Creative Lighting in Your Home

 
Inexpensive LED light torches of four different colours were used to paint light in this long exposure. Exposure: 220sec at f/22. Photograph/Chirag Sheth

Inexpensive LED light torches of four different colours were used to paint light in this long exposure. Exposure: 220sec at f/22. Photograph/Chirag Sheth

Raj Lalwani tells you how to make innovative use of different light sources inside your home, to shoot stunning photographs.

Whenever a picture strikes us, the first thing we usually think about is how the photographer used the light. Was it shot at a particular time of day or was a different kind of light used? You do not need expensive equipment to use light imaginatively and shoot great pictures. In fact, there are numerous light sources right inside your house! All you need is a good observation and an open mind towards innovation.

Use Window Light for a Professional Touch
Soft window light is one of the best sources of light available in your house. It can be used for almost any subject—from people to still life—and ensures natural-looking photographs. Depending on when you shoot, you will get different results with respect to the direction and warmth of light. Curtains can make excellent diffusers; for instance, an orange curtain (if used intelligently) can make light at 2pm seem like late evening.

Window light is a versatile source of light, since it gives different effects at different times of day. Exposure: 1/100sec at f/5.6. Photograph/Andrew Brockbank

Window light is a versatile source of light, since it gives different effects at different times of day. Exposure: 1/100sec at f/5.6. Photograph/Andrew Brockbank

Get the Dreamy Look with Candles
The flickering candlelight can add a mystical touch to your photographs. You can also use matchsticks, oil lamps, gas flame and cigarette lighters to get a similar kind of lighting effect. However, since the light levels are low, you will need to use a high ISO, fast aperture and slow shutterspeed to get a usable shot.
Additionally, you may need to take the support of a tripod or a flat surface. Candles within the frame can cause pattern flaring, that is, bright ghost-like spots in your image. To avoid this, always use a lens hood and change your shooting angle.

Create a Spotlight with a Torch
A torch will only illuminate a certain part of your subject, and can thus be used as a spotlight. Let the torch be the sole source of light or experiment with many at a time. Use the warm, orange tones produced by torches innovatively. Torches can be fun to use if there are a lot of mirrors in your house. Use a small pocket torch to light up tiny objects, while a larger torch will help in shooting people. Try bouncing torchlight near a dressing table and you can literally play with light. Remember to use spot metering to expose your subject properly.

The leaf was backlit by a shaded tungsten bulb, to help bring out its intricate details. Exposure: 1/30sec at f/4. Photograph/Rick Hawkins

The leaf was backlit by a shaded tungsten bulb, to help bring out its intricate details. Exposure: 1/30sec at f/4. Photograph/Rick Hawkins

Paint with Your Cell Phone
Seemingly tiny sources of light like phones, electronic gadgets, lasers and LEDs can be used creatively with the help of slow shutterspeeds. A slow-sync flash or the Night Portrait mode will ensure that the flash freezes your main subject, while a slow shutterspeed lets you ‘paint’ with light. Light can also be used to trace or outline a subject in the frame.

Use Television Glow for a Unique Twist
Ever tried watching TV at night with the lights switched off? The light emitted by the TV is often colourful and dynamic. It can illuminate your room in unique hues. A slower shutterspeed will ensure that the light forms interesting, colourful patterns. You could shoot a person with the TV lighting him/her from the side, or stand behind the TV and photograph a person watching TV with the light falling on his/her face. The light changes every second in terms of intensity and colours— blue, red, white, orange and more.

Use Tungsten Lamps for Classic Portraits
The humble house bulb is a unique source of light that can help you create a dramatic play of light and shadow. Use it with multiple reflectors or try using an additional bulb, to fill light into your subject’s face. Lampshades can be useful as they can help soften the light. The shape and design of your lampshade can also create unique shadows.
Be careful while using bulbs, since they emit a lot of heat. It is advisable to switch on air-conditioning while shooting with bulb light. The orange tones produced by bulb light are typical. Either make use of this characteristic hue or adjust the WB in post-processing. Alternatively, you can simply shoot black and whites.

Use CFL Lamps to Shoot Still Life
CFL lamps are a great source of bright, white light. They do not give out any colour cast, cause minimum shadows and are cool enough for you to move them from one place to another. Consequently, they can be great for shooting simple subjects around your house, like a cup of tea, a box of paint or a colourful toy. These lamps do not cause much flare; so you can even use them to backlight the subject.

A lampshade gives an interesting twist to the light, adding magic through its unique design. Exposure: 1/30sec at f/2.8. Photograph/Natasha Hemrajani/Hindustan Times

A lampshade gives an interesting twist to the light, adding magic through its unique design. Exposure: 1/30sec at f/2.8. Photograph/Natasha Hemrajani/Hindustan Times

Capture Mood with Fluorescent Tubelights
Tubelights are long and are used to light up large rooms, stairways and passages in buildings. Avoid shooting portraits if the tubelights are placed high up near the ceiling, since the shadows that will be formed will not complement your subject.
However, tubelights in staircases and corridors can help you create an edgy mood. Experiment with different white balance settings to emphasise this mood.

Let Light be Your Subject
In addition to using light uniquely, why not turn your attention to the light itself? Let the light be the focus of your image. A macro of a lampshade, patterns formed due to the light or a long exposure with light painting are simple ways in which you can allow the light to take over and shoot interesting images.
These are only a few basic ways in which you can use different light sources creatively. Switch on, switch off, diffuse, reflect, bounce the light, change its colour, increase it, soften it—there is so much more you can do right in the comfort of your home!

This article originally appeared in the June 2014 issue of Better Photography.

The cup is enveloped in a halo due to the backlighting created by a tungsten lamp. Exposure: 1/100sec at f/1.8. Photograph/Kiran Ghadge

The cup is enveloped in a halo due to the backlighting created by a tungsten lamp. Exposure: 1/100sec at f/1.8. Photograph/Kiran Ghadge

Catch Light in Your House
Look for light streaming in through doors and windows in the daytime. At night, each room gets its characteristic feel due to the kind of light sources used in that room. A bedroom usually has soft, yellow light, while large halls may have bright, white light.
From the living room to the kitchen, to the terrace and staircase in your buildings—every part of your house allows you to use light creatively. So go on and explore your home!

Play with Light

  • Soften it: Butter paper, curtains, lampshades and a white cloth are simple things that help diffuse light and minimise shadows.
  • Colour it: Try using coloured gelatine paper in front of your light source for some interesting effects.
  • Shade it: The design of your lampshade adds magic to the way light spreads. You can also use blinds in front of a window to add a graphic feel to your image.
  • Reflect it: Use white thermocol or mirrors to fill light into portraits where the side of the person’s face that is away from the light is too dark.
Tags: Raj Lalwani, Low light, light painting, indoors, lighting, June 2009, creative lighting, tubelights, catch light, LEDs, torch, spotlight