Note: It feels strange and kinda bossy to tell you how to take good pictures coming from a girl who doesn’t even know how to shoot manually. My camera is old-ish and I only have the one lens it came with, but after four years of playing and learning and trying, my photographs have vastly improved (just look at some of the early blog posts – like this one - and you’ll notice a big difference in the quality of images). So I’m not coming to you as an photography expert, but rather someone who hacks her way through to deliver the best quality I can. Creating an attractive blog depends greatly on good images, so I do the best I can with the tools and knowledge and skills I have …
and I always follow this very important tip:
It seems so counter-intuitive - you’d think you need as much light as possible to get a bright photo and turning on the lights makes more sense. But when taking indoor photos, the opposite is true.
When my office was photographed last year for Better Homes & Gardens, they shot in the middle of winter, with gray skies and very little natural light. And still, they turned off the lights. Every single one in the house.
(BHG stylist & photographers working with only natural light – december 2012)
I learned a lot watching the professionals work their magic and have since adopted the turn off the lights strategy for blog photos. It has made such a difference in the quality of images I post.
Here’s an example from yesterday. The sun was not out and it was actually quite dark and dreary outside:
The photo on the left was taken with overhead and task lights on. The photo on the right was taken with all lights off.
The photo with only natural light looks brighter and clearer and the colors are truer to real life. It’s still a little bit dark so that is where just a few simple photoshop edits come in. For all of my blog post photos I use Pioneer Woman’s free photoshop actions. First I run slight lighten and then define and sharpen, adjusting the opacity as needed. Then, the photo is ready for posting:
You would never know from the photo that it was actually a gray, dark day.
Here’s another example:
This one is in our kitchen – on the left with overhead lights and lamps on, on the right with only the window as a source of light.
Again, I run the photo through the same actions and the photo turns out crisp and bright:
I’m so glad for simple tips and free tools to help us non-professionals!
A few things I’ve learned about taking photos in natural light:
:: turn off all adjacent lights
If you are taking a photo in the living room, make sure the lights are off in the entry and hallway, too (or any other adjacent rooms). It keeps the lighting consistent.
:: open curtains and blinds to allow maximum light
When I take product or tutorial photos, I sit right below a window in my office for the best light and pull the blinds all the way up.
:: take photos when your home is the brightest, with filtered indirect light
Our house gets the best light before noon and I really can’t get a good photo after 4pm. Our winters are dark and gray so there are days that taking photos is just not going to work. Take advantage of light when you have it!
:: use a tripod
With limited light, your camera’s shutter speed will be slow and any slight movement will cause photos to be blurry. A tripod will stabilize your camera and even with a super slow shutter speed, you’ll get a clear photo. Most of the time I do not use a tripod, but it definitely does make a difference when I do.
:: play with your camera settings
I use a canon DSLR and shoot in the AV setting. It is probably not the right way to take photos, but it is what I know and I’ve figured out the settings that work for the look I’m going for. Someday I’ll learn how to photograph manually, but for now I just play around with the ISO and aperture numbers.
It’s pretty fun playing stylist and photographer – I hope these tips are helpful to you, too!