Inspired by a comment I received on my Facebook page I have decided to do a post every month answering a question that relates to the Home Life Photography Project. This month we are tackling a very seasonal problem, how do you take good photos indoors?

how to take good photos indoors

Know where the natural light is in your house

Getting to know your own house will serve you well not just for this project but every time you need to photograph anything. We actually have a bit of white mounting board permanently in our bedroom because I know that every time I need to take a picture of something static (things I’m selling on eBay, food photography) the best place to do it is by the balcony doors in our bedroom. I am not suggesting that you try and contrive your family activities around the spots in your house that have good light, but if you know where those spots are, you will find you are more likely to grab the camera when you see or hear activity in those places.

At this time of year when hours of daylight are limited and light levels can be minimal, you have to cut yourself a little bit of slack. In my house the light levels are best in this room which has a floor to ceiling southerly window and a large westerly window…

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And also in our bedroom which is directly above this room and receives the same southerly light through a pair of double doors. It’s where my sister took all the great photos of Alice’s birth. But there is another place in our house that is less obvious. Our north facing bathroom which is almost completely decorated in white. White surfaces act as a giant reflector and ensure what light there is is amplified.

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We have some rooms with not so good light too. Our kitchen doesn’t get much natural light and the halogen spots in the ceiling cast very unflattering shadows. Alice’s easterly bedroom also has less light than some of the other rooms. If you don’t have large windows there is still one big source of natural light that every house has… the front door!

I know it’s a bit chilly at this time of year, but you will probably open it a few times during the day when you are shooting so take advantage of those moments. Emily Beale has taken some brilliant photos of her son both inside and outside her house using the natural light that is quite literally on her doorstep….

Photo Courtesy Of Emily Beale Photography

Photo Courtesy Of Emily Beale Photography

Know when the light is

At this time of year natural light is at it’s best from about 8:30am – 4pm. Again I’m not telling you to contrive to do everything around those times, just to be aware that that is the best window of time to capture the bulk of your photos. Bookending your series with pictures taken in low light will add atmosphere, but if they are all sludgy brown colour it doesn’t look great.

Turn off artificial light if you don’t need it

A mixture of natural and artificial light can muck up your white balance and make it very hard to get the colours in your photo correct. So if you don’t need artificial lights turn them off, even if they aren’t in the same room as you. Last week I was taking photos of Theo on our bed next to those big glass doors that I mentioned earlier. In the first few photos I accidentally left the bathroom light on and the artificial light bled through into the bedroom. Once I switched it off I was able to get the lovely natural light in its purest form

unnaturallightdemo

Take control of your camera

When I was learning to use my SLR I used to hate it when tutorials said “switch to manual” – it would terrify me, but it’s easier than it may seem, so do keep reading!

Firstly let’s look at the three components in what is commonly called the exposure triangle.

Aperture – This is also known as your “F Stop” most zoom lenses won’t open up any further than F/3.5 which is why you will often hear people recommending fast or prime lenses which trade the ability to zoom for a wider aperture range. These lenses will open up as wide as F/1.4 or F/1.8 and let a lot more light in. If you are wondering how wide you can safely open the aperture when photographing people to ensure everyone is in focus, try this general rule of thumb, the first number of the F stop should match the number of people in the shot. One person? F/1.4 or F/1/8 is fine…

Shutter speed – This is how long the camera keeps the shutter open to capture the exposure. Too long and you may get a blurry subject or camera shake. The rule of thumb on this one is that in order to avoid camera shake the slowest shutter speed you should use is the one that matches your focal length. So for a 50mm lens that would be 1/50.

ISO – ISO measures your cameras sensitivity to light and as it increases you get grain in your photos. Too much is not a good thing, but here that line is varies hugely depending on your camera model. So here is a very rough guide to the safest maximum ISO to use, pick the ISO number that matches the RRP (not what you actually paid) of your camera.

And finally there is one more thing you can do to let in more light which is use your exposure compensation. This setting will allow you to over expose your photos by up to an additional 3 or 5 stops. Find it on your camera and use it!

how to take good photos indoors

Now EXPERIMENT start at the beginning of your Home Life Project day as it starts to get light (say 8am) Switch to manual and try the maximum settings on your camera that I have guided you through above. For now ignore the aperture/number of people rule and just pick the smallest number your lens will do. So… Aperture – smallest number (probably f/3.5 on a zoom, or f/1.8 on a prime) Shutter speed – To match your focal length (35mm lens? 1/30 shutter speed) ISO – Number which approximately matches the RRP of your camera Take a photo… of anything!

Is it too dark? Find the exposure compensation and turn the dial… +0.3? +0.7? +1.0? Keep going and watch the image get lighter.

Embrace the available darkness

We focus a lot on how to make our pictures light and bright, but dark and moody pictures can be very atmospheric. I recently took a series of photos using only the light produced by an iPad.This style of photography is known as “low key” and it can produce some really interesting images.

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You can also find lots of inspiring low key photography ideas on Instagram. I would try searching for either #lowkeyphotography or #light_inspired. While you are on Instagram, don’t forget to follow me and to use the hashtag #homelifeproject if sharing any of this weekend’s photos.

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DON’T FORGET!!

Home Life Project for February is this weekend. The link up opens on Monday morning at 7am.

homelifeproject

Questions? Read all about it here.

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  • February 5, 2016 - 8:55 am

    jan - isisjem - I told my other half about your pictures using only the light from the ipad and also about the link you put in your blog post. The result was he decided he needed to try this – on my birthday, in the hotel after we’d eaten dinner. You can see the bags under my eyes getting larger through the pictures as it approached the wee small hours and he was still playing with the technique!

    Oh and you’re so right about halogen lights. My entire down stairs has low ceilings and recessed spots. Perfect for getting really ugly shadows over faces! :-/ReplyCancel

  • February 5, 2016 - 9:52 am

    Donna - Great tips lovely! Hubby thinks I’m mental when I turn all the lights off at about 4pm and change camera settings to just use the last of the natural light but it makes such a difference xReplyCancel

  • February 5, 2016 - 11:35 am

    Stephanie - Thank you so much for putting up these tips, it as me on Facebook who said I struggle taking indoor photos. I love your window picture, I really struggle if there’s a window behind. I’m off to play with the manual mode on the camera….lets see what I can get!ReplyCancel

  • February 5, 2016 - 1:53 pm

    Pamela | Life With Munchers - Great tips! We’re having such an awfully dark winter. I can wait for the lighter days to come back. I’m so keen to give low key a go xReplyCancel

First of all I must say that I have loved the last month of joining in with The Year In Books. It gave me such a good motivation to get my teeth into a brilliant, but actually quite lengthy novel and I suspect that if I hadn’t had a deadline of the end of January to read it by I might never have got off the starting blocks with it (which is no comment on the book, but a very big comment on how slack I have got at reading!)

yearinbooks_jan

All The Light We Cannot See is set in the years running up to and during the Second World War. It follows the parallel lives of two young people. Werner a German orphan and Marie-Laure a blind French girl. The outbreak of war drastically alters the routes their lives are to take and we follow them as fate brings them closer and closer together.

I don’t want to give away too much about the plot, but I found it a brilliant and very rewarding read. The relationship between Marie Laure and her father is particularly touching. He does everything he can to protect her from the horrors of the war and his bravery in the letters he writes in the second half of the book is particularly touching.

A few people have commented that the plot fizzles out a bit at the end and I think this is partly because the author has resisted giving it a Hollywood ending. It’ll be very interesting to see if that part of the story gets altered in any way when it does eventually get made into a film, as I’m sure it inevitably will be.

If you choose to read the book I would thoroughly recommend reading this discussion on Good Reads about the ending after you finish it. I found it really enhanced my appreciation of the way the author tied the story up and made me think about aspects of the plot in a very different way.

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This month I’m reading a book Jim gave me for Christmas, Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper. It’s set on the Canadian prairies, not too far from where we used to live, so I’m enjoying the descriptions of the landscape and the mentions of towns we knew.

If you are looking for novels to read this year, it’s really worth hopping over to Instagram and searching for #theyearinbooks for a quick dip into what everyone else is reading.

  • February 3, 2016 - 11:44 am

    Donna - I love hearing other people’s book recommendations. I’m trying to read more this year and am writing a list of all the books I read to keep track but usually run out of inspiration so love posts like this xReplyCancel

  • February 3, 2016 - 9:34 pm

    barbara woods - i am half way through with this bookReplyCancel

A wet and overcast weekend is never much fun for taking photos, but on the plus side it does at least mean Theo is wearing something other than a winter coat in this week’s portrait!

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This photo was taken in our sitting room yesterday. Alice is sitting in her chair on his left and just before I took this picture he’d been earnestly chatting to her. Three months in and big brotherhood has lost none of its novelty, in fact on Saturday night we finally caved in to his wish to sleep in her room. I was ready for him to have a change of heart at the last minute, so we moved our trundle bed into her room so we were prepared for either sleeping arrangement, but he couldn’t wait!

We read a story in his bedroom and then quietly crept into Alice’s room in the dark to tuck him into bed. He was actually squealing with excitement as he snuggled down in the bed next to her cot and there were no disturbances from either of them.

Alice’s arrival has coincided with the period of infrequent nightmares that all kids of Theo’s age tend to go through and having his little sister with him at night clearly makes him feel much more secure. We are letting him stay in her room on a continuing basis and if it’s still working in a couple of weeks we might bring his proper bed in and make his old bedroom more of a playroom. He already has big plans about how he wants to rearrange all the furniture if we make it that far!

Living Arrows

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  • February 1, 2016 - 9:05 am

    Pamela | Life With Munchers - How cute is that bond?! That’s the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard. xReplyCancel

  • February 3, 2016 - 9:18 pm

    Emma T - Gorgeous photo of Theo. Love the new hair cut too.

    Let’s hope his nightmares are solved by the sleeping arrangement. So sweet that he gets to sleep in with Alice.ReplyCancel

  • February 5, 2016 - 9:41 pm

    Kerri-Ann - Aww this really made me smile. Such the sweetest bond. I just want to give him a cuddle. Such a gorgeous looking little boy #livingarrows xReplyCancel

Hurray for three months! This is where the fun starts and the slightly breakable looking sleepy newborn is replaced by a sturdy interactive baby. Alice is totally living up to the sturdy part of this vision. She’s now 13 lbs and has already managed to rollover twice in the night (and get cross about it too) and can hold her head up and support her weight on her legs. I don’t remember Theo doing the weight-bearing thing at all, so she’s cornered this milestone all for herself.

alice at 3 months

All her growth seems to have gone into length and she’s gone from being around the 50th percentile at birth to the 98th this week. I’m trying to squeeze the last few wears out of her 3-6 month babygrows before we move up a size. I ordered some clothes for her this week in larger sizes and it was total guesswork trying to work out which season it would be by the time she was in 12-18 month clothes. Summer, I hope!

Last week we had her first physio appointment for her Talipes. We’ve been told to continue with exercising her feet at every nappy change and to come back for a check up in another 3 months. If exercises don’t fix it, there are a couple of options including putting her feet and legs in plaster for a few days (eek!) or built up shoes when she starts to walk… but let’s hope we don’t get that far!

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In the last month Alice’s personality has really started to emerge. She is smiling a lot and has great bursts of giggling. She enjoys mimicking sounds and seems to be desperate to talk and get her words across. Theo is convinced she already says recognisable words to him!

She continues to be a good sleeper, but for the last month we’ve been employing the magical powers of a Whisbear which we were given to review. The Whisbear is a cuddly white noise generator with long legs who perches on the sides of a cot. We used a white noise app in the early days with Alice, but of course this tied up an iPad and we also needed to ensure it was regularly charged. The Whisbear is a much more sensible use of resources and switching it on has become a regular part of our bedtime routine. Though Alice was sleeping well already, I have found that the Whisbear definitely gets her to sleep much quicker, within a couple of minutes usually, so we will definitely be using it for the longterm.

whisbear

During the day she spends longer and longer periods happily sitting in a chair watching what is going on, but is unequivocal about her desire to spend most of the rest of the time over someone’s shoulder, usually having a cat nap.

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  • January 29, 2016 - 9:50 am

    Maria (one tiny leap) - She’s absolutely adorable Claire! xReplyCancel

  • January 29, 2016 - 10:54 pm

    Karen - Oh my goodness how adorable is she? I think the parcel of pink I have for you needs looking at again as she has grown so much. Might need to switch it around a bit. Totally beautiful xxReplyCancel

  • January 31, 2016 - 12:57 pm

    Pamela | Life With Munchers - Oh C, she’s delicious! Look at those eyes! MM hasn’t done half of that and weighs the same at just over 4 mths. We love the whisbear here too. XReplyCancel

Last month Joules invited us to try out some of their lovely colourful Homeware. I’m already a big fan of Joules and actually bought most of my family’s Christmas presents from their clothes store, so giving their homeware the once over was right up our street. We selected one of their great pet duvets which are not only comfortable, but also look good (kind of important when you have to look at them I think) and unlike our previous dog bed are made of a fabric which doesn’t clog up with hair. We also chose a magnetic notepad and one of their Lobby lobster cushions.

This season the colour palette for Joules homeware is pink, turquoise and navy blue and it lends itself really well to some of the nautical themed items they sell like their lovely lighthouse cushion and lobster mug. You can still find their trademark florals appearing in the range too where they feature as the design on one of the three cake tins.

Here’s my pick of the new range which you can find over on the Joules website.

jouleshomeware

1 – CAKEADOODLE Set of 3 Cake Tins £29.95 / 2 – SHORELY Four pack Coastal Mugs £36.95 /
3 – LIGHTBURY Lighthouse Cushion £24.95
/ 4 – MARYLEBONE Throw £49.95 /
5 – PERENNIAL Set of 6 Pencils £6.95 / 6 – THEA Two pack Tea Towels £12.95

Are you a Joules fan and if so have you got any favourites from the new homeware range which you are eyeing up?