How to Use Natural Light for Indoor Portraits

How to Use Natural Light for Indoor Portraits image

photo by gawrav via iStock

Indoor portrait photography comes with a whole set of challenges that you might not be accustomed to if you typically find yourself shooting out in nature or on location.

For starters, the lighting scenario is completely different if you’re shooting portrait photography indoors. It’s actually pretty difficult learning how to use natural light for indoor portraits if you’ve never done it before.

For example, you may get frustrated because your house isn’t oriented correctly to get the most light in certain rooms, or you may get frustrated because you’re actually only seeing a ton of harsh light in the rooms you want to use.

Thankfully, a few portrait photography tips can turn your natural light photography from drab and boring to fascinating with just a few changes.

Here are some options.

Use Windows as Often as Possible

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photo by Elena Perovavia iStock

This tip is pretty basic, but when you’re figuring out how to use natural light for indoor portraits, you need to make windows your best friend.

Each window is going to provide a slightly different type of light, particularly in parts of the world that don’t receive a ton of bright light already. I’m lucky because I live in California where we receive plenty of light, but the further north you live, the more important finding the right window will be.

So, when you first get to your indoor location, take a walk around and figure out which windows will be the best to use throughout the day. Some windows may receive better light in the morning, while others will have better light in the afternoon. Make sure that you examine the location outside of these windows so that you don’t miss something.

For example, make sure that there aren’t any large houses or other buildings close to the home that may prevent natural light from getting to a window after a certain hour.

Other than that, just keep it in mind that the color of natural lighting changes every hour. Eventually, you’ll know how to use natural light for indoor portraits without thinking about it. But, until that time comes, just be open to continually experimenting.

Don’t Use Natural and Artificial Light at the Same Time

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photo by FG Trade via iStock

One huge mistake that a lot of photographers make when they’re learning how to use natural light for indoor portraits is that they will want to supplement the natural light with artificial light if they aren’t getting enough of it.

For example, they may be tempted to turn on a lamp in the living room to help light up their model’s face if the window isn’t receiving enough natural light.

This is a huge problem for a few reasons. The first is that natural light and artificial light have vastly different colors. This means that your picture will look discordant and it’s a problem you’ll need to fix during the editing process. This is time consuming and unnecessary.

It becomes an even bigger issue when you use different types of artificial light because each one of those light sources will provide different coloring and this will vastly expand your editing time.

Instead of using natural and artificial light at the same time, either get creative and find natural light to use or shoot on a different day.

Learn More:Best Camera Settings for Portrait Photography Quick and Simple Portrait Photography Tips Aperture Priority Mode is Your Best Friend

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photo by tatyana_tomsickova via iStock

Depending upon how experienced you are as a photographer, this may seem kind of scary to you. But, using aperture priority mode will let you control the depth of field (how much of the background is in focus) without requiring you to use manual mode. So, it’s still a baby step.

Aperture Priority, which is usually marked as “AV” or “A,” ensures that you can pick your aperture, but your camera will still pick your shutter speed. This means that you can play around with your depth of field to create bokeh in your background by selecting a large aperture, like f/2.8, to help maximize the blurriness of the shot.

Of course, controlling depth of field isn’t just up to the aperture you use. Learn more about depth of field in this guide.

Always Carry Reflectors With You

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photo by Mlenny via iStock

Most photographers know that they should carry reflectors on them when they’re shooting on location, but you need to have reflectors with you when you’re learning how to use natural light for indoor portraits too.

Reflectors allow you to create light where it otherwise wouldn’t exist. So, if you’re having problems getting enough natural light into your home or studio, a reflector is a lifesaver.

Plus, reflectors are so simple to use. All you have to do is point it both towards your natural light source and towards your subject to illuminate their entire face.

Use Households Items to Diffuse Light

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photo by Pyroskyvia iStock

Another one of my favorite tips for learning how to use natural light for indoor portraits is to use household items to create softer light.

Some items, like curtains or blinds, are already going to be set up next to your natural lighting source already. If the light coming through a window or door is too harsh, you can simply pull the curtain back to create a softer glow.

Sometimes you may need to pull these items from other parts of the house, though. For example, you can use bedsheets to do the same exact thing.

We hope that all of these tips are going to help you learn how to use natural light for indoor portraits. Let us know which ones you try!

Learn More:Portrait Post-Processing Tips Quick Tips for Better Portraits of Kids

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