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Monday, February 22, 2010

Shoot Indoors To Stay Warm—02/22/10

Simple lighting tips make shooting inside easier

This Article Features Photo Zoom

It’s cold and snowy (or at least less hot and sunny) just about everywhere in the Northern Hemisphere these days, which makes for the perfect excuse to stay indoors. So what do you do if you still want to take pictures? You shoot indoors too, and that means have to make your own light. Here are a few key tips to help create the right light and make the most of your indoor photography adventures—no matter what you might be shooting.

Rely on window light. Window light, as anyone who reads these tips with any regularity has figured out by now, is one of my favorite light sources. True, the ideal window is huge and north facing on a bright but softly overcast day, but just about any window will work as a great light source. If you’re shooting portraits, it gets even better: a large soft window does wonders for skin and affords subjects a naturally illuminated appearance. For something a little more dramatic, look for late-afternoon warm light or directional sunlight to create stronger contrast and a light that’s not the typical soft, northern window light.

Use a flash (and bounce it off the ceiling). Sometimes there aren’t any windows in your ideal indoor location, or maybe the windows just won’t do what you want them to (they’re soft when you want strong light, or vice versa). You need to add your own illumination by way of a flash. No worries: portable strobes can do wonders, especially when shooting in the relatively confined spaces of a typical home. A hot-shoe-mounted flash bounced off a white ceiling creates a very even overall illumination. Turn the flash sideways to bounce it off a wall and make it more directional, creating a few more shadows and highlighting shape. Reflect that strobe with a bounce card for a bit more frontal fill, or take it off camera and point it directly at the subject for a more specular, stronger, and more directional source. A single simple strobe can do amazing things indoors since it can be used in so many ways.

Warm your scene to fight the cold. No matter what your light source, chances are it could use a little warmth any time of year—but especially in winter. Open shade, or the soft light from an overcast sky or north-facing window or a gray and wintry day, is especially cool in color temperature (making it look more blue) compared to typical daylight. Set the white balance to a cloudy day preset, or adjust the color temperature to warm up the scene (by adding orange and red hues) just a touch. It’s especially helpful with portraits, but it works quite nicely with tabletops, interiors and all sorts of subjects too. When you’re using a strobe, try a bit of orange gel taped over the flash to mimic the warm glow of sunset light. It’s a great way to break out of your winter lighting doldrums.

Experiment. Cabin fever can drive photographers crazy. Instead of shooting the same indoor scenes in the same ways over and over, look for something new. Experiment with lighting you’ve never tried, or even lenses you’ve never used. Maybe that’s macro photography, or portraiture, or an architectural interior of your living room. Maybe you’ve never lit with strobe, or perhaps you always do and are ready to try window light. Whatever you’re used to, push yourself to try something new. You’ll become a better photographer—which really is something you can put to use all year round.

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