I love natural light. I think it makes photos look much better than artificial light.
Maybe I just don’t know how to make artificial light look good. Definitely a possibility.
But sometimes it is hard to get the right light for your photos inside your house.
There are so many variables to lighting in your house:
- how many windows do you have?
- what direction are your windows facing?
- do you have a covered porch that blocks light?
- what time of the year is it?
- do you have a sliding glass door?
- what kind of window coverings do you use?
So how do you get the best light possible for your photos? That’s what we are going to talk about today.
How do you find the light in your house?
The best way to find the light in your house is to take pictures at different times of the day and see which one is best.
Here is what I did to get the photos below:
- Find atleast one window on each side of your house (unless you live in an apartment or attached housing).
- Take the same object and put it in front of each window at different times of day. (I did 9 am, 12 pm and 3 pm.)
- I suggest you put everything on a tray so you can easily carry it around.
- Write down the time and location on a sticky note for each picture.
- Choose something to photograph with bright colors so that you can see the change in light easier.
- If your window has blinds or curtains, pull them back to get the most light available.
- Take a picture with the same settings of the same object at the same angle at the different times of the day.
- Evaluate the pictures when you are done to see which window has the best light at each time.
- Use this information to shoot indoor photos to get the best results.
Finding the Light In My House
For this test, I chose to photograph a white mug and brightly colored seed catalogs. I put them on the tray so they wouldn’t move as easily and pre-wrote my sticky notes so I could keep track of the times and locations easier.
I am using my iPhone for these pictures, so it is in auto. You can get an even more accurate assessment if you use your dSLR on manual mode and keep the settings the same for all pictures.
Living Room (north side of house)
This is a pull back of the living room. As you can see the room has a lot of windows, which makes it a pretty safe bet all day long. This photo looks dark because the phone camera is under exposing so you can see out the window at the snow.
Because there are so many windows in this room ( there are more on the right of the photo as well ), the light is pretty even most of the day. Therefore, I would use this light anytime I need to take a photo.
Sliding Glass Door (east side of house)
You can see in this pull back that the sliding glass door lets in quite a bit of light.
Since this door faces the east, it gets harsh light in the mornings. Not the best for photos unless it is cloudy. You can see the shadows in this photo.
Noon seems to be the best time for this window because there is still light but it isn’t as harsh and direct.
Kids’ Room (south side of house)
I know shooting in a kids room (especially a messy one that includes 3 boys) isn’t the ideal situation, but honestly this room gets the best light of all the rooms. First, it faces south. Second, it doesn’t have the covered porch over it that all the others do.
Obviously, if I were really taking a picture I wouldn’t have the kids clothes there on the bed. I would probably put a table up by the window and hide all the yucky stuff.
The best time to shoot in this room is in the morning. There is lots of light, which really makes the colors pop.
The light is really bright here. You can tell by the shadows and blown out spots.
In the afternoon, it is really bright too.
I dream of turning the kids room into my office when they move out of the house. It has great light and I could always get a light filtering curtain if I needed it to soften the light. Someday. . .
Office (west side of house)
The office gets the least amount of light of all the windows. It is east facing and is tucked in behind the garage, so most of the light is blocked.
If I needed to use this window, afternoon would be the best time since it faces west. But I don’t use it often.
Tips for finding the best light for your photos
- Use the information from the test above to get the best window for light for your photos.
- The best light might not be in the room you think it “should” be. In other words, if the best light is in your bathroom, take your photos in there. No one will know the difference in the end.
- Be aware of covered porches or other things that might dim the light coming into your windows.
- Light changes according to seasons, so you might want to try the experiment different times of year. (It is winter right now, but if I did this in the summer I would add a 7 pm time).
- Use a reflector or white foam board to bounce light back into your pictures for brighter photos.
- If the light is too bright, use a light filtering shade to even it out behind your subject.
- When you are using natural light, turn off the other lights in the room so that you don’t have weird color casts.
Using the natural light you have available in your house is the best way to take better indoor photos. I hope this exercise will help you see light in rooms you never thought to photograph in before.
For the best assessment of the light in your house, you should do this exercise once a season. This helps you see how the light changes and what times are best all year round. It doesn’t take much time and this knowledge can really help you improve your photography.
What are the best windows for natural light in your home? Let us know in the comments below. And if you found this post helpful, please share. Thanks!