A Guide to Indoor Photography Lighting

A Guide to Indoor Photography Lighting - Mastin Labs

Any photographer knows that indoor photography can be tricky. Without the abundance of natural light you get outside, indoor photography requires a keen understanding of lighting. Whether you're a seasoned photographer or just starting, mastering the interplay between natural and artificial light can elevate your indoor photography game. 

In this guide, we cover the differences between natural and artificial lighting for indoor photography and give you practical tips for creating stunning photos with both light sources. From aperture settings to choosing the right equipment, continue reading to learn how to start shooting like a pro.

Natural Light vs. Artificial Light: Which One Is Right for You?

Understanding the distinction between natural and artificial light is crucial for achieving the desired results in your indoor photography. Natural light from the sun offers soft and diffused illumination that can enhance the natural beauty of your subjects. 

Alternatively, artificial light sources, such as studio lights and flashes, provide controlled and customizable lighting for more creative control.

Both natural and artificial lighting have their advantages and disadvantages. The softness of natural light can minimize harsh shadows and create a flattering look, especially during times like golden hour. However, weather conditions and time of day can bring downsides to natural light, as direct sunlight can result in overexposure or harsh shadows. 

Artificial lighting, on the other hand, offers consistency and control over the lighting environment, letting you shape and direct light as needed. While it provides versatility, mastering artificial light has a learning curve. 

The choice between natural and artificial light may depend on your project and available lighting conditions. Natural light might be preferred for portraits or scenes that benefit from a soft, natural look. 

Artificial light is excellent for controlled setups like product photography, studio portraits, or boudoir photography. Additionally, if your studio is darker, you should enhance your lighting with artificial light. 

You can choose the right lighting for your needs and project and hone your process with the tips below.

3 Tips for Indoor Photos With Natural Lighting

If you’ve decided natural indoor lighting is best for your photo project, here are three essential indoor photography tips to optimize your results:

1. Find the Right Source of Light and Avoid Mixing Light Types

Identify the primary source of natural light in your indoor space. This will likely be natural window light where sunlight comes through. You can position your subject close to windows or doors to maximize the quality of light. 

Make sure that lighting from multiple light sources, such as windows, does not create unevenness or shadows. Remember that north-facing windows provide consistent, soft light, while south-facing windows can introduce more direct sunlight. 

To find the best angle, move your subject around and test their position. Depending on the length of your shoot, you may also need to re-position your subject as the sun moves throughout the day.

You also want to avoid mixing natural and artificial light types, which can lead to color imbalances and unwanted shadows. If you need to supplement natural light with artificial sources, choose ones that mimic the quality of natural light to maintain a cohesive, natural look in your photos.

2. Use Your Camera’s Aperture Priority Mode

Aperture Priority mode on your camera lets you control the depth of field, giving you creative control over your photos' focus. When shooting indoors with natural light, a wider aperture (lower f-stop) can help capture more light and create a pleasing background blur. For example, wide aperture settings f/1.8 or f/1.4 can be great for indoor photography.

Experiment with different apertures to find the right balance between a sharp subject and a beautifully blurred background. Wider apertures also allow more light into your camera, making them ideal for low-light indoor conditions. 

Understanding your camera's aperture settings takes practice, but once you get the hang of it, you can easily adjust your photography to a wide range of lighting conditions.

3. Pick the Right Time of Day for the Desired White Balance

The time of day also affects the outcome of your indoor photography, namely the color temperature of natural light. The color temperature of light refers to the range of cool and warm tones that lighting provides. Different times mean different tones of natural light, so adjust accordingly.

For example, shooting during the golden hour, shortly after sunrise or before sunset, provides warm, soft light. Adjusting your white balance settings to match the time of day ensures accurate color representation in your photos. During midday, sunlight may be more cool-toned, requiring adjustment to balance colors.

The time of day may also affect the harshness of the sunlight. During midday, natural light can be harsh and cast strong shadows. Consider using diffusers or shooting in shaded areas to soften the light. Certain weather conditions, such as light cloud cover, can provide an ideal natural light diffuser for your photos.

4 Tips for Indoor Photoshoots With Artificial Lighting

If the natural lighting conditions of your photography studio are less than ideal, or if you need more creative control, artificial lighting may be your best bet. Here are four tips for using artificial lighting to your advantage: 

1. Choose the Right Equipment and Position It Correctly

Selecting the appropriate lighting equipment for your indoor setup is crucial. Different types of lights, such as strobes, continuous lights, overhead lights, or speedlights, offer various benefits to your photos. 

Continuous lights are a go-to for beginners and professionals, providing a stable light source for your shoot. Strobe lighting is much brighter and higher quality but requires more skill and sometimes a dedicated lighting partner. Comprehensive lighting kits with light stands are often a good choice for indoor settings.

With your chosen lighting type, you can experiment with different tools like softboxes, umbrellas, or mirrors to get your desired effect. Next, position your lights strategically to control shadows and highlights. Consider the angle and distance of your light sources to create dimension and prevent flat-looking photos. Lastly, make sure your lighting sources are not causing undesired shadows.

2. Make Sure You Use a Light Meter

A light meter helps you accurately measure the intensity of light in your scene, making it an essential indoor photography tool. This tool ensures proper exposure and helps you avoid underexposed or overexposed areas in your photos. 

Consistent lighting across your subjects will help you achieve a cohesive look. When using multiple light sources, a light meter helps to create a balanced and well-exposed scene. Take readings at various points in your setup to identify inconsistencies and make necessary adjustments.

3. Adjust Your Camera Settings for the Best Results

Understanding your camera's settings is essential for successful indoor photography. Some settings to consider on your camera include:

  • ISO: This is the sensitivity of your camera’s sensor to light. The higher the indoor ISO number, the more sensitive your camera will be to light.
  • Aperture: This is the size of the opening of the part of your lens that lets light in. This setting is represented in f-stops. The lower the f-stop number, the wider the lens is, and the more light that gets in — and vice versa. Aperture also affects the range of focus on your subject and the amount of background blurring.
  • Shutter speed: This is how long the shutter stays open when you take a photo. A fast shutter speed creates a precise image, while a slow one creates motion blur.

Balancing these settings ensures well-exposed and sharp images. Consider using a tripod to stabilize your camera, allowing longer exposure times without any camera shake.

4. Don’t Be Afraid To Experiment With Different Lighting Setups

Creativity knows no bounds when it comes to artificial lighting. Experiment with different setups, angles, and intensities to find your ideal results. Don't shy away from trying unconventional lighting arrangements — such as colored lighting, direct flash, or reflective props — to add drama and flair to your indoor photos. Experimenting with various editing techniques in post-production can make your images stand out that much more.

Practice makes perfect, so experiment and find what works best for your studio, equipment, and creative style.

Refine Your Indoor Portraits and Photos With Mastin Labs

Indoor photography can be challenging for any photographer to master, but following these tips can help. To add the perfect finishing touch to your indoor photos, consider using Mastin Labs' Lightroom Photo Presets.

These presets are designed to enhance the mood and tone of your images, providing a professional and polished look. From subtle adjustments to bold transformations, our presets offer a streamlined and efficient way to achieve consistent and stunning results across your entire body of work. 

Browse our catalog of Lightroom presets and start achieving professional results with Mastin Labs today.