How to take bright pictures in dark, gloomy weather

How to take bright pictures in dark, gloomy weather

Now that the temperatures are dropping and winter is coming the days are also getting shorter, which means that taking blog pictures can be a bit of a nightmare.

Ever since the daylight savings time has ended a few weeks ago, my entire blog routine had to change. Up until then, I was able to get away with taking my blog photos as late as 5 or 6pm. Not anymore.

The weather is changing, too. This means that it’s often dark and gloomy and when you’re already working with limited natural light, it can be a challenge. So, today, I’ll share a few tips for taking bright photos for your blog, even when the weather is refusing to cooperate.

FIND THE LIGHT AND USE A TRIPOD

First thing that you need to do is find the best light source you can. For me it’s always our kitchen- there’s a big glass door leading to the backyard which lets in a lot of light into that particular spot. It took me two years to realize that that’s the best spot for taking pictures in my house, so even if you think your house is a bit dark (like mine) keep looking. If you don’t have any big windows, I’d suggest setting up your subjects on a flat surface and opening the front door (any outside door that will let some light in). You can also try working on window sills.  On those days when I find it really difficult to work with limited light, I also sometimes go outside.

Another important thing to remember is time of the day during which you shoot. This will be different for everyone else. Now that the Daylight Saving Time has ended, I can take my pictures as early as 8.30am, but I can no longer get away with taking them during my usual time which is between 12.00 and 3.00 pm. This is because now that all the leaves are gone, there is way too much direct sunlight coming through my window. Lastly, always remember to use a tripod- when working with limited light I usually lower my shutter speed, which can make my photos look a bit blurry- this is why using a tripod is so important- it keeps your camera steady.

photography-setup

This is my usual setup- when my light source is limited, I get even closer to the window. This happened to be on a very sunny day, but you get the general idea. I already showed you what my setup looks like using this exact image in one of my previous posts, but this is something I get asked about at least once a week, so I’m showing it again. 

USE BRIGHT SURFACES AND REFLECTORS

This is something that I mention in pretty much every single one of my Photography posts: make sure to use bright surfaces and reflectors. You can use a white cardboard to bounce off the light which will make your photos look brighter and a reflector to get rid of shadows. I use this 5 in 1 Collapsible Reflector and I never take photos without it. Using a reflector and white surfaces to bounce off the light can make a huge difference in the way your images look. This is a difference that using a reflector can make:

before-reflector

Unedited, without reflector.

after-reflector

Unedited, with reflector placed across from the light source. 

EDITING

Keep in mind that your images don’t have to look perfect or bright right out of your camera when you’re working with great tools like Photoshop. The easiest way to learn how to use Photoshop. is by editing your shots in Camera Raw (go to Filter: Camera Raw Filter). Here’s the difference that it can make:

before-edit

Before editing

after-edit

After editing in Camera Raw

unedited

Unedited

antiaging

Edited

OPEN THE APERTURE + RAISE ISO

During dark and cold months I only reach for two lenses when shooting indoors: 50mm f/1.4 and 40mm f/2.8. This is because both are fast lenses and they can pass through more light than, for example, a lens with a maximum aperture of f/4.0. I also always keep my aperture opened at around f/2.2 (this lets in A LOT of light). I avoid using maximum aperture (like f/1.4) because then the image might look too soft and not as sharp. If you want to learn more about your camera’s manual settings, see this post. Also, raising your ISO is something that you will most likely need to do when working with limited light. Keep in mind that depending on the lens and camera you’re using, it can make your images look grainy.

Lowering your shutter speed will also produce brighter images, but keep in mind that low shutter speeds can create blurry images. Shutter speed controls the duration of the exposure, in other words, it controls the speed, at which the curtain opens and closes. This why it’s important to keep your camera steady and use a tripod when shooting with low shutter speed.

ISO 160

ISO: 160ISO 1600ISO: 1600

how-to-take-bright-photos

ISO: 125 Aperture: f/2.5 Shutter speed: 1/160 (unedited)

settings-fir-bright-photo

 ISO: 125 Aperture: f/2.2 Shutter speed: 1/80 (unedited)

ARTIFICIAL LIGHT

When all else fails and the weather outside is really dreadful, that’s when I reach for my soft boxes. I will always prefer working with natural light, but now that it gets dark pretty quickly I don’t always have enough time during the day to take photos for my blog. I also sometimes use a ring light as well. If you’ve never worked with artificial light before but want to give it a try, keep in mind that you might have to experiment a little with your white balance settings. It took me a while to get used to working with soft boxes, but they’re definitely worth the investment, because during winter I reach for them quite a lot.

soft-boxes-for-blog-photographyUsing these soft boxes (placed on the left and right of my subject).

Click here for more photography tips.

how-to-take-bright-photos-in-winter