Behind the Scenes: Shooting indoors without a light kit

When I think of shooting indoors I think of grainy photos on high ISO settings with the distinct yellow hue of incandescent light. Yikes. For years, that is what shooting indoors was to me and the only alternative I could see was investing in a gigantic and expensive light kit. Oh, how I was mistaken. 

In recent times, I have come to master (yup I said master) the art of thrifty indoor shooting (just how thrifty it is will be proven in the photos to come.) You can get indoor shots you are really happy with by using what is already at your disposal. Here's a look into my behind-the-scenes of shooting beautiful photos inside—no expensive light kit required.

Shooting indoors without a light kit

photography via

1. Use Sunlight

The sun is still your best light source even when you're inside. Find your indoor-sunlight and adapt to it. If it's through a window, look for a desk or tabletop that falls in it's stream of light. Get creative—maybe a plank of wood on a step ladder. If you plan on shooting on the floor, a sliding glass door (or an open one) are your best bet.

For a dramatic look, use an eastern-facing window during sunrise or a western-facing during sunset. Or for a softer look, you know, don't use those. I choose softer and the above was taken in the morning hours through a western-facing window.

2. Use a Backdrop

To do my flat lays, or any sort of small object photography, I have a collection of wooden boards. Most are the remnants of old shelving units and bookcases. Having a portable background allows you to follow the light and test out different windows.

3. Fill in the shadows

Ah the problem with windows; they can make for some harsh shadows. Use a white piece of cardstock, a mirror, or another reflective material on hand to bounce the sunlight back into those shadows. If you're a non-believer that this would actually make a difference, try it and see!

My set up:

And it's as easy as that! 

Bonus Tip: 

If you still need a little more help in the lighting department (small windows or rainy day maybe?) there is one artificial light source I have at home that I recommend: an OttLite. If you're an artist or a crafty person, you probably have one—they're like natural daylight indoors—no yucky yellow tint! They're obviously no match for a light kit in brightness, but they come as real lamps you would use everyday and for affordable prices. Just to give you an idea: mine is in the form of $50 desk lamp which I have used nearly everyday for 4 years. I've never replaced the bulb.

And what my blog-shooting really looks like...

photography via

Ah, life when you have a Molly.

I hope walking you through my process helps you with your indoor photography. What photography struggles do you face? Do you prefer shooting indoors or out?