at 8:28 pm #

    I love taking pictures of children indoors with natural lighting. Never use the auto setting but put your camera on manual using the settings taken from the incident light meter.

  4. Mdf September 3, 2014 at 9:44 pm #

    I’m clueless about catchlight. What does 10 or 2 mean and how do I get there? Thanks in advance!

    • Kristin Tatem September 4, 2014 at 11:58 am #

      Hi Mdf,
      Catchlights are reflections of light in the subjects eye. Take a mirror, or a friend and go stand indoors near a large window. Look for a reflection of the large window in the eye. If you move around and have the window at different angles from where you are standing, you will see the catchlight moves around the eye. When I say 10 and 2, I am referencing a clock. If the light was coming from above and from the side a little, it will make a catchlight at the 10 o’clock or 2 o’clock mark. If you have any other questions, I am happy to help!
      Best,
      Kristin

  5. Armando September 4, 2014 at 10:42 am #

    Mdf, 10 and 2 refer the the positions of a clock. Ideal lighting typically cast a catchlight at the 10 and 2 o’clock position on the eyes. To get this catchlight correct you may have to raise/lower or rotate the subject in order to get the light in the correct position.

  6. suzette September 5, 2014 at 2:12 pm #

    This is all great info, thank you!!! I am a newbie photographer looking for tips on moving from shooting in auto to shooting strictly in manual mode. I have a Nikon 3200 with a nice Tamron lens, any suggestions of a good place to get info?

    • Sue September 5, 2014 at 6:19 pm #

      I have like 4 or 5 Scott Kelby’s books. They all start with ‘The Digital Photography’ different volumes. So much info.!!!!

    • Kristin Tatem September 6, 2014 at 7:24 am #

      Hi Sue,

      I’m glad you enjoyed the tips! That’s awesome that you’re ready to make the switch! You are smarter than your camera and as you learn how to manipulate light with your camera settings, you will start to get better and better see great results. This is what the Beginners Photography Class is all about. You can learn more here: http://beginnersphotographyclass.com/the-class/

      Please don’t hesitate if you have any questions. Happy to help!

      Best,
      Kristin

  7. Kristine September 6, 2014 at 12:24 am #

    So helpful! I’m fumbling my way through learning more on the manual side with Canon 60D, 50mm 1.4, and 18-135mm lenses. Lighting is my biggest challenge, and I wonder if you would recommend which lens/mode would be best starting points for portraits. I can use all the words of wisdom I can get! :)
    Thank you!

    • Kristin Tatem September 8, 2014 at 8:42 am #

      Hi Kristine,

      Thank you! So glad you enjoyed the tips. I think the 50mm 1.4 is a fantastic lens and is always the first one I recommend to beginners. Because the aperture can open up as wide as 1.4, you are able to let in a lot of light to your camera. This is great when you are indoors and often don’t have as much light to work with. I personally believe that shooting in manual mode is the way to go because you can have complete control over your camera. When you are first starting out, you might find it helpful to use aperture priority mode. I wouldn’t set your aperture lower than around 2.8 when first starting out, or you might run into focus issues from a shallow depth of field. Understanding and finding good light is going to be the #1 thing that helps your images. If you want to dig further into shooting 100% in manual, I would suggest checking out the http://www.beginnersphotographyclass.com

      Hope that helps, please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have more questions! All the best,
      Kristin

      • Kristine September 8, 2014 at 10:16 am #

        Thank you for your great pointers! One other question: I’m thinking of the 85mm 1.8 lens…worthwhile addition to the 50mm 1.4?
        Thank you!

        • Kristin Tatem September 8, 2014 at 10:26 am #

          I LOVE my 85mm 1.8. It is my favorite outdoor portrait lens. While its beautiful outside and creates the most gorgeous creamy backgrounds, I do find it hard to use indoors when I don’t have a lot of room to work with. Its fairly zoomed in. When I am inside, I usually reach for my 50mm or 24-70mm 2.8.

  8. Jessie September 7, 2014 at 8:55 am #

    I was looking over your blog at your images and wondering do you always use natural light or do you ever add flash or studio lighting?

    • Kristin Tatem September 8, 2014 at 8:42 am #

      Hi Jessie, I use natural light 100% of the time.
      Kristin

  9. Kimberly September 29, 2014 at 9:08 am #

    I love shooting in natural light. And my 50 prime lens. :D

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