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Shooting Indoors in Ambient Light: Yoga Photo Session

Shooting indoors is always a challenge unless you have a professional lighting setup with you. The light is usually low, so it’s hard to get any kind of depth of field.

Photo by Barb Stitzer

Photo by Barb Stitzer

Lightbulbs inside of lamps tend to glow orange, while overhead florescent lights show up on the greenish side, and aren’t very pretty. So what do you do? Let your light guide you.

Find a window

The easiest thing to do when you’re shooting indoors is to find natural window light. Featured today are the Fabulous Ambu Yoga’s owner Yali Zawady and yoga teacher Chelsea Boucles. They’re both absolutely amazing, and I totally recommend that you go experience their yoga-tastic yoga stylings on the beach, in the water on the standup paddle board, and in studio any time you find yourself in the magical land that is Captiva Island.

Photo by Barb Stitzer

Photo by Barb Stitzer

Here, to add “light interest”, I put the window in front of them, to my left, creating a side light. Side light has an extra added bonus of sculpting muscles, since the nature of side light is to create a light side and a dark side. It’s subtle, but definitely there. If you can’t see it, look far left to Chelsea’s arms. The far left side of her arms are super light, as are the far left of Yali’s arms, but the camera right side of their arms are darker, due to less light hitting those spots.

Photo by Barb Stitzer

Photo by Barb Stitzer

If you still can’t see it, look at the camera right side of Yali’s calves. They form a dark line, because they’re farthest from the window, and then look all the way left to Chelsea’s camera left forearms. See the difference? They’re super light. Rarely do you ever want flat light coming on anything you shoot, so the window light makes it interesting, waves of light and dark will move your eye through the picture, so Chelseas forearms are light on the left, then move to dark, and Yali’s forearms are light, and move to dark, and then her calves are light moving to dark. Can you see it?

Keep Everyone on the Same Plane

Shooting more than one person in low light is difficult if you want to keep everyone in focus. A typical focal plane for 2 people would put your f-stop at at a least 5.6, 8 for good measure, but I only had enough light for 2.8, so I put the yoga mat parallel to me, and that was naturally where they stayed.

Photo by Barb Stitzer

Photo by Barb Stitzer

If you’re shooting your kids indoors in window light, you can tell them to “touch ears” with each other so that none of their faces go in front of or in back of each others. That way, everyone stays in focus.

Using Artificial Lighting

Some clouds rolled in, and the yoga studio got pretty dark, so I moved Chelsea back so that one of the spotlights in the room lit her face. As you can see by the shadows on the wood floor, the light was almost overhead, which usually makes ugly shadows on your subject’s faces, so I just asked Chelsea to lift her face until the light sculpted her jawline and cheekbones perfectly, it worked well with the pose, and she was set.

Photo by Barb Stitzer

Photo by Barb Stitzer

If lifting your children’s faces to the light looks weird and makes their eyes small, get a little bit higher than them so that they’re looking up at you. Their eyes will open up and it will show a unique perspective. I like to get things right in the camera, so remember to turn your camera setting to “the little lightbulb” so that the camera can neutralize the orange light, or, if you forget, you should be shooting in RAW, so just adjust it in Lightroom.

What if you Can’t put Everyone on One Plane?

Well, then you have to pick and choose! Use selective focus and put the person who is making the most interesting face in focus and let the others fall out. Focus is one way that we tell the viewers where to look. In this shot, Yali and her beautiful friends/students are all doing the same pose, but it’s Yali’s yoga studio, so Yali gets top billing.

Photo by Barb Stitzer

Photo by Barb Stitzer

We’re still shooting at 2.8, so if you look closely, you’ll see that we moved everyone else’s yoga mats unnaturally close together so that the focus fallout wouldn’t be so great that you wouldn’t be able to see facial features.

Send your indoor lighting wins and fails to barb@barbstitzer.com and I’ll go over them with you. Let’s get better together!

Barbara Stitzer

Barb Stitzer is an award winning Master Photographer living in Hudson, Ohio with her husband, her teen, Zoe and her tween, Tenley. She creates beauty and memories worldwide. Feel free to find her on Facebook or check out her website.
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