On Today's Episode of "Dark Shadows..." : Using Natural Light Indoors | Do Try This at Home: On Today's Episode of "Dark Shadows..." : Using Natural Light Indoors

Saturday, August 09, 2014

On Today's Episode of "Dark Shadows..." : Using Natural Light Indoors

Anne Oliver of Lolli Photography is AMAZING not to mention generous and kind.  She has taught me so, so, so incredibly much over the years and here she is doing it again!

Don't blame Anne for MY poor photos though.  Half the time I'm just trying to keep The Boonga from licking whatever awful things she finds on my unswept floor, much less trying to get her to pose.


On Today’s Episode of “Dark Shadows……”

By Anne Oliver

So originally I was going to use as my title for this article the cliched (albeit true) statement that it’s “All About The Light.” Ask any photographer what the most important thing to learn is, and that’s what they will tell you. And of course I agree. But what I want to do is bring you over to the Dark Side...invite you to enter the Shadow World...explore the dark recesses of….OK, OK, enough cliches and bad puns. But the fact is that your photography will improve markedly when you not only look for the light, but also use the shadows to provide shaping, dimension and depth to your images, whether they are portraits, still lifes or macro shots. And you probably already have what you need to achieve these amazing shadows - a window!

Window light is wonderful. Let’s call it “Wonderful Window Light,” heretofore referred to as “WWL.” (In part because I’m working hard to be clever, and mostly because I don’t want to type “Wonderful Window Light” over and over. Yup, I am lazy.)

But you can’t just plop your subject down in front of a window and start snapping away. First, find the right kind of WWL. The main thing you want is INDIRECT light. Indirect light is soft and even. If you see bright sunbeams on the floor or those enchanting little dust motes flying around, you’ll need to modify that strong light coming in. Drape a sheer piece of white fabric across the window, and you’ll have exactly what you need. Second-story windows are fabulous, because they are often not blocked by trees or other structures. And you know you’re a photography nerd when what excites you about a hotel room is not the bed or the fancy shower but the huge windows that allow massive quantities of WWL to illuminate the room! (A little further down you’ll see some hotel windows that made me a very happy traveller).

Next, consider where you will place not just your subject, but yourself. And since we are talking about shadows, place your subject at an angle to the window. 45 degrees is the most common recommendation, but you can start there and slightly adjust them to achieve different looks. If you place the subject parallel to the window (in other words, with the window directly in front of them), the light will be flat with no shadows, and that’s not what we want. We don’t want “Boring Flat Light” (BFL)...we want WWL, remember?

Now to place you, the photographer. Usually I am crammed up against the window or the wall, and it’s hilarious to see, let me tell ya. Here is a diagram of the basic 45-degree set-up:

And here is a pull back of the 45-degree set up in action.She was sitting on the white stool, and I was standing just next to the fan.

And a photo from that setup. Notice how the shadows create soft curves around her cheeks and mouth?

Once you place your subject at an angle, play around with rotating them away from the window and then having them face the window more directly (although not too much - you don’t want to turn them so much you get BFL instead of WWL). As they move, watch the catchlights in their eyes and how the shadows fall differently across their features as you move them. Even tilting their head one way or another, as well as tilting their chin up or down, will subtly change the shadows. Let me show some examples of this…

Here she is turned slightly more away from the window, which results in stronger shadows on one side of the face. Depending on the quality and strength of your light, those shadows can be really strong and dramatic or more subtle.

Here you can see that having her tilt her head in the other direction changes the shadows slightly.

And here I had her move a little closer to the window. She’s also closer to the wall, which resulted in stronger, more defined shadows behind her.

If you’ve ever struggled with your Black and White conversions, it could be because you used flat lighting. Images with dimensional shadows make for stronger BW images.

And WWL and good shadowing also makes for great still lifes. We travelled to Seattle recently, and I was so happy to open that hotel door and see a wall of windows. (You might also be a photography nerd if you talk about WWL too much. Evidently I might have expressed my desire for WWL a few times before we arrived, because when we walked in the room the first thing my daughter said was, “Hey look, Mom, you got your big windows!!”)

This was a very “make-do” kind of shot. I had purchased this lovely handmade vase and asked the woman if I could keep the little flowering branch she had in it for display. I used my husband’s leather iPad case on which to place the vase and the inside of an open book for the background. But I applied the same principle of putting the scene at an angle to the window and then moving it around for the desired amount of light vs. shadows.

You can use WWL for macro shots, too. Here is my makeshift setup - my suitcase with a towel thrown over it, and the flower wrapped in a towel and placed in the ice bucket, LOL. But all that aside, I still kept in mind the placement of the flower at an angle to the window in order to give me some soft shadowing, which gives the petals depth.

And here are some of the resulting shots using that setup.

So I hope all of you get a chance to play around with WWL to achieve some lovely shadows in your photography, regardless of what your subject is. Your dark side (and your photos) will thank you!


Just dying to see more of Anne?  Here is one set of photos of hers that I love in particular.  But really, you can't go wrong checking out her entire website!!!!!!

Thank you so much Anne!  You're the best!

More posts in the "Tips for Improving Your Photography" Series:

Getting Your Kids in the Picture: The Subtle Differences Between Bribes, Threats, and Good Natured Cajoling by me, but guest posted on Megan Love's blog which is having technical difficulties and I will either repost here or link here soon!

Shared or to be shared on:

Texas Women Bloggers

Weekend Bloggy Reading


Unknown said...

Oh my goodness, those pictures are so beautiful. I love your windows by the way. These tips are truly helpful, I love the idea about white towel/sheet. I never thought of that, but it made such a beautiful picture with your flower. Amazing! Thank you!

Ali said...

What a fantastic post. I really struggle when taking photos inside, so I will be bookmarking your page.
Your photography's are beautiful.
Ali xx

Unknown said...

What a great tip! I was just trying to grab some photos of pickles and after I read your post I went and re-done them and they look so much better!

Jill said...

Elizabeth, Ali, and Tracy - Isn't Anne the BEST! I seriously learned SO very much of what I know about photography from her!

Jaelan @ Making Mrs. M said...

How fun! These are awesome tips! I never would have thought to use a towel or sheet. Great photography!

Bethany said...

Amazing photos! Pinned it for reference later. Thank you for sharing these tips! Heading over to Anne's website now!

Jill said...

Thank you Jaelan and Bethany (on Anne's behalf) isn't she great?!? You're going to love her site Bethany!

Bobbi @ 3GLOL said...

I still struggle with taking the pics with the "window"...maybe I wasn't using the right angle. Will give this a try for sure.

Thanks for sharing!
Pinning it!

Unknown said...

Thank you all for your kind comments!! I'm so glad my information was helpful to you. And thank you, Jill, for giving me this opportunity!

Unknown said...

These are so cool! I'm definitely going to be taking advantage of these tips.

Alvina Castro said...

I dont even know where to start! Thank you for these awesome photography tips! I Love the way the photos came out and shined light on her, though my favorite photos are those of the flowers. they are gorgeous!

Bethany Rosselit said...

What wonderful tips! And gorgeous pictures. I look forward to trying them. :-)

Bethany @ Journey to Ithaca

Lynn Fern said...

This is a fantastic post! Thank you for sharing these tips!!

The Kitchen Wife said...

Awesome! Thanks for this post! I'm always looking for ways to improve my photography!

Zakkiya Hamza said...

This is such a resourceful post. I've been trying to improve my photography and this is so helpful. Pinning this so that I can try this out as soon as I get back from my vacation. Thank you for sharing :)

PneumaticAddict said...

I really struggle with indoor lighting. Thanks for the tips!

Jill said...

I'm so glad this is helpful Bobbi, Brenda, Alvina, Bethany, Lynn, Mandee, Zakkiya, and Elisha!!!! Anne is such a wonderful photographer and I feel so lucky that she wrote this to share with everyone!

Karen said...

This is truly amazing! I had nearly given up on indoor shots, but your tutorial has me eager to give it another try. Your photos are fabulous! Thank you for sharing at Wake Up Wednesday!

Caitlin said...

Stopping by from the Pin It Thursday link-up // This information is so helpful! I always struggle to find the right WWL, so your tips were very helpful :)

Shanice Bannis said...

Great tips! Thank you for sharing this post at City of Creative Dream's City of Links last Friday! I appreciate you taking the time to party with me. Hope to see you again this week :)

Jill said...

Isn't Anne amazing Karen, Caitlin and Shanice?!?!

Notes from Maggie's Farm said...

Thank you for your generous tips.

Tracy said...

Your photography is stunning!!!
I wish one day to be a 1/4 good as you are.
Love your tips that you are sharing :)

Anonymous said...

I so love this series! I want to go home a practice right now! Thanks for linking up in the Bloggers Brags PInterest Party! I'm pinning this to our group board as well as my personal board. :-)


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