Tracey Clark : The Great Indoors

Special thanks to Tracey Clark for this afternoon guest post. Cross-posted at Shutter Sisters. Thanks so much Tracey!



So, as you probably know by now, I’m all jacked up on Ali Edwards' ‘a week in the life’ project. It has giving me the perfect creative nudge I needed and now, there’s no stopping me. Since this week is still the shooting and gathering phase I’m loving it (that sounded bad). Anyway, ask me how I’m doing next week when it’s time to actually put this stuff in a book. I’m a little afraid. But, I’m choosing to live in the moment and most of my moments are enjoyed in the comfort of my own home. This means, I’m doing a lot of shooting indoors this week. In light of that (I love photo puns, don’t you?) Ali and I thought it might be fun if I shared a few hints about getting the best shots possible when shooting inside your own four walls.

Here’s what I’ve come up with:

Look to the Light

-Getting to know the light of your home is the first and perhaps the best tip I can offer. It’s as easy as finding your windows and using
them as your main light source for your photos. I’m not talking direct, bright sun though. I mean look for the soft, subdued light that can fill a room.

-If you’re shooting someone eating breakfast near the window in the dining room, use that window as your ‘light box’. Test out the placement of each chair to gage where the best light falls and then sit your child, husband, unsuspecting neighbor in that seat to best capture your morning. You can encourage your subjects to look into the light for a flat yet flattering effect on your subjects face or you can turn them a bit sideways to the light source to give their face a little more dimension. Each equally delightful I think.

-Before I go on a shoot at a new client’s home, I will give them the job to take a day to observe the light patterns around their home. When
does the softest light flood the living room? What time of day does the light fill the new baby’s room? They can then offer a timetable to schedule our session and I am assured the light will be ample and attractive. If you can do this in your home and be mindful of when you opt to take photos around the house (of people or of still life shots) you’ll up your chances of getting better shots.

Rearrange your Routines

-Once you’ve established the light patterns around your home, every once in a while you can creative schedule a daily activity at the time
and location that offers the best light. Yes, I am aware that this is a form of manipulation of your truest daily life but it’s not at all disruptive and can often make for a fun variation. When I know I am itching to get some fun shots of bath time, I will give my daughter her bath in the afternoon (instead of at night before bed) because the light in the bathroom is divine around 3pm. I know this from watching the light in the rooms of my house religiously.

-When my daughter was a baby I used to let her nap in my bed on days when I wanted to capture photos of her sleeping. The light in my room was perfect around her morning nap and I could snap away as she slept with beautiful light and perfect view free of crib bars.

Crank the ISO

-I know that many of us learn early on that a high ISO is a bad thing. Not always true. I shoot at a high ISO a lot and I’m here to tell you that it is FINE. And when shooting inside in low light, it can be a life saver. Or perhaps better said a picture saver. Changing your ISO to 800 or even 1600 indoors, in low light settings can be the difference between capturing the shot vs. missing it.

-If you’re still getting lots of blur in your shot, try to steady the camera with a makeshift tripod. Like setting the camera on the table (use one finger or book or napkin wedged in between the table and the lens to point it up a bit). Or prop your camera on something else around the house to keep it still. I’ll set my camera almost anywhere if I need to and almost never have the need for a tripod.

-And don’t be afraid of shooting blind; as in not looking through the view finder when you click the shot. Sometimes it can be tough to see through the viewfinder when your camera is on the floor. The featured photo above was shot blindly; proof that the results can be surprisingly successful.

Mellow the Yellow

-Ambient light is a beautiful thing. The glow of golden light gives a feeling of a soft and subtle moment that is undeniable. But sometimes
the yellow hue that comes along with ambient light can be overwhelming and even distracting. If you’ve got a photo that tickles your fancy but is just too golden for its own good, try an easy edit in whatever photo editing software you might use to cool down the photo. This usually means that you need to add blue to the image which will help neutralize the yellow and even out the overall color of your shot. Some programs have a warm/cool slide to play with while other let you slide the color back and forth (like blues to yellows). Somewhere in the slide, you’ll find a happy place. For a before and after shot taken in the light of my dining room at our evening routine of a quick bedtime snack, check out my post at Mother May I today.

I encourage you to put these ideas to the test as you go about your life clicking the moments that make you happy. And, as always, you are welcome to post any links today where you’ve succeeded shooting indoors. Don't be shy about it either. If you've got some indoor shooting secret weapons, enlighten us.


A complete list of posts related to the week in the life project can be found here.

27 thoughts

  1. sara

    2008-09-30 11:46:20 -0400

    I'm trying to shoot without flash with my Canon G7 (point and shoot), and it's hard to keep it steady so I'm finding myself propping it on things a lot. Thanks for the advice on the ISO... I always thought above 200 was bad, but I'm going to experiment higher. Thanks for the tips!

  2. Michelle

    2008-09-30 12:13:52 -0400

    WOW, this is amazingly right up my alley for thoughts this week. I recently read a "Photo Workout" article in the hard copy of PC Photo and for my next "project," (after this Week In The Life one), I'm thinking of making it a photography-only challenge just to enhance my skills and doing the "workout" that's here:
    And then if I scrapbook the pics, that's great and if I don't, great too . . .
    Thanks for sharing!!!

  3. Nicky H

    2008-09-30 12:29:16 -0400

    I totally appreciate the advice, but I think for this project, rearranging times, light schedules, and everything else kinda defeats the purpose. I'll have bad lighting and blurry shots, and try to save them a little in photoshop, rather than changing my life JUST for this. lol ;) I'm well on my way!

  4. Annette

    2008-09-30 12:56:34 -0400

    Thanks for the great post!!!! Love the photo of the dog. I jsut hope I'm getting some good photos. Ali question re: the overlays. Is the set for 15.99 the same as the one on your post only 12 x 12 and 8.5 x 11? I'm confused. They look like 8.5 x 11 but they say 12 x 12. I'm interested in the set if they are both sizes. Thanks Again!!!

  5. Annette

    2008-09-30 12:59:07 -0400

    Ali, never mind I reread the post and found my answer. Thanks :)

  6. Tina Schadone

    2008-09-30 13:04:49 -0400

    Awesome info. I am going to try them all this week!!!

  7. Jakes Mom

    2008-09-30 13:39:06 -0400

    Thanks Tracey. Any suggestions on how to turn off my flash indoors so I dont get the red eye effect on my wonderful pooch?
    I have a cannon rebel xt slr.

  8. Jodi

    2008-09-30 13:43:45 -0400

    My good friend just had a baby. She lives in a basement apartment with poor lighting. Thanks for these tips for capturing the first few days of her life!

  9. Hillary Chybinski

    2008-09-30 13:45:13 -0400

    Thank you - thank you - thank you!!! I typically use a point and shoot - a decent one, but still. . .so I almost always keep it on auto - for fear I will miss the shot if I goof with the settings. . .but i'm going out there - out of the box. . .out on the limb. . .
    thanks ladies!

  10. Colorado_Kid

    2008-09-30 14:35:17 -0400

    Thanks for the info. I want your dog!

  11. andrea h

    2008-09-30 15:08:50 -0400

    Ali thank you for having Tracy guest post. Tracy thank you for AWESOME tips! Love the dog photo. I am going to try that with my dogs. Peace.

  12. Shelley

    2008-09-30 15:09:42 -0400

    tracy - thank you SO much for this totally laymans terms kind of post. i know NOTHING about my camera and you gave me tips that will totally help me out this week. thanks again...

  13. {leah}

    2008-09-30 15:24:17 -0400

    I so cherish those moments when the light is just perfect and I can grab a shot quick! The boys don't hold still much longer than that! LOL. I happened to grab one today! Crazy...
    thanks for all the tips and reminders! :)

  14. Deirdre

    2008-09-30 15:44:17 -0400

    Grateful for this post. I get so frustrated by the lack of natural light in our home...and now it's getting darker soon...
    Ali, thanks for this whole challenge. I'm not 100% sure I'll end up making the album, but just taking the photos to capture the week have opened my eyes to much. And I find myself making much more conscious decisions on how to use my time, knowing I'm going to be taking a photo every hour;-)

  15. Cherie

    2008-09-30 16:48:50 -0400

    Thanks for the tips!! I'm really enjoying this!

  16. Becky

    2008-09-30 17:47:02 -0400

    Ali, thanks for this great project. I'm having so much fun with it. It has really come at a great time since I'm taking Candice's photography class over a And thanks, Traci, for this great article. I read it over at shuttersisters this morning and found it so helpful!

  17. angib

    2008-09-30 18:59:37 -0400

    wonderful post! I'm inspired by your insight and good sense! : )

  18. Amber

    2008-09-30 19:22:10 -0400

    Tracey, totally off the subject, but I LOVE your book "Waiting for Baby". I was looking for a journal/pregnancy book when I was pregnant with my daughter in 2006/2007. After looking at a ton, I finally came across yours at Borders and it was perfect. I filled it up and loved it.
    With my last pregnancy, I went out and bought a new copy almost instantly. I journaled and began the process and was loving it. Unfortunately, I had a miscarriage a couple weeks ago at 14 weeks. But I continued {and will continue} writing in it anyhow, disregarding some of the titles, and just journaling right through most of the stages.
    I just want to thank you for making such a lovely, special pregnancy book. I, of course, will be going out to buy another one when I get pregnant again.
    So thank you, thank you, thank you. Your book brought me some comfort as I tried to sort through my feelings. I even wrote a letter to my baby in the section provided, something I probably would never have done otherwise.
    Thank you! :)
    Amber Filkins

  19. Tracey

    2008-09-30 20:23:07 -0400

    What a great guest post - some really useful tips, thanks so much Tracey!

  20. Amy

    2008-10-01 01:23:29 -0400

    Wow, what a difference the ISO makes! I never really think to change it. You weren't kidding! Thanks so much Tracey!

  21. noell

    2008-10-01 02:24:14 -0400

    These are great tips and I love the photo of the dog. The lighting on her/him is wonderful.
    I'd like to add one simple tip that many don't know about that will help you avoid that common indoor yellowing in the first place--set the White Balance on your camera. On the Cannon Rebel it's the W/B button that is directly below the ISO.
    If you are only using sunlight as the source, your light will have a blue tint. Often, though, when inside the house, there is also a light on, so the light will have a more orangey tint. This is why so many people's indoor photos look orange.
    Under the W/B function are different options. If you have a flourescent light on in the kitchen like I sometimes do, you'll want to switch to the flourescent symbol. If you have a regular lightbulb (called tunsgten light), switch it to the lightbulb symbol. If you are using sunlight, turn it to the sun symbol.
    The camera comes set at a W/B default, which lets the camera try to figure it out, but when indoors, it usually gets it wrong and gives you orange. There is no reason to let the camera mess this up when it's just a simple switch of the button. The only time I use that default setting is when there is a good mix of sunlight and artificial light and the other settings overcompensate.
    Hope that helps someone!

  22. Juliana

    2008-10-01 08:31:36 -0400

    Ali, I just love your site and tips !!!

  23. ~lisa

    2008-10-02 04:17:52 -0400

    Your post saved 2008! Thank you~Thank you~Thank you! ; ) I read this blog everyday. . .and today I stumbled upon your post. I have a new camera and am a little intimidated with the Nikkon D80 after upgrading from a VERY basic camera. Your tip on up-ing the ISO in low light situations saved the pictures I took last night of my son's 12 birthday! I CAN NOT THANK YOU ENOUGH. : )

  24. Cherie

    2008-10-08 15:12:39 -0400

    Thanks for the great tips. Just catching up on reading stuff I couldn't get to last week!

  25. Sally

    2010-11-11 20:08:40 -0500

    Great tips Tracey. Thanks for sharing them!

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