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Top tips for natural light photography- indoors

‘Lifestyle’ is a kind of photography that aims to capture people in real life, everyday situations in an artistic manner. My lifestyles shoots focus around families and often take place at their homes. The wonderful thing about this is that I get to capture images of people in an environment that is truly familiar to them. Not only does this help to put people, especially children, at ease – but it also gives the images a raw, documentary style. To make sure my photos look as true to real life as possible - I try to use only the light available to me in the room. Trying to capture a family in their home using only the available light is not without its challenges. So here are my top 5 tips for using natural light while indoors.

Get the timing right

As a family photographer, I predominantly work with children which means that most of my shoots take place in the morning or afternoon and never when it’s dark out. I shoot during daylight hours which of course vary depending on the time of the year. During the winter I tend to book shoots between 10am -3pm to get the most out of the light. Summer is great because the days are much longer which maximises my shooting time. Another important thing to remember is that light temperature changes throughout the day. Golden hour light looks warmer at sunrise turning cooler toward midday and warmer again at sunset.

Look for the largest light source

Look for the largest light source and be flexible. When I arrive at someone’s house, the first thing I will do is take a look around. I look for the largest natural light sources in the house. This will vary from one house to another. Typically the rooms with the largest windows and glass doors tend to be the master bedroom and the living room. However, I’m beginning to see more and more modern kitchen extensions which really open up the back of house and let in a lot of light. Similarly modern loft conversions will sometimes have beautiful big sky lights often situated over a double bed. The key thing to remember is that you won’t know where these light sources will be until you get there. With that in mind, it’s best not to plan a family portrait on a sofa in the lounge, for example, only to discover that it’s in the darkest room of the house.

Get the white balance right

Before I start shooting I turn off the artificial lights to get a better idea of the available natural light but mainly I do this because artificial light can affect your white balance. I used to have my white balance on custom-mode and set it manually every time. However I have found that auto white balance is pretty accurate for an indoor shoot using available daylight.

Use the light to create effects

You can light your subjects really well with natural light so long as they are in the right place. Directing people to where the light looks even and flattering will obviously make for some lovely portraits. But you can also use natural light to create some interesting effects such as silhouettes, reflections, lens flare and shadows.

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