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For most beginners and even some professionals, photographing indoors can be the thorn in your side. Here are some tips I’ve discovered out of necessity:
1. Get away from your pop-up – Get away from shooting your pop up flash straight into the photo. Options for redirecting light are to add a flash to your hot shoe (like a Speedlite) and bounce it off walls and ceilings or (as I do) use a Lightscoop to redirect the light from your pop up without spending a couple hundred on a flash unit. These options are not the same as using a diffuser on your flash (like covering it with a piece of tissue). It’s important to actually change the direction the light is coming from for ‘studio’ results like beautiful catchlights in the eyes.
2. Catch it – Catchlights bring life to the eyes and getting them indoors can be tricky. I produce them indoors using a Lightscoop and a nearby wall. If you have a baby, photographing them in their highchair with white tray near a window can light up the eyes much like holding a reflector near the face. Tip 4 can also help…
3. Spot – discover a spot in your house where you know you will be able to get consistently good shots. For me, it’s my kitchen. I know that no matter what, if I want to take a good portrait of my kids, I call them into the kitchen. The south-facing room full of white cabinets bounces the light allover the place and I never need a flash! So when they do something funny I want to photograph, I just get them to do it again in the kitchen!
4. Windows – Obviously, light is your ally and light comes through windows! Another hot spot in my house is the living room sofa opposite a large window. The window produces a pleasing catchlight and being that the room is north-facing, the light is soft and produces beautiful soft shadows on the face. This room is darker than the kitchen in tip #3 so I have to remember to compensate with my settings.
5. Nix the ISO – I don’t care what the manufacturers say: any ISO above 800 is crap! Make friends with your flash and learn how to maximise natural and manmade light. If you’re a beginner, it is scary at first. I thought I could get away with it by proudly stating that I was an ‘available light photographer’ (as if I even knew what I was talking about!) Anything worth doing is worth doing well. You can surprise yourself with what you’ll learn just by practising. And it’s not like we have to buy rolls of film to do it.
What about you? Do you enjoy taking photos inside or do you loathe it?