How to take good photos in crap lighting
Photography is one of my favourite parts of blogging and it's been such a wonderful skill to hone since the littles came along. Capturing them as they grow too quickly and preserving the memories that have already faded makes it all so worthwhile and it's why I started this blog in the first place. Out of nowhere, I discovered a passion that I never knew I had (Fact: I dropped out of A level photography in college, hated it!) and over the past couple of years I've gone from using my iPhone to the Nikon D3300 DSLR I currently own and I've gone from having absolutely zero knowledge on the subject to learning all about composition, editing and I finally know what ISO, shutter speed and aperture actually do, woohoo!
When you're primary subject is your life and your family, you have no choice but to take the majority of your photos indoors, especially during the Winter months. As any photographer/blogger will know, that's tricky considering the lighting is generally awful, flash isn't great, soft boxes aren't ideal when you're trying to capture real life and most houses are really quite dark (we live in a small 3 bed with not a whole lot of space or light). Most of the time, I waited until we could all get outside, but I wanted to capture the real moments too; the early morning yawns, the sleepy eyes, the weaning mess and the bonding between brothers, most of which happens in the comfort of our own home.
First and foremost, this will probably only help those who use a DSLR and are able to edit RAW photos in either Photoshop or Lightroom (I use Photoshop as I can't quite find my way around Lightroom yet); if you're looking for a simpler guide to the apps I use etc. The 'Seriously Crap Guide to Photography' Series; Photo Editing might be more helpful. Secondly, I apologise in advance for waffling, I have a problem.
1. Shoot in RAW. Do it now.
Two months ago, I'd been using a DSLR for just under a year, and yet I had never taken a single shot in RAW. For those who have no idea what I'm talking about, you can choose to shoot your pictures in either JPEG or RAW on most DSLR cameras. Say you have a great shot, but it's a little underexposed or too bright or the colours are off; with a RAW file, you can amend everything from the temperature to exposure, shadows, lighting, saturation and (this is a game changer) noise reduction, which leads me nicely on to..
2. Don't be afraid to use a high ISO.
When shooting indoors, my pictures would always come out super dark but I was afraid to increase my ISO too much for the fear of a grainy photo. I could brighten the RAW file as much as possible but I hated the noise; I soon discovered that there's an option to increase the sharpness of a photo and to amend noise reduction which greatly decreases the amount of grain (and bonus; makes your skin look fabulous and airbrushed at the same time). I now shoot at 1600/3200 indoors and can still get a high-quality photo by reducing the noise. Just keep an eye on the picture as you're editing, as too much can cause details to soften and loss of definition can occur.
3. Play with the white balance on your camera.
Up until recently, my white balance was always set to auto, until I read a few tips on photography that talked about changing it. It's one of those settings I always thought unnecessary and figured the camera would do a perfectly good job of choosing but if I'm in a particular room taking pictures and I notice they look a bit washed out or dull, changing the white balance can usually enhance them and add some much-needed colour.
4. Don't battle the light—work with it.
Lighting is a f**ker for any photographer (hence this post) and I've spent many a time brightening the crap out of my images only to distort them and lose any chance of a good shot. When I'm shooting, I try to make the shots as bright as possible, but it doesn't have to be that way. Some of the most beautiful shots are dark or underexposed. The lovely Amber over at The Goblin Child is one of my biggest inspirations and I love how her photography captures the light and her subjects so beautifully.
4. Colour is your friend.
To make a great picture, the content is important too, and I've realised that when my boys are wearing gorgeous, bright clothes, the colours absolutely make the shot. Another one of my favourite photographers, Katie of Mummy Daddy Me is great at exactly this; all of her shots are injected with beautiful vibrant colours and the fabulous way she dresses her littles is popular among so many of us because it looks great on camera (of course, the fact they're such a beautiful family helps too).
4. Capture the moments.
The expressions of those in the shot makes everything, that's why I've moved from putting together photoshoots to trying to get candid pictures of the boys. Sometimes it's the editing that makes a shot incredible, sometimes it's having the perfect camera settings but more often than not, it's the moment you capture. Don't always worry if an image is too bright or underexposed, if it's a radiant smile or an exuberant childish giggle you've captured, chances are the shot is amazing without much work.
Fun fact; I totally wanted to say "RAWR" out loud every time I typed RAW..