Shooting Indoor Light: A Creativity Exercise

Since it’s winter for most of us, except you luckies who live in really warm climates or enjoying summer weather, I wanted to talk a little about shooting indoor light, both natural and artificial.


So, indoor light. It may seem like there’s not much too it, but I want you to do something this week. I want you to notice how the natural light behaves in your home, or wherever you are indoors. What does it do in different rooms on overcast days and on sunny days. Is the light soft or hard. What color do you see in the light. How does it bend, reflect, or create pockets? If you notice a time of day and certain weather that creates a light condition you love, write it down. Experiment with it later.


I know it may be tough. I live in a 100 year old home, so there are lots of walls. No large open spaces. In fact there are lots of little alcoves and doors. The southern exposure of the house doesn’t have much living space, so the light that does seep in is small and soft. However there is really good light spill in the early morning and late afternoon as the sun reaches the eastern and western sides of the house. I know all this because I’ve studied the light in my house. But this exercise is a good reminder for me to study it again. Often I find pretty little pockets I missed before.



Write down your experiences with the light in your house. Then go somewhere else indoors. Find the light there. Go on a light scavenger hunt indoors. Find out where it is, the quality, the color and what it might do to a subject. Light varies so much indoors, so if you’re feeling like you’re stuck in a rut you can find so many opportunities to find and manipulate the light. Look for those streams of light you might find and use them. Use the soft light that plunges the rest of the house in shadow. 


After you’ve exhausted natural indoor light, move on to artificial light. What types of artificial indoor light do you find in your home worth shooting. Really think about what the artificial light is doing. Turn off some lights and turn on others. Create your own pockets of light. Use alternative light sources that we normally don’t think about.



I urge you to push yourself and create images that are representative of you but also extend beyond what you normally shoot. Experiment, practice and play. 


Choose one or more of the following assignments to push yourself creatively:


1) Capture an image indoors with soft light. Use large windows to do this or move your subject closer to the window. Don’t forget to diffuse the light if needed.


2) Capture an image with the subject in a pocket of light. Think more about shooting from the shadows here and finding a good stream of natural light.


3) Direct the light yourself. Use reflectors or white board to create more diffuse soft light. or cover up a window with a black poster board to make the light more directional. I do both for product photography depending on which look I’m after. Discover how you can manipulate natural light. It can go a long way to creating images you love. 


4) Use Rembrandt light. Create a portrait where dramatic light creates a small inverted triangle under the shadowed part of a person’s face. This is a moody and dramatic style of lighting that is best accomplished with a smaller window. Start with your subject closest to the window where the light will be softer and move them away from the window until you see the triangle appear. Use black poster board on a larger window if you are getting too much light.


5) Shoot using an unexpected alternative light source.


6) Use artificial light to create a pocket of light and shoot from the shadows.


7) And to push you creatively, make the light the subject. How can you create an image where the light is the subject?


This first week, I plan on concentrating on the first exercise. Capturing images using soft light through the windows. We can share our results using the tags #discoveringbreadcrumbs and #dbindoorlight.