Use One Light Source

Here’s a simple photo tip that can make a big difference when you’re taking indoor photos without flash. Strive to use one type of light source when you can. In the photo on the left I had both the artificial overhead lights on, as well as light streaming in from the windows. Our apartment is already fairly dark ( 🙁 ), and I didn’t get around to dressing in my outfit and taking these until later in the day than I would have hoped, so there really wasn’t enough natural light for me to leave the overhead lights off if I wanted That Husband to take the photos for me without seeing blur from shaking hands. I left the white balance on auto, leaving my camera confused. Should it be measuring for the daylight or the artificial light? As you can see it, did a rather poor job of choosing, and I’m not willing to take the time in Photoshop to try to fix the skin tones (usually I would just go with black and white in a situation like this if it was a photo I deemed worth keeping, but I want the whole series to be in color).

The photo on the right was taking at noon, with plenty of light streaming in through the windows. Much better right?

Of course this doesn’t apply if you are going to use flash, as your flash will overpower your other light sources and white balance won’t be an issue. And because every situation really is so different (I’m not trying to sell this as a universal rule, just hoping to suggest a solution for those who are frustrated regarding the color of their photos!), keep in mind that sometimes you can have both artificial light and natural light in one room, but one can overpower the other and you won’t have the awful color issues I’m having with photos like the one above on the left.

This shot from Kelli Nicole’s blog is a good example of how one light source can overpower the other. I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing that the artificial lights are on in the house, she just chose to take her pictures in a spot with plenty of sunlight streaming in so there are no funky skin tones to be had!

The moral of this post? Pay attention to your light sources, and try not to mix when you can manage it. If mixing is something you can’t control, I suggest finding a nice black and white conversion that you like and using that when you can. Much easier on the eyes than that blue and red mess you see me trying to get away with above!

6 thoughts on “Use One Light Source

  1. But how do you take decent photos with your point and shoot camera when you are in a restaurant/house/etc in the evening? Without using a flash? I need to learn how to take better pics with my little camera so I can just capture our life without blurry photos (which is what I get when I turn the flash off).

    Jenna Reply:

    You steady your elbows on the table or bring your arms in close to your sides to steady yourself and accept that you are going to have photos that are a bit grainier because your camera will bump up the ISO to get enough light.

    This set is a good example of photos taken in a restaurant both with and without flash. The first four were done without flash, the last two with. If I had used flash on the shots of the food it all would have been blown out and the lovely details would have been lost. Can you see the grain on the photos without flash? I don’t mind it so much, it’s better than a blown out photo in my opinion.

    And these photos were done with my point and shoot if you were wondering. 🙂

  2. Oh, this is GREAT to know. I always thought that you have to use one of those direct tripod lights. Your images are always so well-lit and crisp. Mine are always dark and I do a very poor job of post editing, as I’m still learning. Thanks for this tip!

  3. I don’t remember if the lights were off for this pic of Max, but I almost ALWAYS turn off all interior lights when doing pictures indoors :). I do remember taking some in this house with the lights on, then realizing it and having my sister turn the lights off. I was also super lucky to have tons of white snow outside reflecting tons of light in.

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