Today’s guest post is part 3 of a series of tutorials on how to light reflective subjects and surfaces from BorrowLenses.com. Alex Huff is a staff photographer and copywriter for BorrowLenses and has photographed for Sotheby’s, Google, X-Games, and more. In this post, she gives an effective tip you should practice over and over again to avoid glare and control shadows when photographing rooms.
All example images were lit and shot using the following:
All diagrams made with LightingDiagrams.com
Photographing the inside of a room is tricky because there are a lot of reflective surfaces and lots of little objects everywhere to create shadows. Rooms are usually too dark to depend on natural light alone so I am going to show you one major trick that will build your confidence while shooting flash indoors, whether you hope to shoot interiors exclusively or if you’re simply shooting your own home for a listing.
Here is the one major trick: Pretend that lighting the space directly is simply not allowed. This will help you speed up your problem solving. Bouncing light off ceilings, walls, and white reflectors produces softer light and once you start doing it you will be hooked.
For those very new to flash photography, bouncing light is simply facing the front of your flash toward something other than your subject. Remember that light travels in a straight line so if you aim your light toward something reflective, like a white wall, you can depend on that light to bounce back off that wall onto everything nearby.
Why photographers love this:
- Bouncing a flash off of a large, white surface makes the light spread further and appear bigger than it is.
- Because of this spread, the light appears softer and more flattering.
- White boards or reflectors tend to be more portable and less expensive than giant softboxes and can often produce similar effects.
Examples of Bounced Light in the Home
In any home, the bathroom will probably be your most difficult room to shoot because of its size, the dominant mirror, and reflective shower door. You probably won’t even be able to get a flash inside without seeing it in the mirror.
Here is what it looks like when I try to light the room with the flash directly:
The light skirts well off of the mirror without causing a reflection but the hot spots and shadows are distracting.
Here is the same scene when I bounce my flash off of a white door in the bathroom:
The shadows are much softer and almost completely gone while the frame of the mirror is much more evenly lit.
When Bouncing Bites Back
Before you start thinking that bouncing light is a fool-proof practice, you still have to consider your Family of Angles. Even light that is bouncing off of something will produce a reflection or glare if you are shooting in the line of fire.
A review of the Family of Angles:
Whether bounced or direct, the Angle of Incidence = Angle of Reflection. If you are getting a reflection, it means that that your camera is pointed toward exactly where the light is hitting and bouncing back into the lens. Every light source produces a Family of Angles and you will want to make sure your camera isn’t placed on the receiving end of it.
Keep your camera out of the danger zone by thinking about where the light is hitting and where you predict it will bounce back. Keep your camera away from the area where the predicted bounce-back is. Your other options are to:
- Move your light.
- Change your lens.
- Change your light modifier.
In the example of my bathroom, using my door to bounce my light produced nice, soft light for a closeup shot. However, when I use a wide lens to capture the entire room I am now catching a reflection in my shower door! There are also some hard shadows coming from the toilet that I didn’t have to worry about in my prior shot.
The bathroom is too small for me to change where my camera is pointing and I can’t change anything about my door. I also must use my wide angle to capture the entire room so my only option is to change the position of my light.
I used a simple foam board you can get from a craft store and a light stand to bounce my light on. It is positioned high enough to miss the shower door but still producing enough scattered light to kill off harsh shadows.
There is definitely some fine tuning to be done, especially since I didn’t stage this scene, but this lighting tactic will get you off to a very good start – especially if you’re trying to graduate from on-camera flash.
You can use this method for every room in your house.
In this example of one portion of the living room, I simply pointed my flash straight at the scene. Unsightly shadows abound.
Practice this for awhile on everything you do. This works great for the following subjects:
- Interiors, as demonstrated.
- People. Learn more about the benefits of bouncing flash here.
- Family gatherings, especially if you’re stuck trying to take a family portrait in a tight space with unruly relatives and not much time. Don’t set up a whole lighting rig – just bounce the flash you have!
- Products, especially when paired with a lot of diffusion.
I hope this gets you out of the shadows and onto the path toward creating more pleasing images! Be sure to check out the other two parts of this series, Glare Aware: Photographing Portraits of People in Glasses and The Art of Copy Work: Photographing Artwork Accurately Without Glare.
This is a favorite time of the year for lots of us who love to have fun with friends and family, dress up, and watch the leaves change on the trees. Remember pooling your trick-or-treating candy and swapping and sharing with friends? We hope that at SmugMug, you’ll still be able to do this in the spirit of the holiday.
No Tricks, Just Treats at SmugMug
20% credit is a sweet, sweet reward for every friend you bring over to join us. Remember that when you share the secret of beautiful online galleries with friends using your unique referral link, you earn a percentage of their account value back into yours. And they get a discount off their first year, too, just for knowing you.
Why would they join? Great memories start with friends, and everyone needs a safe place to put them. Whether they love to document the kids’ adorable costumes year after year or are famous for throwing wickedly delicious Halloween parties, there’s room for it all in SmugMug’s unlimited galleries.
Let’s not forget that every account comes bundled with dozens of gorgeous one-click themes (like “Spooky” and “Pumpkins”), so your Halloween galleries will look appropriately festive… even if their personality’s sunny and warm.
And if the party gets a little too crazy, we’ve got powerful privacy features to boot.
So what are you waiting for? Your friends are waiting!
Kudos to September’s Winner: Chip Jones
Congrats to Chip Jones, our most recent winner of our monthly Refer-a-Friend contest! Chip takes gorgeous Fine Art, Landscape, and Architectural Photographs, and we’re pleased to be able to add a GoPro Hero 3+ Black Edition camera to his lineup of photo tools.
Time’s running out on our contest, so if you’re looking to win one of your own, don’t forget to check out the contest and prize details, and start sharing SmugMug with your circle of friends.
Have a safe and happy Halloween!
Links to love:
Today we’re announcing the latest SmugMug for iOS App, the app that gives you easy photo uploading to your SmugMug galleries from your iPhone or iPad. Finally, you (and your fans) have the power to view all your galleries and archive your mobile photos in a place you know they’ll be safe.
The app helps bridge the gap between the photo galleries on your camera and on your computer, so you have access to both when you’re away. Here’s how it works.
All Your Beautiful Photos in Your Pocket
The free, completely redesigned SmugMug for iOS app lets you take all your galleries with you, anywhere. You can:
- Browse all your own SmugMug folders and galleries (including private and unlisted ones)
- Upload photos to your SmugMug galleries
- Save galleries for offline viewing
- Mark galleries as favorites for easy, instant access
- Save and share photos and videos via SMS, email, Twitter, and Facebook
- Follow other SmugMug users and browse their public galleries, too
Perfect for Friends, Family, and Your Fans
With this app, everyone in your circle wins, too. Since you don’t need a SmugMug account to use it, the app is perfect for your mom, dad, in-laws, best friend, or even for your growing fan base.
Have them grab the app for free and add your SmugMug nickname. They can then browse and see what’s new in your galleries, and add their favorite galleries to the app’s home screen for one-tap viewing.
The SmugMug iOS App + You
Here are a few examples of how this app fits into your life:
- Go ahead and snap all the photos you want at your sister’s wedding. Open the app, queue up the uploads, and send her the link before they’ve even cut the cake.
- When you’re out taking pictures and the editor of a local travel magazine asks about your camera. You whip out your phone, show her your portfolio of iconic city landmarks and you walk away with a promise for publication.
- You’re on a flight out of LA and just struck up a great conversation with the guy in the next seat. Oh, he’s never seen those Joshua trees you’re talking about? Enter: Offline galleries.
- Use the Save feature to download your Leica photos to your phone, then post them to Instagram, Facebook, and all the places where you share. Your friends will think you’re a photographic wizard with that sweet, sweet bokeh. (Sorry, tiny mobile camera!)
- Add your favorite SmugMug photographers to the app’s home screen, so you’ll always have fresh inspiration in the palm of your hand.
Try the app now and let us know in the comments how you (and your friends) are using it, and what you think.
PS. Last year we announced the SmugMug for Android App, which also lets you browse, upload, and share your SmugMug photos. So if you’re a part of the Android clan, be sure to check it out.
Did you know SmugMug has a huge library of totally free tutorial videos available 24/7, 365 days of the year? It’s true. We’ve stashed all our webinar archives, tutorial videos, and great playlists on YouTube, the most popular video community on the web, so you can sit back and become a Master SmugMugger in no time.
Even better – we’re always adding new tutorials based on your requests. Today we feature eight brand-new videos, each of them under four minutes so you can get informed and get back to taking great pictures.
- How to Add a Contact Form (1:59)
- How to Edit the Navigation Menu (2:09)
- How to Add Content Blocks (2:08)
- Advanced Photo Editing with PicMonkey (2:26)
- Organizing for a Family Photo Website (3:57)
- Organizing for a Pro Photog Website (3:59)
- How to Set a Custom Right-Click Protection Message (1:21)
- 5 Settings to Protect Your Photos (3:11)
And because we’re rolling into the season of giving, remember that we’ve recently released a “How to Buy Prints and Downloads” video ( a short version and a full-length version), perfect for any SmugMuggers looking to help their friends, their mom, or their clients place orders without a hitch.
If you don’t see a video that you can’t live without, just tell us via email or in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!
Don’t let your photos die in the digital graveyard! Even though we live in the iPhone age and highly recommend that pro photographers offer digital downloads as part of their business models, we think that a trusty, traditional, physical print still has a place in every home.
Here are four reasons why.
1) Prints Bring Photos to Life
Prints have presence. There’s never any doubt about that, as any framed photo or tangible image in your home draws the eye every single time. It’s easy to dismiss the importance of a physical print when you’re not actually faced with one, but once you unwrap your print, feel the weight of it in your hands and see the light shining from its surface, you’ll see what we mean.
Particularly if you opt for metallic paper finish, or one of SmugMug’s modern print options like MetalPrints and Box Frame Prints. Guaranteed to stop every guest in their tracks.
2) Not Everyone is Online
Facebook may hold its fair share of friends with whom you share photos, but we’re willing to bet that your social group isn’t 100% online. For all the people you care about who aren’t on the web, prints are the medium of choice.
Whether this includes your mom, your grandpa, or your pen pal from 3rd grade abstaining from the internet, we’re pretty sure they’ll be delighted to receive a print, album or even a photo book in the mail.
3) Rare Means Care
Since we’re all guilty of taking digital photos for granted, prints are rare and (by basic laws of economics) will command more attention because of their relative scarcity. You know you’ll already captivate your online audience with your unlimited SmugMug galleries, but we’re pretty sure one meaningful print in your hallway will grab their attention, too.
For those of you looking for the most bang for your buck, prints are perfect for you. And who wouldn’t want something special hanging on their wall?
4) Your Memories Exist Even If Your Computer Explodes
Imagine you’re rummaging around your desk and find a priceless snapshot from 1992 that you took on one of those disposable cardboard cameras. Wow!
It’s definitely easier to drag and drop your files around folders on your hard drive (or in your SmugMug Organizer), but real photos are a joy to unearth. While not completely immune to discoloration, fire or fading, so many threads of history have been woven into a larger tale because of photos, crisp and bent with handwritten notes scrawled along the back.
Wouldn’t you want physical proof that you lived, even after the ‘Off’ button was pressed?
Let Your Photos Grow Up on SmugMug
We have four great print labs for you to choose from at SmugMug. EZ Prints is available for Basic subscribers, and Bay Photo, WHCC, and Loxley Colour are additional options (with additional print and mounting choices) for Portfolio and Business accounts.
To see the complete list of all print sizes and products available on your account, simply log in and view your Account Settings > Business tab to view your Pricelists by lab. Basic and Power Users can just click the Buy Photos button in any gallery to open the available items in the shopping cart.
Print your photos. No matter if you’re just snapping moments on your iPhone or documenting in RAW with a top-of-the-line DSLR, whether you just snap photos of your friends or if you’re a full-time pro, it’s up to you to make the most out of your life. So buy a print, hang it on the wall and keep those memories close at hand.
You won’t regret it.
Links to love:
- Pros, don’t leave money on the table. Sell digital downloads
- SmugMug’s four great print labs
- Paper pixel peepers, look here for full details on our print specs
- Photo Extras at Bay Photo: Frames, mountings, finishes and more
- Turn your SmugMug galleries into custom photo books in minutes
- 4 Reasons Why the Organizer is the Best Thing to Happen To Your Photos
- How to price, sell, and make money on SmugMug
- All about your Account Settings