Natural light photography is beautiful, and let’s face it, in many respects it’s a lot easier than trying to master a speedlight!
But do you ever struggle to find beautiful light indoors to take your portraits?
Maybe you have good light, but it’s not in the best location… ie. clutter free. Or maybe you have it in abundance… just not on a dreary weather day (my house is a tomb on those days!).
If you’re facing this frustrating dilemma, one place you can nearly always find great light is at your own front door!
With just a handful of tips and tricks to make the most of it, you’ll be able to take beautiful portraits in this easy (and surprising!) location…
Doorway light is beautifully soft. It can also be directional depending on how you place your subject in relation to the light.
Related: Garage Light
When I took this photo, it was a really overcast day, and dull and grey inside. So I opened up the doorway and sat my daughter right in that beautiful light.
Behind her was a very busy hall table and lots of clutter (arghh!), so I asked my husband to hold up a piece of fabric to cover it.
As there was loads of natural light I was able to expose easily for a great shot!
Gear: Canon 85mm f/1.8 lens
Settings: Shutter speed 1/200; Aperture f/2.8; ISO 400
Backdrop: “Floral sheeting” purchased from online party store
In trying to avoid clutter, you can use anything as a backdrop.
Related: DIY Photography Backdrops
Gear: Canon 50mm f/1.2 lens
Settings: Shutter speed 1/320; Aperture f/2.5; ISO 400
Backdrop: Textured quilt cover
If it’s dark enough inside, that may be enough to disguise any clutter beyond the beautiful light in the doorway, combined with a shallow aperture.
Another way to blur your background is to put as much distance as possible between subject and background.
Related: Clear the Clutter
Gear: Canon 50mm f/1.2
Settings: Shutter speed 1/320; Aperture f/2; ISO 320
Backdrop: None! The wide aperture of f/2 and distance between subject and background helps blur it into insignificance.
When you’re shooting little ones, get down nice and low. In the images below I was literally lying half in/half out of the doorway. Anything for the shot right?!
Shooting from this position brings me to their eye level, which makes it easier to engage them, and in turn capture those lovely natural expressions.
I also like to add a blanket or a rug, which makes it a little more comfortable for the kids. It also adds colour and texture to the photo, and you’d never know we were lying in the hallway!
Gear: Canon 85mm f/1.8
Settings: Shutter speed 1/320; Aperture f/3.2; ISO 400
Backdrop: Rear white wall with approx 1m/3ft of distance between subject and wall
Looking down is a fabulous way to photograph babies in doorways and ensure an uncluttered backdrop where your options for composition may be limited.
All of these photos were taken with my subjects facing the door light front on. For that reason, their faces are beautifully illuminated and the light wraps around them softly and evenly. It’s a very simple, natural light set up, and for that reason it’s great for beginners who are learning how to use natural light.
However, if you want a more dramatic look, you need to create some shadows.
Simply turn your subject 45 degrees away from the light, so it comes at them from an angle. Stay in the same position and ask them to look back at you. This will create gentle shadows on the side furthest from the light source, and bring depth and drama to your photos.
Expose for the lit side of their face, and experiment until you find a contrast between light and shade that is flattering as well as dramatic.
Related: Dramatic Natural Light Portraits
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