When most of us start photographing, we start off using natural light. Some photographers take the step to add flash or strobe into their photos; this is what I use much of the time on the business side of my photography. But the bottom line is that light is light, and it has the same qualities whether it’s being created by you or created by nature or your home environment.
This year I’m doing my own 365 project (taking one photo every single day). More than half of the photos I’ve taken so far have been in my home, and in the whole project, I’ve only taken two photos with artificial light. Learning to find, use, and embrace the natural light in your home can help add interest, variety, and depth to your photos. Below are some tips on how to do this.
Find the light and using light…and know that sometimes you might find it where you least expect it.
The most obvious choice for lighting within your home will be window light. Even if you have small windows like my home does, those windows give off light. The way that light falls in your home from your windows will change depending on the time and season. The light in my home has already changed significantly from mid-winter to early spring, and it will continue to change through the rest of the year. In the photo below, I found a very small patch of light in the hallway that I hadn’t seen before. I took advantage of it.
And in this photo, I noticed that the light over my kitchen stove gave off a very interesting light when the rest of the kitchen lights were off. I decided against finishing the dishes right that second and photographed a shell instead!
The light will change, and you can change the light.
As mentioned above, the light in your home will change depending on the time of day, season, and even the weather outside (cloudy days will produce much more diffuse light than sunny days). But you can also change the quality of light from a given natural light source. The four photos below were all taken using the same light source: my large sliding glass door. The light has a different quality in all four photos, though. This is due partially to the quality of the outdoor light, but it also has to do with how I altered the light by moving the door shade. For example, in the photo of the orange, it was sunny outside and I closed the shade almost all the way, but lit the orange with a slice of light about 8″ wide coming through the curtain. In the photo of the glass on the table, it was also sunny out, but the shade was closed, creating a very diffuse light in the room. I’ve even done things like tape a towel over all but a tiny portion of a window to create a strip box like effect…you really can do a lot with the light you have in your home.
It doesn’t always have to be natural light.
If you limited yourself to window light, there are hours of the day you would not be able to photograph. I’m not saying you can’t use flash…of course you can! But there are other light sources in your home that can provide lighting in your photographs and can add interest to them. Lamps, the refrigerator light, all kinds of electric devices (smartphones, tablets, laptops, computers, TVs)…all of these things can be light sources in your photos.
Don’t be afraid of raising your ISO
For most of my indoor shots, my ISO is at a minimum of 1200 unless I am using very bright window light. However it’s not unusual for me to pump it a lot higher. The example below, as well as the shell photo in the beginning of this post, were taken at ISO 10,000. Different camera bodies handle high ISO differently, but modern camera bodies, even crop bodies, can have the ISO pushed a lot higher than people think. Post processing programs give you the option to reduce noise if you wish, or you can “embrace the grain”, which I usually choose to do. Shooting film back in the day has given me an appreciation for it!
Now that you’ve read these tips, go find and use the light in your home and your world to create great photos.