Indoor photography presents a unique set of challenges, primarily dealing with less light and working in smaller locations. Consequently, many people shy away from shooting indoors. However, as most of our everyday lives takes place indoors, it’s all but impossible to avoid shooting indoors completely. Improving your indoor photography greatly expands your shooting options.
Find the best natural light source
Locate the best natural light source in the house and use it for as much of your indoor photography shoots as possible. Shooting with ample natural light allows you to produce bright, clear photos with ease. You don’t need to have a brilliantly lit room to produce great indoor shots. Pull back the curtains and move your subjects into the well-lit area of the room. If the room is too bright, diffuse the light by hanging a white sheet over the window. Consider creating a permanent shooting setup in this area of the house, or a moveable setup that you can bring into the area as needed.
Turn off the lights
When your indoor photos turn out dark and grainy, it may be tempting to turn on a few lights. Overhead light casts unflattering shadows and exaggerates features you may not wish to exaggerate, such as bags under the eyes. Incandescent bulbs also give indoor photos an undesirable yellow overtone.
Position your subjects properly
When you’ve located the best light source in the house and positioned your subjects properly within it, you won’t miss the overhead lights at all. Positioning your subject directly in a light source often creates unnatural, harsh shadows. Instead, place your subject a few steps back from the natural light source. The light will bounce off the floor and onto the subject, which is much more flattering.
Clear out clutter and other distractions
Creating a clean, clutter-free background transforms an average snapshot into a professional image. Before you start taking pictures, scan the area for miscellaneous items. From random books to stray clothing, remove any items you don’t need for the shoot. If the setting looks cold or sterile, include a few carefully selected props, such as a teddy bear for a kid Valentine’s Day shoot. In a pinch, create a clean background in a cluttered area of the home with a blanket or bed sheet.
Use a reflector
A reflector is a simple, effective way to remove shadows. Position the reflector on the opposite side of your subject from the light source. For example, if the window is on the left side of the subject, position the reflector on the right side. You can pick up a reflector online for just a few dollars. You can also make your own by folding a piece of white foam board in half or covering a piece of foam board in aluminum foil. The bright surface reflects light back onto the subject, filling in the shadows and creating a well-lit, balanced image.
Invest in a prime lens
Most beginner photographers shoot with a kit lens, which makes it difficult to produce bright indoor photos. A 50 mm f/1.8 is a great option for shooting indoors. The wide aperture lets in plenty of light, which means you can shoot at a low ISO and produce bright, clear photos. The 50 mm focal length is versatile for indoor shooting in most homes. If 50 mm is too tight in a smaller indoor space, a 40 mm lens is another solid choice.
Get out of auto mode
Cameras don’t always make the best settings choices. Even high-end DSLR cameras in a low-light, indoor setting may select a high ISO, producing noisy, grainy images, or a slow shutter speed, producing blurry images. It’s easy to avoid both of these common auto-setting errors by learning how to shoot in manual mode. Getting out of auto mode is scary at first, maybe even overwhelming, but it’s critical for taking better images. Start by shooting in aperture mode and selecting your aperture or f-stop. When you’re comfortable with aperture, move to manual mode and start selecting ISO and shutter speed, too.
Use an off-camera flash
If you decide to shoot indoors with a flash, avoid the on-camera flash. The angle of the on-camera flash produces harsh lighting and red eyes. You can control the angle of the off-camera flash to produce soft, flattering lighting. Use a flash diffuser on your off-camera flash and angle it toward the ceiling or a nearby wall.
It takes practice and patience to improve your indoor photography. Even with the best tips and tricks, it will take time for you to get comfortable with them and see a difference in your shooting. Stick with it, and don’t get discouraged when you don’t see noticeable improvement from day to day. You’ll be blown away when you look back at your photos from six months ago and see how far you’ve come.