As I try to get more into the habit of blogging, I decided I should delve into some topics with practical applications, in addition to showcasing individual sessions. Today's topic is a good one for lifestyle & natural light photographers, as well as families looking to snap a quick photo, and it revolves around one question: what do I do in the case of inclement weather, when I don't have a studio to shoot in?

Thankfully, with some creativity, many options in our own home exist for this exact situation, and in most cases, all it takes is a little temporary interior redecorating!

Since I'm obviously a visual person, let me start with some photos:

In the summer, we have no shortage of beautiful landscapes, and the sun is out much later. But, what about when outside isn't an option? What about when:

  • you have a time-sensitive session planned and the weather won't cooperate?
  • a newborn is involved?
  • it's 20 degrees outside?
  • schedules won't allow for evening shoots?
  • you want a quick family snap without having to hire someone for a full hour?
  • your client simply requests an indoor shoot?

In these cases (and more), a blank wall is your best friend. Check out what this room looks like outside of this photo:

Is your mind blown a little bit? It's crazy to think about. This wall looks nothing like the final photo, but it follows all the rules of using a space for indoor photography, which I list below, and that makes it SUPER easy to edit (even if you're using a phone!) There is a doorwall to the right from where I'm standing when I took this photo, which is the primary source of light. I'll explain this (and the rules) another time, but first, another example!

See this wall to the left in the photo? I used that as my primary backdrop for a family photo before we moved from our home this summer. I opened the doorwall for a little more light (it was about 11 am at this time), and voila:

Look at his little dog smile. I can't.

Yes, admittedly, this was much easier because we were moving. However, we've moved the couch on this wall before to do this exact thing, and you can see it in a previous blog post entitled "Madeline".

So, as I said before, there are three elements that make this setup successful, and they are:

  1. a blank, neutral wall.
  2. a window 90 or 180 degrees from the wall.
  3. a time of day where indirect light is in the room.

What do I mean by each of these things? Well, neutral walls work best because strong colors are going to create color casts on the skin. While not a requirement, it's going to be a lot easier for you to figure out white balance on a gray or beige wall than it will be if you're shooting on lime green!

The wall you're using being situated directly across from you will cast a nice, even light on your subject and avoid unflattering or harsh shadows. A window at 90 degrees to the wall will be fine if there's enough ambient light in the room (or another window opposite it!) but if there is only one window, shadows on the opposite side of the face could be harsh. Move your subject closer and farther away from the window until you get light that works!

*if I have a window at 90 degrees and it's still not enough light, I'll raise my ISO and either bounce my flash off the ceiling OR point it directly at the window - it mimics stronger window light and has saved me more than once!*

Indirect light refers to when you walk into your room and it's bright and light, but you can't see hot spots from the window on the floor (the sun isn't shining directly in the window). A great time of day for this is usually midday - I schedule my in-home sessions from 10 am to 1 pm-ish for this exact reason! A good thing to do is also to watch the light in the room you plan on using throughout the day, and use that to guide your timing.

Now that you get it, look at a photo from the original session again:

Crazy, right? All it takes is some creative thinking! As you can see from before, this wasn't even a full wall - all it takes is a little space (and clients who are willing to move some furniture around! Thanks, guys!)

The results will obviously be better if you have editing software and know the basics of how to use it, but this will even work for iPhone shots! If you have a DSLR or mirrorless camera with WiFi capability, check the app store on your phone - I use Canon Connect, which allows me to use my phone to set and shoot my camera in real time. If you have a phone, use the Lightroom app from Adobe. Lots of great tools (once you play with them) to help your personal photos look fab.