Utilizing Natural Light Effectively Indoors

March 11, 2011

in Photography Tutorials

Post image for Utilizing Natural Light Effectively Indoors

“I want to be more lifestyle. How do you handle light when you aren’t shooting outdoors and you do not use studio lighting?”

I’ve photographed lifestyle for as long as I have been shooting. It started with me capturing my Nonno as he battled brain cancer. I wanted to remember HIM, not the ‘Look here, and smile’ captures. So I lied. I told him I was taking a course and had to film ‘hands.’ My Nonno’s hands always fascinated me…a hunter, he had very big, strong and  ‘rough’ hands. That is what I wanted to remember as I grew older. What made him MY Nonno. Once he loosened up because the focus was hands, even when I raised up my camera to take pictures of his face, he was relaxed and it all felt non-intrusive.

I take that very personal story into how I film children today. I admire some studio work, but I much prefer a backdrop to be a child’s room versus a roll of seamless paper. Is everything always perfect? Absolutely not. What in life is? And that is how I like to capture the children I work with: carefree and real.

Once you take on that mindset, your shoulders drop. The pressure is lifted a bit. That is, until you stumble upon a home with little to no light at first glance, and then panic sets in. It’s OK. Now, you have to find the light. It is there, just be open to it.

Tip #1: DOORS!

Every house has a front door, right? What happens when you open that door? Light floods in. I’ve worked in narrow hallways/entryways the size of myself. What I recommend if you are in a tight spot is to prop open the screen door and photograph the subject that way.

She was in a tight entryway. I stepped outside and shot ‘in’- gorgeous girl, gorgeous light!
Indoor Natural Light Photography - I Heart Faces

Here there were sliding doors leading to a patio..I didn’t want them outside, so I stepped outside and photographed right in the doorway.
Indoor Natural Light Photography - I Heart Faces

This little NYC girl had a door that led out to an apartment deck. I was outside, she was in!
Indoor Natural Light Photography - I Heart Faces

Tip #2: WINDOWS!

Want to put lifestyle photography into overdrive? Hang out on the floor with a child in their room. I start out ‘positioning’ them so they face towards the window, our light source, and engage in some play so it isn’t too ‘posed.’ Windows are everywhere…living room, bedrooms, bathrooms, use them all!
Indoor Natural Light Photography - I Heart Faces

Do not discount the cute capture/details you can get of a child even when they aren’t facing the camera but are facing a great light source!
Indoor Natural Light Photography - I Heart Faces

Here I stood in front of the subject in her living room. I was going for a bit of dramatic natural light. To get her to look into the light source, I did a quick “Did you see that HUGE bird?” line.
Indoor Natural Light Photography - I Heart Faces

Mom faced the window and held baby directly facing me. They are literally about one foot from the window.
Indoor Natural Light Photography - I Heart Faces

There is not a single session I do without a bed shot with the children facing the window.
Indoor Natural Light Photography - I Heart Faces

Tip #3: NO LIGHT (in a good way!)

You can use the absence of light to your advantage and create some amazing silhouette shots. This one was done at the top of a staircase that had a little window on the stair landing. The subjects were just in enough darkness to turn this into a B&W silhouette.
Indoor Natural Light Photography - I Heart Faces

Being a natural light, lifestyle photographer means working with you have with the available light you are given. I hope these tips will open your eyes to the fact that there is light everywhere- you just need to find it!

Natural Light Lifestyle PhotographerJennifer Tonetti-Spellman is a die-hard, natural light, lifestyle photographer in New York who loves to search for the light.  Like her on Facebook  to continue being inspired by her beautiful work!

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{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

FrankKarin21 April 8, 2011

Some time ago, I really needed to buy a house for my organization but I didn’t earn enough cash and couldn’t buy anything. Thank heaven my father suggested to try to get the personal loans at reliable bank. Therefore, I did so and was happy with my collateral loan.

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Shasta April 5, 2011

Wonderful article! I do a lot of shooting indoors as well, and I’ve learned that windows are my best friend. :)

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Jen March 16, 2011

Thank you! I needed these tips!

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Kama Carranza March 13, 2011

I love this post! Thank you:)

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The Foodnatic March 13, 2011

I am a light junkie myself. Fanatic is a better word. But, I hate, hate, hate studio work so I avoid it. If I can’t get the right natural light I try again on a different day. Not very many people know that for outdoor clouds are a best friend on a sunny day. Great pics! =)

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bridget {bake at 350} March 12, 2011

Love these tips…and the discussion in the comments about the “cloudy” and auto WB settings! Thank you!

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Robyn Stone March 11, 2011

RT @angiearthur: Great tips! —->RT @iHeartFaces: Utilizing Natural Light Effectively Indoors http://bit.ly/eym2Qq

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Cecile March 12, 2011

Nice tuto, great images, thanks! Natural light is a great way to take pictures that tell a story.

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Ryan March 12, 2011

Like this!

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Jennifer Tonetti-Spellman March 11, 2011

Podwiatr- I actually do a ton of NYC apartment shooting, so I totally get the front door not being applicable. That is really for ‘house situations’, which is why I quickly segue-wayed into the use of windows- like those shots of the little girl in her bedroom are NYC apartment shots. Elena- every camera is different in terms of the setting for WB. When I shot solely with my Nikon D90, ‘cloudy’ pretty much covered all my situations even indoors… when I switched to the D3s, cloudy was awful for indoors! I now just shoot on Auto WB and adjust if needed in Lightroom.

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Jackie March 11, 2011

GREAT ARTICLE! I was reading through it thinking – this would be a GREAT article to share with my photography friends, then I get to the bottom and saw the author – and realized, well, I guess I don’t need to share it since one of them FREAKIN’ WROTE IT!! Love it!!

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podwiatr March 11, 2011

Elena, cloudy is what I mainly use indoors, as it also gives you the warm shade. Besides, if you take photos in the RAW format then you can easily change the white balance in Photoshop.

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Elena March 11, 2011

Regarding the natural light, I’m worried about finding the right white balance. I guess it’s all subjective to the color on the walls, drapes, etc but when I’m shooting outside, I’m really comfortable with my shade or cloudy to add a lovely warm glow. Worried about the inside. I guess I just stay on auto?

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podwiatr March 11, 2011

I am also a natural light maniac and I mainly work indoors. Unfortunately, Polish people in big cities (and I live in one) mainly have flats, so there is no such thing as the front door, as it faces a dim staircase. Thus, the tip to use the front door isn’t applicable in the majority of cases. Nonetheless, I am going to meke use of it one day, for the effect is worth getting. Great article, I wouldn’t put it better.

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Laura March 11, 2011

Thank you for this — so helpful. :) BEAUTIFUL photos.

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Aline Charpinel March 11, 2011

great! Wonderful article, thank you!!!! I love natural lights! For me the natural light is the most beautiful light!

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Thomas Marzano March 11, 2011

Utilizing Natural Light Effectively Indoors | Photography Challenges and Photo Tutorials – I Heart Faces http://ow.ly/1bIPAT

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Debra March 11, 2011

Ahh, love this article. This is totally my passion as well, thanks for that fabulous tips!

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Shirley March 11, 2011

Thank you so much for sharing….there are many professional photographers out their not as eager to share their “tips and secrets”

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Geneva Houx March 11, 2011

These are wonderful pointers – thank you so much for sharing! (And the photos are gorgeous) Makes me want to get shootin’ this morning!

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Living With Lindsay March 11, 2011

Great tips for all subjects – even just rehabed chairs! RT @iheartfaces: Utilizing Natural Light Effectively Indoors http://bit.ly/eym2Qq

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Amy Locurto March 11, 2011

RT @iheartfaces: Utilizing Natural Light Effectively Indoors http://bit.ly/eym2Qq

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sreelu March 11, 2011

Thank you so much for the wonderful tips, i can now use these tips beautiful pics rather than complaining about lack of light or equipment.

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Shawntae March 11, 2011

Wonderful post!

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Cristen March 11, 2011

Thank you for these tips, Jenn! I’m always searching for the light here in my dungeon of a house! Beautiful images as always!

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Luisa March 11, 2011

great article! lighting is one of the hardest things to master. harder when you live in an apartment building when very little light comes in.

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christina tardella mcguire March 11, 2011

love this! both the article and the sweet commentary on your Nonno –I miss mine very much, and now my dad is Nonno to my girls :) just traded in my nikon d90 for a d7000 and hoping its ISO capabilities will help me to branch into a lifestyle photography biz when the time is right :)

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Anna March 11, 2011

Light is a big area of question for me. I’m not a professional but want to take good pictures so I worry about shadows and too much, or the lack of,light. Thanks for these tips!
Anna

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Tirzah March 11, 2011

Awesome article, Jenn! I heart YOU and your style!

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sarah hawkins March 11, 2011

Love Jellybean Jenn! I have been a fan of hers for a while. Thanks for the great tips on finding the light!

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Jennifer Tonetti-Spellman March 11, 2011

Thanks Karole- with some of the technical difficulties the poor girls at ihf experienced lately there was a glitch- they fixed it now though! And thanks all for the amazing feedback. Good luck with your search to find the light!

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suxy March 11, 2011

Thanks so MUCH!!!
I used to use lots of natural lights from windows and doors.. I have forgotten how great it is in the end of the results :)
Thank you to remind me that.. since lately I always using the studio light or flashes, I thought they were the only one I can count on it. obviously I was stuck on those..

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Nicole @ Another Day Another Diaper March 11, 2011

Fantastic! The photos are phenomenal and the tips are perfect. I’m always finding myself crouching in the corner by my girls window to try and get the right light. It’s a nice reminder to “find the light.” I’m horrible with that, but I’m getting better!

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Andrea March 11, 2011

Wonderful article, thank you! I love the examples and “recipes” :)

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Melissy ♥ March 11, 2011

Thanks for the tips!!
I love using windows as a light source, but haven’t tried out doors/silhouettes that much, yet! 😀

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Karole-Ann March 11, 2011

The links on this page don’t work but she has a great website… http://www.jellybeanpics.com

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christina ware March 11, 2011

Thank you, this is one of my biggest challenges!!

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Brandy Fortune March 11, 2011

RT @iHeartFaces: Utilizing Natural Light Effectively Indoors: “I want to be more lifestyle. How do you handle… http://goo.gl/fb/Z80zR

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