Friday, February 19, 2010

Photography Tips and Tricks

Since starting my blog I've been taking many more indoor photos than in the past. Unfortunately they haven't been turning out as nice as I would like. I see much advice in blogland about not using a flash to take your pictures. Most of my crafts and blog writing takes place at night. I don't have enough ambient light to not use a flash. I take great pictures outdoors but inside is a different ball game. I did some research and talked with my son the photographer and here is what I found:

Natural light produces an overall soft effect.

Using a flash creates shadow. Avoid the flash if at all possible. A low contrast picture (dim room, no flash) is preferable to high contrast (dim room, flash). For those really technical people you would want to increase the ISO setting with no flash. But if you know what that is you probably already do it.

Avoid taking a picture with flash in front of or next to any shiny, reflective surface (windows, mirrors, glass, highly polished surfaces). It will create "hot spots", those white blotches. Picture from

If you have to take a picture in front of a shiny, reflective surface position yourself at least a 30 degree angle from the surface to avoid the reflection bouncing back to the camera.

Position yourself directly in front of the primary object you are taking a picture of to minimize shadow. This seems obvious. I think what it means is take the picture head on. If you take it from the side, the front of the object will be in shadow.

Being closer than 5 feet in front of a wall will create shadows. My best pictures are taken on my dining room table away from walls.

If you have to be in front of a wall, position yourself and the the object in a straight line which is at a 90 degree angle from the wall.

Use a Tripod. You'll take many more in focus pictures. 

If you use a high enough ISO to not use a flash, the shutter speed will be much too slow to be hand held so use a tripod. What the heck does this mean? I don't adjust ISO settings. Well you actually might. My digital camera has little pictures on the turny knobby thing where I can adjust to daylight, candle light, nighttime, indoor, outdoor snow, manual and automatic settings. These different settings automatically adjust the ISO and white balance (cool or warm colored light) for those general conditions. 

We're not going to talk about adjusting your white balance for cool or warm light. Again, if you know what that is you know how to do it.

Actually use the turny knobby thing to adjust for dim lighting settings while indoor. I always forget to change from automatic which wants to use a flash.

Light from behind an object turns the object into a silhouette.

Light from the side of an object lights the close side and puts the far side in shadow.

With side lighting a white reflective surface (like poster board) will bounce light back to the shadow side and produce depth to your picture. 

The best way to get good lighting indoor is to use a three point approach. Have your primary source of light  at a 45 degree angle to the object; have a reflective surface (like white cardboard) directly across from the light to bounce light back onto the surface and reduce side shadow; and have a light directly behind the object but at a slight angle so it isn't shining directly into the camera.  I use a similar set up when taking pictures for ebay using several desk lamps with a sheet draped over them to soften any harshness. Why I never thought to pull all the equipment out and give it a go for my blog pictures, I don't know! Granted this has limited application for room size decorating pictures! But the general theory of multiple light sources still works.

With all this said and done, for me my best and easiest pictures with no flash indoor are on my dining room table. I have a ceiling light fixture with a defuser which bounces light off the ceiling and provides nice soft light. 

Did this help you at all? I know I picked up some good information.

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