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Indoor Photography Lighting Tips for Gorgeous Photos

In this article, we’re going to talk about indoor photography lighting tips and tricks.

First, we’ll begin by explaining the two different types of light in photography, then move onto what the three light set up is, next explain lighting ratios and finally share different lighting techniques you can use when shooting indoors.

Let’s begin!

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rawb hard light vs soft light photography seir soft light photography
Hard light photo by Robbie W T Soft light photo by seier+seier

Two Types of Light

There are two different types of light in the world of photography: hard light and soft light.

Hard light is considered to be harsh ,while soft light is known as being diffused.

With hard light, photographers will get sharp and deep shadows along with well-defined edges, while soft light produces less-defined edges and softer shadows.

When light is closer to your subject, it becomes larger in effective size, making it softer.

When the light source is further away, the effective size becomes smaller, making it harder.

The previous two statements may be a little hard for you to understand at first, but if you go out and test this in the field with a light source (flash or standing light) you’ll quickly see the difference in the two types of photography lighting.

It’s relatively easy to change a hard light to a soft light by positioning the lighting. When it comes to contrast, it is the difference between the shadow areas and light in your scene. If there is a lot of difference then the scene has more contrast.

Inside lighting generally consists of grips, modifiers and light sources.

The grips are the equipment used to hold the camera gear, such as clamps and stands.

The modifiers are things that can be held in front of or attached to the light source to control its light pattern. Modifiers consist of items such as reflectors, umbrellas, and soft boxes.

Light sources are anything that produces light to your scene. This includes natural sunlight, tungsten light, and strobes and flash units etc.

 

indoor photography lighting tips with three lights

 

Three Light Setup

If you hear the term three-light setup, it will be referring to key light, fill light, and separation light. This is a very popular lighting technique in photography for portraits.

The most significant of these is the key light, which is usually a hard light, and it produces the defining shadow areas and highlight of the scene.

Fill light, which is usually soft light, is secondary and is used with key light as a way to fill light into the shadows produce by the key light on the other side of the subject. The fill light will reduce contrast.

Separation light is used when you have a dark subject in front of a dark background. This light will be pointed at the back of the subject producing a halo of light around the person, which helps separate the subject from the background.

Lighting Ratio

The ratio refers to the comparison of key light and fill light.

For even, soft lighting it’s recommended to use 1:1. This means the amount of key and fill light would be the same.

A 2:1 ratio would mean twice as much key light as fill light and 3:1 means three times as much, and so on.

A 1:1 ratio is ideal for flat light while 2:1 would produce a cool effect. The contrast will increase the higher the ratio gets.

For example, 8:1 would produce a great amount of contrast. Also, the positioning of the lights will  impacts the scene’s contrast. The contrast becomes greater as the angle of the lighting increases.

Bounce Flash vs Direct Flash

Photo by SchoolofImaging.ca

 

Side Lighting Bounce

If you’re not in a space that is filled with lighting equipment on hand you can always use this photography lighting trick – place your model close to a wall and face the light source to the wall.

You can then bounce the light off of it from the side and this will naturally illuminate and complement the model. You can experiment with different soft box effects with this method by moving the light source closer and further away.

When no bright walls are available you can use just about anything bright as a surface to bounce light off of. This could be white cardboard, a reflector, or a light shirt or table cloth etc. All you need to do is point the light source toward the bounce surface and position your model to the surface’s side.

Using Ambient Light

You can use ambient light for indoor photography either on its own or in conjunction with flash.

For example, you can use if from behind as a rim light to pull the model away from the background and then use flash to light up the person’s face.

If you’re in a dark setting you could try a couple of table lamps without the shades and position your model in between them. The light that the model stands closer to will be used as the key light and the other lamp would be fill light.

Window Lighting

Photo by Chris and Ana Alves

Using Window Light

Windows are ideal as natural light sources for indoor shots.

Simply place your model close to a window and take the photos from the front.

You can use a flash if you like or just use the natural light. Remember, if you use a flash it will be the key light while the window light will act as a soft box. For more information on using flash check out our other article, Flash Photography Basics 101.

Without a flash, the window would be able to provide the key light.

What’s Next?

We hope you enjoyed these indoor photography tips. Now that you’re finished reading, leave a comment below telling us which tips was your favorite and share any experiences you’ve had taking indoor photos.

Then, check out our related posts to learn even more ways to improve your photography.

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