In the words of Maria Von Trapp “Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start”. As a complete novice taking photos, I was consistently making some simple mistakes that were easily corrected, once I was told what they were. Now, because of the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon (when the thing you’ve just noticed, experienced or been told about suddenly crops up constantly), I am regularly seeing these same issues in lots of other people’s photos! Here we look at a few of these basic mistakes, and the corrections you can make, when photographing indoors. However be warned, once your eyes have been opened, there’s no going back…
Photography literally means drawing with light (I did have to Google this, it comes from the Greek apparently) and so the biggest change in someone’s ability to take great photos comes when you start to “see the light” and use it to your advantage. To become a ‘Master’ there are huge levels of complexity, but learning to recognise the direction and different types of light can dramatically improve the quality of your photos in a short period of time.
When taking photos inside it’s important to establish exactly what your light source is. There may be more than one so consider this… if you had to make your scene completely dark, what would you have to remove?
Most likely light sources include:
- Windows (natural daylight coming in through a window)
- Artificial light from lamps or ceiling lights
- TV, computer or phone screens
- Candles or fire
In daytime your light source will often be natural daylight coming in through a window. The position of your subject in relation to the window will determine how the light falls on them (Oliver has very kindly agreed to play the role of the subject as well as the teacher).
I often see people take photos with a window in the background. Whilst it’s important to think about the background of your image (which we’ll come to in a couple of weeks), if the only light source of your image is behind your subject then their features will be dark and in shadow. This means that either the window will be completely blown out, in order to be able to see the person’s features, or the subject will be too dark.
Instead, look what can be achieved by having the person turn 180° to face the window.
The position of your subject, relative to the light source, will light their features from different angles so move your subject around to get your desired look. Having them stand at 45° to the window will create some shadowing on their face giving you a more 3D image. For those of you who have long forgotten the days of Geometry lessons, I’ve included a little diagram to remind people what 45° looks like and to illustrate the position of the window in this next photo.
When your light source is coming from artificial lights, the same applies that it’s important to make sure the light is hitting your subject from the front. If your subject is facing away, or stood in front of the light, their features will be dark and in shadow leading to the same issues as before, with either the light source completely blown out or the subject’s features too dark.
Instead move your subject into a position where the light is falling on them.
Artificial lights are less powerful than daylight so you can move your subject closer to the light source, or move lamps closer to them, to make sure they have enough light on them.
One final thing to watch out for is not accidentally including light source in your photo, if you don’t need to. The light source is always going to be brighter than the subject so the light will appear very blown out or your subject will appear dark relative to the light.
Where possible, simply reposition the frame of your photo to remove the light source.
#HOMEWORK: Start noticing how the light falls on people and move them into a position where they are well lit.
Until next week…
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