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Ligthing Techniques for Taking Indoor Photos

Last month we talked about using natural outdoor light to your advantage in your photos – this month we’re going to bring the discussion inside and talk about some lighting techniques for taking photos indoors. Indoor photography can be tricky. Your camera and your eye do not always see the same thing; you could say that they do not always see eye to eye! Okay, bad joke. But we will make up for it by giving you a few indoor lighting techniques, some simple, and some a bit more advanced.

First and foremost, take advantage of your digital camera. The beauty of digital photography is that you can immediately view your photo after you shoot it. Take a test frame and examine it to see what your camera is capturing. Then, you can make a few adjustments, and retake the photo. Do this as many times as necessary until you get the shot you are looking for. Just be sure not to delete the good shot when you erase your test frames!

In a room with little or no light, control your flash. If you take a photo in a room without a lot of light, your camera will likely engage your flash automatically. The flash will light up your subject, but will probably leave the background black. Dark hair or dark clothing may disappear, giving you the “floating head effect.” This may be the effect you’re after, but if not, try moving your subject closer to a wall. Your flash will then light up the whole scene rather than just the subject, and your photo will look less like a horror movie poster. Also, if you are shooting during the day, bring your subject closer to a window, or put the window behind your subject. This will add depth and some nice natural light to your photo.

Use the Party/Indoor mode on your camera. Most cameras have a shooting mode called “Party/Indoor,” displayed on your camera as an icon of a person with a star above them. This mode will still trigger your flash, but will allow for more available light to be used in the photo. Your subject and their surroundings will generally be more exposed in this mode. To see the difference for yourself, take a shot in the Party/Indoor mode, and shoot the same photo in the Program or Automatic mode. Decide which one you like better and go from there.

For the adventurous types, adjust the ISO or ASA settings on your camera. Most cameras have adjustable ISO or ASA settings. You may not know what that means, but that’s okay. The important thing to keep in mind is that the higher the setting, the more sensitive the camera will be to pick up lower light. The best way to determine the most desirable setting is to place the subject a few feet in front of you and take a shot at 100 ASA. Then, take the same shot at 800 ASA. The 100 ASA photo will probably have a darker background, while the 800 ASA will allow more light from the room in to make a brighter photo. However, photos with a higher ASA setting will show more grain or pixelization than photos with a lower ASA setting. It’s a balancing act – experiment until you find the setting you like.

Take advantage of your removable flash. If your camera has a removable flash, try pointing the flash at the ceiling when you shoot your indoor photo. The light from the flash will bounce off the ceiling, which will light the scene from above rather than from the front or side. This is a wonderful way to light up a space in a realistic way.

Every source of light has its own unique color or tone – use them to your advantage. When used in combination with a flash, an incandescent light bulb turns yellow or orange. Fluorescent lights tend to turn yellow or green. Vapor lights pulse between green and magenta. Open shade has a blue tone, while sunlight is normally a true white light. If you are not using a flash, your camera will probably correct itself automatically, but these color shifts will appear in the background of your shot if your flash is enabled. They are not always a nuisance; sometimes these tones can add to a photo. Use them to your advantage, or try disabling your flash and see what turns out better.

As always, when taking photos, the most important thing is to have fun. If your indoor photos have frustrated you in the past, try some of these techniques. Whether you choose to use automatic settings or make manual adjustments on your camera, a little planning and effort goes a long way with indoor photography.

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