Getting to grips with how to Shoot Perfect Pictures using natural light and flashguns
In today’s post I want to share with you some ideas about how to create some simple lighting setups for perfect indoor photographic pictures. Now assuming you are just getting started laying out loads of money on studio setups may not be possible at this stage. I do understand that and I was actually the same in the beginning. However to keep this wonderful hobby fun you have to
try things – be adventurous and experiment with different things. My intention today is to give you some tips on how to create the right environment with some simple setups moving more into using Flash Guns and then Studio Lights.
Using Natural Light Sources
When I first started with indoor photography I was obsessed with Natural Light pictures as I felt the definition created was quite beautiful and the images were completely un-contrived. However due to the demand for that almost perfect image in the professional world the use of artificial lighting was called for. While we are on the subject of natural light – obviously outdoors is the best scenario for this – but due to the fact it’s starting to get really cold outdoors shooting pictures for any length of time becomes difficult especially when the mechanics of your camera no longer want to play ball, making use of natural light indoors can create some beautiful effects especially if you can take your photographs in a natural setting.
Here we simply used the light from the window behind the Bride because the window was facing West and as the shoot was done in the morning we weren’t fighting with the Sun popping in and out (very difficult to achieve and even light when it does that). In this particular picture we used a lower powered camera flash to add a little more light to her face to address the eyes and skin definition.
In the same vein in a gym shoot we did recently we found using natural light from a window and a diffused flash from the side also gave quite an edgy picture. To be quite honest whilst we knew the sort of image we wanted to create here it took a while to find the right position of the flash before we felt we had that ‘magic’ shot.
As I have suggested before this is not a perfect science you must play with settings both in your makeshift studio and with your camera settings and lighting setups.
Indoor Photography using Flash Guns
Not long after I got started I opted to purchase some Camera Flash Guns due to the nature of the work I was trying to get and the images I wanted to create. I had a lot of fun with these flash guns because they were so versatile being easy to position and setup and control. I had one set to ‘Slave’ and it was triggered by the other one which was on my camera. I remember doing an editorial shoot with a model where I was trying to create a rather different look so placed the ‘Slave’ behind the model’s head giving her a really cool back-lit picture.
I probably got a bit carried away with the idea but I simply thought it was such a great effect and a stark contrast to shoot like this than in a conventional way.
I have illustrated what I mean below with a before and after style example
Below is a diagram of my setup.
Obviously this is just one example of using flash guns and there are multiple ways to create some beautiful images.
Below I have included a picture below of the types of flash gun I would use in this type of setup.My advice is to operate in a fairly small area as they don’t have the power to light huge areas but that being said if you are trying to create some mood you could try a really basic technique that I used to use. This will probably lower your opinion of me as a Professional Photographer but I have been known to sellotape bits of cardboard to my flash guns to create a more focused beam of light – check out my example below.
Studio Lighting Setups for Indoor Photography
Having the use of studio lighting does increase your ability to have control over your pictures. With Studio lights quite often you will have a Modelling Light setting which allows you to monitor what the image will look like before you have taken it. With the flash gun setups this is not so easy without shooting off a few practice shots to gauge what your finished picture will look like.
Some Pros and Cons of Studio Lights
Studio Lights – The Pros
- As we have said before there is no time of day restriction – you control the light. Unlike the sun you have total control of power and direction of your lights.
- There are lots of options to change the types of light you can create – more directional or more spread. Drop a filter in front and you can even change the colour. If the light is Too hard? Add a diffuser. Or if it’s Too Spread add a grid. Not enough even light around your subject? Add a soft-box. With every change in the size, shape or material of your diffusers, you get a whole new look.
- Adds a look of professionalism to your setup. People are quite often impressed by a Professional looking studio lighting setup and assume you know what you are doing with your gear.
- You have complete control over how intense your light is, the direction it is coming from, and the shape of the light.
Studio Lights – The Cons
- Cost is an issue – to have a decent setup does not come cheap. Like any hobby you will need to start small but the addiction to the hobby drives you to want more power and more gadgets to control your lighting setups.
- Power supply can be an issue – Obviously if you are indoors this shouldn’t be too much of a problem. However If you are outdoors you will need battery packs or a generator to keep your gear going. This can be expensive – my choice here would be to use Flashguns as mentioned earlier cheaper to run and setup.
- Obviously they are more prone to breaking – typically they can be a little top heavy and you only need to trip on the power cable or bump into it (easily done when you’re staring through a viewfinder). Obviously the more technologically advanced you get the more likely you are to have a failure at some point. Repair bills can be costly and inconvenient. And it’s expensive to have backup lights.
- Whilst they are better once setup they can take a while to get right in terms of power etc
As with all my conclusions this is not a perfect Art. It is something you must explore, play and have fun with. It is simple to setup a basic studio even with spot lights from your home and an old white sheet ! Utilising some of your camera features like wider aperture settings to fade out creased backdrops etc are just a few tricks you can use. Depending on the level you want to get to will depend on what you need. I wish you every success in your photographic journey and as always I welcome your comments or if you would like to include your own review here drop me a comment below and I can feature you.