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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Photography Tip #4: Utilizing Proper Indoor Lighting

This photography tip involves how to utilize proper lighting indoors when photographing. I'll try to keep this as simple as possible as it involves many technical aspects of photography.

1. Quite possibly the most important way of lighting to utilize when photographing indoors is natural light. Open curtains and shades, and if possible, place your subject near a window. (However, do avoid direct harsh sunlight peering in through a window as this will cause harsh shadows).

2. Take advantage of your camera's ability to capture the correct color temperature, therein adjusting for the correct white balance (the setting that adjusts for lighting in order to make white objects appear white). Most cameras give you the option to select from a group of white balance choices, such as Daylight, Cloudy, or Incandescent, which you can choose depending on the light in which you photographing. However, you also have the option of manually setting your white balance. The way you do this is by setting a specific Kelvin temperature (or by measuring color temperatures in degrees). See, all light is not the same. Household light bulbs put out a yellowish light compared to mid-day sunlight, and the light in open shade is bluish compared to mid-day sunlight. The lower the Kelvin temperature, the warmer (yellowish) the light. The higher the Kelvin temperature, the cooler (bluish) the light. Here are a few examples of different lighting scenarios and their corresponding Kelvin temperatures:

* Candle - approx 1200-1500K
* 40 watt incandescent bulb - 2200-2700K
* 200 watt incandescent bulb - 2700-3000K
* Quartz halogen bulb - 3200K
* Direct Sunlight on a clear day (between 10am and 2pm) - 5000K
* Open Shade - 5900K-6500K

Also keep in mind that a custom white balance setting is available, which allows you to take a picture of a white object lit by ambient light and then measures the white balance against it.

The camera used to take the photo to the right was obviously not set to a specific color temperature. Notice how everything in the picture has a yellowish tint to it. This is contributed by the incandescent light bulbs in the room.

3. If you are photographing in low light conditions, take advantage of the use of a tripod. Long exposures require you to hold your camera still to avoid blurring, and a tripod will allow you to do this with much ease.

4. If you have an external flash, take advantage of the ability to bounce flash. Bounce flash is achieved when your flash is facing somewhere other than directly at your subject, perhaps towards the ceiling or the wall to the right or the left. By utilizing bounce flash, you are providing a soft, diffused light for your subject rather than an intense, direct light that would be provided if you had your flash in the forward position (thus, possibly over-exposing your subject). If you find that bounce flash isn't enough light to properly expose your subject, you may want to use your flash in the direct position with the use of a diffuser. Most external flashes have a diffuser built into them. You simply pull it out at the top of your flash, pull it down, and it then covers your flash and provides a softer exposure. However, if your camera doesn't have a custom diffuser, you can use things in your own home that will allow you to cut down on it's intensity (tissue paper and a rubber band for example).

5. You may need to adjust your camera's ISO when photographing indoors. ISO is the measure of the sensitivity of the image sensor to light. The lower the number, the less sensitive your camera is to light and the finer the grain. Higher ISO settings are generally used in darker situations to get faster shutter speeds (that is, if you don't have a tripod handy). However, keep in mind that with higher ISO settings, your image will appear grainer (thus losing detail and introducing unwanted artifacts). My suggestion would be to use a tripod (or a sturdy support) so that you can keep your ISO settings low. I like to keep my ISO around 100 to 400 if possible.

What are some creative ways that have allowed you to overcome adverse lighting conditions indoors?

I hope these suggestions will provide better photos for you next time you decide to photograph indoors. Happy Photographing :)

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