How To: Instantly Improve Your Photos

How To: Instantly Improve Your Photos

Sarah Dobbins
Feb 21, 2012

Whether you're taking a snapshot of your child, photographing a project for your blog, or just shooting for fun as a hobby, you can dramatically change the look of your photographs instantly — you just have to know where to go in your home. I took a carefully styled and selected collection of objects (okay, it was my breakfast), placed everything on a few pieces of scrap wood for simplicity's sake, and moved the little mini-vignette to three distinctly different areas in my house that are very differently lit.

First I went to the closest place, my kitchen counter. I have a mix of fluorescent and incandescent lighting, but… yuck. Not a good look. These types of artificial lighting not only cast harsh shadows, they all have different color temperatures which can make a photo look too cool, too warm, or even worse — cool in some spots and warm in others.

Here's a pulled-back shot of my not-so-beautiful kitchen counter lighting setup:

Moving on. How about natural light? Beautiful, strong sunlight — that should do the trick, right?

While direct sunlight looks loads better than artificial light, we've still got lots of harsh shadowing to deal with. Plus this directional light really points out the flaws in whatever we're photographing — it's not very forgiving.

Here's a shot pulled back from this better-but-not-quite-there-yet direct sun photograph:

So what's the secret? Natural light, yes — but indirect natural light.

Here's a wider angle on this indirectly-lit photo:

Find a window during the day that doesn't have light streaming directly through it — a north or south-facing window is a good place to start — and you're golden. Indirect natural light bathes your subject in a more even, pleasing manner… and instantly transforms your scene from dreadful to divine.

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(Images: Sarah Dobbins)

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