When you have a roof over your head and a camera in your hand, it's important to exercise some creative control over how much light actually enters the camera.
Luckily, we've taken the guesswork out of indoor photography, and we're ready to share a few invaluable tips that will shed some light on your subjects.
|1. Light matters
2. Take your temperature
3. Flashy pictures aren't flashy
|3. Flashy pictures aren't flashy
4. Get the red out
5. Do it yourself bounce flash
1. Light matters
So before you take the picture, ask your subjects some questions to get them into the kind of mood you want to portray, be it happy, sad, reflective, determined, or otherwise. Using this tactic, you'll end up with a true portrait instead of a simple snapshot.
Without good lighting, you'll be totally in the dark -- a fact that's true for both digital and traditional photography. If your lighting doesn't measure up, your photos will be but dim memories of what they could have been. In most cases, low light can easily be remedied with the use of a flash, but sometimes it's a camera's CCD, rather than the light source, that presents the problem.
It's important to remember to try before you buy. A good test while shopping is to find a relatively dark area in the store to see how the camera performs under low-light conditions. Notice the point at which the flash is needed to illuminate the frame. If the camera you're considering doesn't measure up in this test, this is definitely the best time to find out.
El Guapo looking well lit with a combination of natural backlight and flash fill.
2. Take your temperature
Daylight and artificial light have different colour temperatures, and as a result, they cast different lighting hues. Daylight tends to run much hotter in colour temperature than artificial light, so when colour interpretation is critical, you should avoid mixing them. If you do, you'll wind up with inaccurate colours and loss of detail in your subject.
To make matters even more complicated, the wide spectrum of artificial lighting produces varying colour shifts. For instance, halogen lighting gives a yellow cast to its subjects; fluorescent lighting projects a greenish pallor in some skin tones; and the light from a standard incandescent light bulb brings out a slight blue tint in pictures.
However, these colour tones rarely overpower images, so we encourage you to experiment with different lighting and to combine light sources to get some interesting effects. Remember to be aware of your lighting sources and anticipate the effects that differences in your light sources or that combining sources can have.
Not an atom bomb, just too much flash.
3. Flashy pictures aren't very flashy
Most digital cameras offer built-in flashes, but generally these light sources aren't very good. When shooting in a dimly lit room or at night, subjects that are only a metre away tend to appear as luminous ghouls against a pitchblack background; you'd be much better off snapping photos outside or in a naturally lit room during the day.
Counterintuitive as it may sound, low contrast is better than high contrast; the low contrast you'll get by not using a flash is preferable to the jarring white light and high contrast that you would get from using a bright flash on your subjects. There's nothing worse than a large area of black or white (called a hot spot) in a photo.
Low light plus bright flash equals red eye.
If you've ever shot a picture with a flash, you've no doubt encountered the dreaded red eye, when pupils appear a demonical bright red. No need to call the exorcist, though; the culprit is none other than the subject's own dilated pupils. In dim light, pupils enlarge to let in more of the available light, which permits the flash to bounce off the inside of the retina and reflect back into the camera lens.
One solution is to turn on your camera's red-eye reduction flash. This provides a preflash, which reduces pupil size so that the second flash is reflected harmlessly off the iris. The problem with a preflash is that it causes people to blink, and most of us prefer our subjects with red eyes rather than closed eyes.
A better solution is to turn on a few lights or simply to redirect some of the lighting when shooting indoors. By shining some light on a situation, you reduce pupil size naturally and cut your risk of red-eye photos. Another option is to tape a small piece of translucent tracing paper over the flash to diffuse the light. This softens the sharp point source of the flash and also cuts down on harsh shadows and the possibility of red eye.
5. Do-it-yourself bounce flash
If you find yourself in a difficult flash situation, it would be much better to diffuse or bounce the flash rather than have it directed pointblank at your subject. This provides a more natural diffused light that will highlight features evenly instead of blowing them out with a shocking white flash. To bounce a flash, place a small mirror at a 45- degree angle in front of the flash to reflect the light off of the ceiling. This will help diffuse the light and keep it from glaring off your subject. If you don't have a small mirror, fashion one using an unwanted CD and a pair of heavy duty scissors.
Also, look for light-coloured ceilings and white walls to bounce the flash. Avoid coloured surfaces that will give a particular cast to your picture and surfaces that are so far away they cause the reflected light to disappear. Keep the off-camera flash as high as possible. This will mimic the position of the sun, and shadows will fall more naturally on your subject.