Saturday, February 22, 2014

Behind the Blog: How I Get Bright Pictures Indoors

It's been a while since I've written a Behind the Blog post, but I haven't forgotten about them!  Life has been happening, that's all.

One question I get asked a lot is how I take such bright pictures indoors.  I'm actually NOT a good example of this for many, many, many reasons.  Overexposed pictures, breaking photography rules...stuff like that.  But I'm going to show you anyway, not for a tutorial type of thing that you should replicate--because you really shouldn't follow my example--but simply just for the sake of interest and curiosity.

Also, this is a HUGE, FAT warning that how I get the pictures I do is mostly a fluke.  Really.  I wanted to improve the quality of my pictures, so I asked my professional photographer friend to come over and give me some pointers.  I showed her what I did, knowing that I was breaking a lot of photography rules, and instead of being able to help me, I actually puzzled her.  She walked away wondering how on earth I get the pictures to look the way I do.

Here's the behind the scenes anyway, but don't judge me.  Especially anyone that knows anything about photography--you might cringe.  Cover your eyes and don't read on!

First of all, I use a Canon S95.  (You can find it a lot lot lot cheaper than that link shows.)  It's not a DSLR, but it's a point-and-shoot that allows you to have more control of settings than normal.  This might change soon, as we just ordered a new camera.  But, whatever.

The wall I take pictures against is next to a huge window.  Because I have a really flexible work schedule many days I can time picture taking when the sun is on this side of the house.  (I'll write about my blogging schedule another time.)

There's our little kitchen!

In addition to the window I turn on all the nearby lights and bring another lamp over.  I've read a few articles on soft versus hard light, so I don't point the lamp directly at myself.  Instead I try to bounce light off one of the walls to brighten up the overall space rather than focusing the light directly on me.  (This is probably the only thing I would advise you to take away from this whole post.  The rest is questionable.  :)  )

The lighting is still uneven since most of it is coming from my left side...but...eh, it's good enough.  And if you've ever wondered why I'm often turned to my right side in side shots, it's because the light from the window is usually too bright to face.

Camera Settings
This is the part that my photographer friend would rather me not do...

In a nutshell, I completely overexpose the shot in order to brighten it up.  Basically, in the area that's circled in yellow, that dial should be centered or pretty near centered.  Instead, I overexpose the shot, pushing the dial all the way to the right to get a brighter picture.  I know this is against some rules and it makes my pictures a little overexposed--which is what I wanted my photographer friend's help with in the first place.  BUT, she couldn't figure out how to get brighter shots than what I'm currently doing in some more rule-following ways, at least not in my house.  

We tried a few different things, like evening out the lighting so that she could do all the brightening in post-processing, changing camera settings, etc.  Whatever I'd been doing created the best results in terms of brightness.  In the end she was basically like, "Well, if this is working, then just keep doing what you're doing."

Above on the left is what my pictures would look like with less exposure, and I even bumped the dial higher than center--it was 3/4 of the way up.  On the right is more exposure, how I usually take my pics indoors.  There are problems with both pictures, but in the end I prefer brighter shots.

Really, that's pretty much it!  Standing next to a window, getting some good soft lighting and overexposing my shots.  :P

Catch the rest of the Behind the Blog series by clicking here.


  1. It was so funny to see where you have been taking all of your photos, in terms of what is nearby and what is acutally just outside of the shot. It made me laugh because I've been wondering how you always seem to have a space in your house where there is no mess, no pictures on the wall, neutral colours, no weird shadows, somewhere to put a camera that isn't too close, etc. Now the 'secret' is out. Great post, Audrey!

  2. Ditto what Sunday said. Thanks for the reveal, Audrey. It makes me feel a lot better about my current photo area. Perhaps I'll write about it sometime. And as for your techniques? Hey, at least you're using an actual camera. I'm still doing all my shots with my iPhone!

  3. Is someone taking the pictures or do you have a remote?

  4. I definitely have always wondered how you take your pictures. I really like how you always have a neutral background and plenty of light!

  5. Your pictures always look so good! Maybe I will have to start trying to take some pictures :)

  6. Hey, if it works, then why change it? I think the photos look great. :)

    It's tough to get good indoor photos without a good lens with a wide aperture or excellent lighting. I just googled the s95, and it has a max aperture of f2.0. That is actually pretty good for a point-and-shoot, but if you are using auto controls, the camera will probably make other adjustments (like ISO) before opening up the aperture. I would try changing your camera setting to aperture priority at f2.0 and see if you like the results. Note that it may be trickier to land the focus when you have the aperture wide open like that. But that is usually my most effective tip for indoor shooting.

  7. Thanks for the tip! I usually have it at f2.0.

  8. It's great to read about how you take photos indoors, even if it's not the "professional" way of doing it :)

    I always try and avoid indoor photos as much as possible as I'm just no good at it, haha!

    Away From Blue

  9. Thanks, Audrey. This is really useful!

    I'm switching more to indoor photos. We have a nice back yard for it, but over the holidays people moved in behind us with a pack of large dogs that incessantly bark at us whenever we set foot outside. It's pretty awkward for the whole neighborhood to be alerted to your photography. :-/

    I've always thought your photos looked super professional and polished. And that's a great tip about "bouncing" the light. :-)

  10. Haha! Yup, just our hallway wall. But...no mess is true for the rest of the house because we don't have kids and my husband is a cleaning freak. No pictures on most walls cuz we are lazy. (We have a TON of pics we'e been meaning to hang for 3 years...)

  11. I think it's amazing that you're getting the pictures you do with your iPhone!

  12. Aw, thank you! That's too bad about the barking dogs. I think the scenery for your pictures matches your style so well!

  13. I try to take outdoor shots when I can, but sometimes it's faster to snap the photos before I leave for work -- thus necessitating indoor photography. Sometimes they turn out blurry or overexposed, but it's still an interesting process to learn about. I find this post very useful.

    xx Abby

  14. I just figured it was beautiful California sun making your pictures so bright. I use a point and shoot, too, and I find sometimes forcing the flash gets me pictures I like. I also used to set up a lamp right next to or behind the camera. I've found that I prefer outdoor pictures just because the quality of photos is better, and the color is more accurate.

  15. I always wondered how you pull off your shots - sometimes on really cold days I want to try indoors but just haven't had that much luck with it. Nor do I really have a big enough expanse of blank wall - my small rooms are lined with furniture! - so I haven't bothered trying much harder. Love the extra little peek into your house :)

  16. I've always wondered how you got such bright photos as well! I've been learning photography for a while now and I can never really get bright shots indoors. And yes, maybe being overexposed is against the "rules", but if it works for you, then who cares about rules? :)

  17. My house is in the middle of the city...Row houses with windows on the side...very little natural light. I want your wall! I say keep doing what you're doing as well, it's working. If you get a DSLR, it'll help capture all the natural light. I recommend taking an intro to DSLR if you do get one, it helped my Mom a lot! ( i still don't know how to use my own camera properly lol.)
    I've always thought your photos were quite good!

  18. I over expose my photos with a point and shoot camera too when I take pictures inside. I don't have a blog, but I do post photos on flickr to link up for remix challenges and things like that. That technique works pretty well for the most part!

  19. Have you tried setting your ISO on 200 or higher?
    I agree with your friend, if it is working then keep it that way.

  20. Ah! I love it! I'm so happy your photos are done against a wall in your house - that's how I do it, too! Sometimes I feel bad that my photos aren't done outside, but to be honest, I think it is such a hassle to take outdoor photos (due to the weather, the wind, the lighting, etc.)...so for now, I'm completely content taking mine against our dining room wall :) I take my photos with my iPhone because I don't have a camera, but when I edit my photos, I tend to overexpose them a little bit to brighten them up.

  21. Thank you so much for posting this! I always struggle with taking indoor photos and yours always look stunning!

  22. Hey, if it ain't broke, don't fix it, right? I think you're pictures look great!

  23. Oh wow, I can't believe you take yours with an iPhone! I think that's totally impressive.

  24. One thing that might help your uneven lighting problem would be a reflector (they are super cheap!) or set of reflectors. You could prop it up outside of the frame on your right side (left side of the photo) to bounce some of the window light back onto your other side, and reduce the shadow. I've never used one, but feel like you could play around with it a bit and get some nice results!

    And you can always still keep the exposure high - I tend to prefer photos on the brighter side myself too. You do get pretty great photos for being indoors with a P&S camera! :)


  25. As an amateur photographer myself, I'd say you're doing just what you're supposed to be doing! In my experience, you should NEVER rely on post-processing to get the shot you want! Do everything you can to get the best shot in-camera, and just use digital editing to make the colors perk. That's what I do. Anyways, great pics :)

  26. Thanks, Sydni. That's encouraging and helpful!

  27. LOL, this is so crazy! Your photographer friend was baffled by your picture taking. I figured you had to be close to a big window, but the rest of the info is very interesting and potentially helpful since I also use a point and shoot camera. I will have to try it!


  28. Hi Audrey :) I just wanted to let you know- and maybe its already been said, I didn't read all the comments! But when you're using your in camera meter, its actually giving you the correct exposure for medium grey. So by pointing it at a white wall, its giving you the exposure to make it medium grey. By bumping it two (or three) stops up- moving the arrow up- you are changing tye exposure to essentially make the wall white again. So you're starting at the wrong, dark exposure in camera and adjustung it to where it should be for tye wall to be white. In camera meters should be used on green grass, blue sky or medium skintine for the corrrect exposure :)


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