12 Tips For Indoor Natural Light Photography


Feeling frustrated with indoor photography?

Harsh shadows and weird skin tones are common problems. In this article, you’ll learn how to improve your indoor photography.

natural light photography indoors

12 tips for indoor natural light photography

Working with natural light indoors can be a little tricky. These beginner tips will help you create beautiful photos using natural light.

1. It’s all about the windows and doors

You’ll want to get to know the light that comes through them. Sometimes it floods the room softly. Other times it beams in, bouncing off the walls and floor.

Soft light will add a soft glow, and harsh light will give a dramatic or moody look.

indoor natural light photography tips 2

Take note of what kind of light enters each room throughout the day.

The color of light also changes during the day. It has a warmer look at sunrise and sunset. During midday, it has a cooler or neutral color. Use this to add different effects to your photos.

2. Turn off the lights

Natural light doesn’t like competition. Electric lights can affect your white balance. This is because the color of light varies with the source. Skin tones can look odd when artificial light mixes with natural light. The easiest way to fix this problem is by turning off all electric lights.

3. Shoot in Aperture Priority mode

In Aperture Priority mode, you choose the aperture. With indoor natural light photography, you need to let in as much light as possible. To do that, you’ll want a wide open aperture. The lower your aperture number (f-stop), the wider your aperture is open.

When you use a wide aperture, your depth of field will be shallow. So your subject will be in focus, while your background is left soft and blurry. This adds a beautiful effect to portraits and product shots.

indoor natural light photography

For portraits, an aperture of around f/5 or f/6 will keep the entire face in focus. Focus on the eyes for best results.

Note: Also shooting in RAW is better than JPEG for indoor natural light. RAW files give you a lot more to work with when editing.

aperture priority for indoor natural light photos

Aperture Priority is marked with either an AV (Canon cameras, pictured above) or an A (Nikon cameras). To adjust the setting, you’ll turn the small dial (pictured on the right).

4. Choose your White Balance

To get good white balance take your camera out of Auto White Balance (AWB). The button for changing white balance is usually marked with a WB somewhere on the back of the camera (or use your Canon Quick menu if you shoot that brand).

For proper skin tones choose Daylight (the one with the picture of the little sun). This will give good results, not too blue and not too yellow. If you want to warm things up a little, choose Cloudy. This will add more yellow. Try a shot with Daylight, then one with Cloudy, and see which looks right or which you prefer.

You can adjust your White Balance while editing (if you shoot in RAW) but getting it right while shooting makes editing easier.

5. Use a light catching backdrop

A backdrop will help catch the light and bounce it back on your subject.

light catching backdrop for natural light photography

In the above image, the white material helps to cradle the light around the flowers.

catch natural light with a backdrop

This backdrop is made with a freestanding collapsible clothes rack and a long piece of white material. I love how easy it is to set up and move around.

6. Use a light box

A light box will create a similar effect as the backdrop, but it will help control the light even more.

use a natural light light box for indoor photos

I made this light box out of Lego and used the same piece of white material pictured in tip #5.

tips for natural light photos

 7. Use a reflector

A reflector is used to bounce natural light back on your subject.

use a reflector for natural light photography

tips for indoor natural light photography

For these shots, I used a reflector and the backdrop. My daughter was sitting with her left side facing the window. She was holding the reflector in her right hand, which helped lighten the shadows.

8. Use a mirror

A mirror is another great way to control natural light. Hang a mirror in the window. I used a large suction cup with a hook to hang the mirror.

indoor natural light photography tips

Have your model look in the mirror. As you take your shot make sure your reflection is not in the mirror. It can take some patience to get the angles and reflections under control, but it’s worth it.

I used a small handheld mirror for this shot. A larger mirror would require less cropping.

tips for indoor natural light photos

9. Tidy up

There are often things lying around the house, especially if you have kids. This clutter can be distracting in a photograph. It’s worth taking a couple minutes to tidy up before you start shooting.

In a small space, a backdrop can serve a double purpose. It will control light and create a blind to background clutter. It can help make a small space more workable. For most of the photos in this article, I pushed our sofa and table into the middle of our living room, so I could set up in front of our largest window. Without the backdrop, this location wouldn’t work.

natural light photography indoors 2

10. Place your subject close to the window

Place your subject a foot or two away from the light source. This way you’ll make the best use of the natural light, and avoid the harsh contracts that can be created by being too close to the window/door. Try backlit, side lit, and full light by having your model face different angles to the window. 

11. Use the curtains

Use curtains or blinds to help diffuse harsh light. When the sun is beaming into the room, the light can blow out your photos. Pulling the curtains can soften the light and help with proper exposure. If the curtains are not suitable, you could use a sheer piece of material to hang over existing curtain rods.

12. Shoot reflective objects

Natural light can turn the most common thing (like the moisture on the window pictured below) into something beautiful.

natural light on glass objects

natural light on reflective objects

natural light through water on the window

Have fun playing around with reflective objects and natural light. I love the way light creates reflections and glistens on shiny/iridescent objects.

You’ve got to love it

It’s easy to love indoor natural light photography.

The setup is inexpensive, portable, and easy; and you can create beautiful photos no matter the weather or time of day. Don’t forget to have fun, and let that inner beauty shine through.

have fun with natural light

Your turn

Let me know how your experimenting goes by commenting below. I can’t wait to see what you create. Please share your photos as well.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Dena Haines is a photographer and content marketer. She blogs about GoPro and action camera photography on Click Like This. Check out: 32 Cool Things to Do with a GoPro.

  • Paddy

    Nice and useful tips, you’re daughter is a character, she made me laugh.

  • Thanks Paddy,

    She sure is. She finds the “pretty” shots tiresome, so she starts teasing me, and I just keep shooting. I’m so happy she agreed to let me publish the funny ones. 🙂

  • Deli

    Thanks, its very useful tips. I try to do it

  • Claudia Döhner

    I think everybody is happy she agreed 🙂
    Thank you for the article, I just started all over again with photography after a couple of years and found it extremely helpful, I like to explore around the house and the garden, which can sometimes be a bit tideous. New ways to try!

  • Thanks so much Claudia 🙂

    I love exploring close to home as well, have fun!

  • embarka baba

    nice and useful. thank u very much

  • Dlync

    What kind of fabric was used in the backdrop?

  • James Kern

    Great article! Just curious, what lens were you using?

  • SuzieQ

    I really used to struggle with finding or using natural light. But, your article is simple and detailed and I had great results. This photo is of my grand daughter on a train. There were windows all around us. But, I played around with my aperture until it looked just right. Thanks so much!

  • SuzieQ

    I really used to struggle with finding or using natural light. But, your article is simple and detailed and I had great results. This photo is of my grand daughter on a train. There were windows all around us. But, I played around with my aperture until it looked just right. Thanks so much!

  • Caroline Evans Dixon

    Took this yesterday. Saw the light streaming in and started shooting. Definitely need to play around with settings some more. Next time, I’m going to try changing my white balance.

  • Izral Izar

    i usually use the maximum setting in the range that we still can accept it without effect the photo, i dunno if this sentence make a sense at all… Maybe i can give example, for Iso I use maximum 800, n aperture i use maximum F3.5 and for shutter i use 1/80s to 1/50s max… if I use iso 1000, the image will have noise (accept for full frame camera like 6D). If i use aperture F1.4 or F1.8, there wil be a certain part become out of focus. Its easy if i took a portrait of a person, i just use F1.4, but for others I use F3.5 or F4… For shutter, the maximum i used is 1/50s, if slow a bit more, the photo will not be sharp at all, maybe i can go more slow for shutter if i use tripod…

  • pincherio

    I don’t understand why you limit yourself to the maximum. Conditions change all the time which is why cameras and lenses have so many options. Why limit yourself to ISO 800 when it might be so bright that ISO 100 would be better or too dark that ISO 3200 would allow you to use a smaller aperture or faster shutter speed. Having a hard and fast set of rules just limits the flexibility of your equipment and your vision.

  • pincherio

    In tip #3, you mention that an f/stop of 5 or 6 would keep the entire face in focus. This is with what lens and from what distance?

  • Izral Izar

    its not rules for everything of my photography, its been use related with this article that is indoor photography without using any speedlite… If you use iso 100, surely your photo will be full dark, n if you use above iso800, your photo will have noise except you using full frame camera such as 6d than you can bump up till iso4000 and you still have no noise… for me all this rules are just last result, if you stuck with cropped body camera without any speedlite and need to shoot indoor… in real life i don’t need all this rules cause i can just bump up my iso cause i using full frame camera or if i wants more sharp photo i just use speedlite n use low iso… i dunno why you don’t get it, cause all the setting i just said above is related to the situation been told in the article, yet you still said about condition change all the time, camera and lenses with many option, bla3,
    everyone know that…

  • TJerry

    Love the girl!

  • sinshoup

    Thanks for the very useful indoor lighting tips! I do a lot of shooting outdoors, but want to start shooting a variety of items & fashion shots indoors. Your sweet daughter is a natural! You should submit her photos to the kids division of a very reputable modeling agency. Thank you! https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c43daf3568d08d7367d0b8acd8fd6f4f13011cba075819ae0b6b1a6e16f935af.jpg

  • Shan’tanu Shrivastava

    thank you <3

  • wasserball

    Pretty girl for your subject. Now, I know photographers don’t like shadow in portraits, but I do use a little because shadows define the facial features, otherwise the face looks flat.

  • Holly Groves

    I am doing my Grand baby’s 1st Birthday cake smash portraits today & we have amazing natural light source which I plan to use all the tips listed. I will set the background/backdrop to the left of the window I plan to use for my natural light. I have a reflector as well I will use to bounce some of the natural light source on my subject. I put a lot of effort into making this a very special photo shoot, paying attention to every detail so I want more than anything to get it right in the camera!!! I will be happy to share the final results =] Thank you for a quick reference that I can easily understand !

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