No Natural Light? No Problem!

If you’ve ever explored how to take better “everyday” photos, you’ve read about how natural light is so important to flattering portraits and interesting storytelling photography. As I write this though, the sun is expected to set at 4:40 p.m. By the time everybody is home from work or school and snacks are fed and school forms are reviewed and dinner is started, the sunlight is gone. As a memory-keeper (and someone who just likes taking pictures!), I still keep on shooting!

I do have an external flash with a swivel head capable of “bouncing” flash light off of light or reflective surfaces. But for this article, I’m going to talk about taking flash free photos in your own home using a camera.

If you’re new to indoor or low-light photos, I’d start by reading Katrina’s article on shooting in lower light. I’m assuming you’re comfortable with setting your ISO high, opening the aperture wide and adjusting your shutter speed.

Tip #1 – Know the light in your house

I have super-bright light bulbs in the overhead lights of my office, dining room, kitchen and the kids’ bedrooms. The rest of the house just doesn’t have same brightness at night so when we’re in a brighter room, I look for picture opportunities. Sure, natural light makes for more compelling photos, but life doesn’t happen in perfect light all the time.

Tip #2 – Watch how the light falls and adjust your photo composition to suit it

Sometimes overhead lighting will leave faces too shadowed. But, by watching the light, I was able to get a neat “slice of life” picture of my 4 year old son’s ripped jeans and Lego all over the floor.

Tip #3 – Don’t overlook the bathroom as a place to take pictures

My kids’ bathroom has white tile and reflect the overhead lights very well. I can usually get pretty decent photos in there.

The above photo is a good example of when spot metering is handy. I metered for my son’s face and let the rest of photo fall off into darkness. To put it another way, I set the exposure of the photo to correctly expose his face and didn’t care about the exposure of the rest of scene.

Tip # 4 – Some scenes are better a little darker

This serene moment is captured just fine in a darker exposure.

Tip #5 – Experiment with the light you have

For this photo, I pulled a bamboo plant from another part of my house and set it up on my dining table. I turned up my dining lights as bright as they go (they’re usually on a dimmer), and this rimmed the leaves with interesting back light. I used a wide aperture (f-stop) to let the background blur.

Have fun and keep on taking pictures!