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So you want to take pictures; or do you want to be a photographer? I deal with a strikingly similar question every time I swing a golf club; I want to be a golfer, but with life events and time constraints the reality is I merely play golf. Fortunately, making a great photo doesn’t consume the amount of time 18 holes does and since you’re here reading this, it’s safe to say you want to be a photographer.
Portraits, landscapes, sports, oh my! As a new photographer it is incredibly tempting to photograph everything, and that’s a good thing as it will help you understand where your true passion lies. However, I am a firm believer that early success leads to more success.
Let me say that again – early success leads to more success.
As a new photographer there is no better feeling than capturing a truly excellent photo; and if you’re anything like me, time is very limited. Luckily with a simple understanding of light, your home is a great place to create stunning photos.
All of the photos in this article were shot in my home. I do not have a home studio, and as I mentioned earlier, I also have little spare time; but that’s ok because you don’t need either to make great photos. The photos of the tulip and baseball were shot with a cheap piece of white poster board and available light from a window.
While there are no “essentials” to creating great photos with available light from a window, I always use a tripod and would highly recommend one. However, if you do not have a tripod, you’ll need to raise the ISO to increase your shutter speed if you plan to hand-hold your camera. A generic rule of thumb is you’ll need a shutter speed of 1 divided by the focal length of your lens. For example, I used a 100mm lens for the tulip, and shot it at f/16 and an 8 second exposure. If I did not have a tripod, I would have had to increase the ISO (and realistically open the aperture as well) until I had a shutter speed of 1/100 (because I was using a 100mm lens) to keep the image sharp; but since I was making use of a tripod, an 8 second exposure was no problem.
There are endless opportunities for photography with available window light. Again, you could certainly hold your camera if you raised the ISO, but I would suggest the following as rough guidelines for photographing next to a window:
For a clean seamless background, such as the baseball photo here, grab a cheap piece or poster board from the school or office supply aisle at your favourite box store.
What do you do once you’re bored shooting next to the window, or want to learn something more? Stay at home of course!
There’s plenty of room to grow with your photography in the house. After all, what’s the underlying foundation of photography? Light! Even if you don’t have a flash you can still learn about lighting at home. Don’t have an off camera flash? No problem, I bet you have a flashlight! I created the photo of the kiwi fruit in a bathroom with the lights off and a flashlight lighting the fruit from behind.
I would take a photo, look at it on the camera’s LCD, and then adjust the angle of light from there. So what if I spent an abnormal amount of time in a dark bathroom by myself, and got strange looks from my wife. I learned a lot about how the position of the light effects the look of the photo, and made a cool photo!
Bottom line, you don’t need a flash to learn lighting and take a great photo, all you need is a dark room (very dark, as in no light at all) and a flashlight.
So what about flash? I think using flash in photos is the key to creating photos that stand out from the rest. If you have a speedlite or other hot shoe flash, the best thing you can do to take your photography to the next level is learn to use it. After that, the next best thing you can do is take it off the camera when you use it. The photo of the little yellow guy smiling and the red silhouette of the golfer were both shot using off camera flash, and aside from a few tweaks in post processing, they look very close to what was produced in the camera with help from the flash. Once you understand about positioning and light fall off, you’ll be able to manipulate the light in such a way that creates great photos right in the camera.
The point being here, and something you’ll learn either in due time, or right now as I tell you, all great photos have one thing in common: great light. Whether you use light from a window, a flash, or light from something as simple as a flashlight – there are numerous ways you can get great light right in the comfort of your own home.
To recap, here’s what I used in the photos:
Once you create one photo with great light at home, I guarantee you will be hooked! Best of luck to you, now go shoot!