Hello everyone! It’s time for another Photography Guide post with 12 tips to make your photos bright and sharp, but first how are you? Did you have a nice weekend?
The question I get asked the most is “how do you make your photos so bright?”. The thing is – I love light! My aim is to make each photo as clean and ‘white’ as possible. Even though there is no one secret, I believe, a few important factors make a difference. I don’t consider myself a professional photographer but looking at the last few years, I think I have grown tremendously in comparison to my (very poor!) beginnings, so I want to share my experience with you, hoping you will find it useful.
I will take your through my photoshooting checklist and try to explain the process behind it. No rocket science or advanced equipment I promise! If I can do it, it means you can too. If you haven’t read previous parts of this series – you can see my photo equipment, interior and prop styling + 7 step-rule here.
Now let’s take some bright photos, shall we?
1. Natural light
You probably heared it many times because every post about photography starts with this statement – but paying more attention to light, really is the most important step you can take to improve your skills! When shooting interiors I always take advantage of sunlight, and never use flash to get possibly the most natural-looking results. It’s my very simple way of approaching photography, but it works!
2. Time of the day
Depending on the time of the day, different types of natural light can produce a wide variety of results. In the mornings light tends to be brigther and ‘whiter’ then during the golden hour when it’s very warm. Even though we are focusing on the indoor shooting, the light enters through the windows so it is important to consider time of the day when creating mood in the photos. I take most of my photos in the mornings. (See my tips on creating a mood in the pictures here)
3. Use light source to your adventage
I believe that understanding how to play with light and shadow is a key. My ideal scenario for photographing interiors is to have plenty of natural light entering though many (big!) windows, but in reality it’s not always possible. Before shooting, study the light source and try to get the most out of it (open the windows, open the doors, consider best lit angles). When photographing styled props, flat lays, DIY projects etc – set your photo ‘station’ (table/ backdrop) near the window.
4. Diffiuse light
In order to avoid harsh shadows and contrast, try placing a light diffusor, inbetween the light source (window) and your photographed objects (DIY supplies, flat lays). If you don’t have a professional diffiusor, try light curtains or… white baking paper!
5. Reflect light
Place the light reflector on the other side of the photographed objects to reflect the diffused light and get equal lighting. Basically your objects should be between the light diffiusor and light reflector (light -> diffusor -> objects <- reflector) This is particulary useful when photographing products and DIY projects. If you don’t have a light reflector you can easily make one at home – from alluminium foil. Turns out kitchen products are very handy!
6. ISO settings
The ISO settings should depend on the amount of light avilable. The less light we have, the higher the ISO (think, high ISO on a rainy Autumn afternoon!).
When shooting interiors and details, I typically set ISO to:
- 200 on a very sunny and bright days
- 400 on cloudy days
- go up to 800 on a very dark days.
The problem is that increasing ISO, increases also the noise in the photos, making them look more ‘grainy’ so sometimes it is better to wait for a bright and sunny day to shoot.
7. Exposure compensation
In other words it’s a feature on almost all cameras that allows you to make a picture lighter (+) or darker (-) than the recommended exposure. Find a button on your camera, with a “+/-” icon. That’s the magic option and a life saver when shooting low-light or high-contrast interior scenes. I almost always set it +0.3-0.7, but try to play with your camera and space, to see what works best.
8. Aperture f-stop
The aperture controls how much light will enter the camera, so it is another very important element to create bright images.
The lower the f-stop (f 1.4 – f 2.8) – the brighter the image + shallow depth of field, which works perfectly for details and close ups.
In case of photographing interiors (for example home tours) we want to have full depth of field (sharp view of the room), hence our f-stop has to be set at higher number (f14 – f22) – how can we make an image bright in this case? With shutter speed!
9. Shutter speed
The shutter speed controls for how long the light will enter in the camera. If you are taking a photos on a dark day, use a slower shutter speed to allow the camera to gather more light. The longer the time – the brighter the image which is a crucial point when shooting interiors with a high f-stop (f14 – f22). But, ah there is always a but! Shutter speed also controls the blur in the image so in order to make an image sharp and crisp…we need a tripod, otherwise they won’t be sharp.
Tripod is my best friend, honestly don’t know what I would do without it! I use it for photographing…pretty much everything – interiors, close ups, DIYs, details! It is what makes the bright and sharp photos possible, so if you haven’t got one yet, it’s one of those investments that you will never regret (see mine here)
Don’t worry about the lenses if you are a newbie, practise with what you have and focus on understanding the basics. Once you are comfortable with your equipment, consider buying ‘brighter’ lenses – there are few options which create absolutely stunning results! (see my lenses here)
The final touch is often what makes the image really pop. Since it’s a long point to discuss, I will be back with a new post next week – sharing my editing techniques and tips!
Now I would like to ask what do you think?
I know what you are thinking – how on Earth one person can control all these things? I get it, it’s confusing but the more you practise the easier it gets and one day…you start setting it all automatically without even thinking. Just like driving a car – remember the first hours behind the wheel getting crazy about the gear? It’s the same! You need some time to get comfortable with your style and camera to ‘drive’ on the autopilot.
View all the Photography Guide posts here. Have a great day!