photo lighting

Gray Day Photo Lighting Trick

photo lighting

This is a simple trick to help to better photos in the natural light, without resorting to flash. Photo lighting in tricky in Seattle most of the year, but especially when it is as gray as it has been this season. I take almost all my photos in front of the sliding glass doors in our family room, it is almost the only place that works for photos in our dark house. During the darkest winter months, I may only have a couple of hours at midday that photos would work at all.  I could resort to turning on lamps or purchase a reflector, but I don’t like the yellowing of artificial light and this trick works just as well as a reflector. Using this homemade reflector  can bounce the light and soften the harsh shadows that show on the side of the object not facing the window.

Photo Lighting Trick

I bought a piece of white foam core from the dollar store. Actually I bought 2 pieces. One I left white, as is, and one I covered with aluminum foil on one side, securing it with tape. Depending on which “reflector” looks better for any given photo, the white or the shiny metal, that’s the one I use.

In the example above, the photo on the left was shot with in front of the glass doors, with no reflector to bounce the light back on the object. The photo on the right has the aluminum foil reflector bouncing the light. If the lighting effect felt too “shiny” or bright, I would try the plain white foam core sheet and pick between the two. You could certainly get fancier that these options, but these boards and my iPhone usually do the trick!

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23 Comments
  • Molly Irwin

    December 18, 2012 at 5:56 am

    smart! Thanks for this tip, Blair. Merry Christmas!

  • erin

    December 18, 2012 at 6:41 am

    love this tip!
    i’m finished shopping…one thing to make, but that will happen in the next couple days.

  • jackie

    December 18, 2012 at 7:14 am

    oooh, great tip! Thanks Blair!

  • amymayd

    December 18, 2012 at 7:16 am

    Thanks for the photography tips! Always looking to improve my blog photos. Merry Xmas…finished all the shopping just in time for a head cold…sigh…

  • Janet's House

    December 18, 2012 at 8:26 am

    Thanks! Portland is known for its grayness also. I have one room with several windows. I have extra lights and I also “tweak” in photo shop. I like the foil idea and will try it today.

  • Jennifer

    December 18, 2012 at 8:37 am

    Brilliant! I am never willing to spend a lot of money on lighting fixes it I can swing aluminum foil. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Heidi

    December 18, 2012 at 11:13 am

    Thanks so much! It’s been completely dreary in Chicago this month as well.

  • EmSewCrazy

    December 18, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    What a great idea! Love when you get those great photos without a bunch of editing.
    The Christmas factory is working hard here! I need to start putting gifts together earlier in the year!

  • Sarah

    December 18, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    Thanks for the tips, Blair! I’ve read blog posts talking about reflectors before but you make it sound so accessible.
    As for Christmas, I am in the “frantically making” camp. And my dirty little secret is, I actually love it! I hear people talking about simplifying so that one can relax and enjoy the holidays, and I think, where’s the fun in that? Peppermint candy skirt for a 5-year-old, here I come!

  • Melissa Crowe

    December 18, 2012 at 7:03 pm

    Too funny–I always photograph on the floor in front of the glass doors, too, on rainy days. Great minds… 😉 But the foil reflector is a good tip. Thank you!
    All my shopping is done, but I am still in the making stage. Often I draw that out until the night of the 23rd. I must like it that way.

  • Laura D

    December 18, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    finished a scarf for me…does that count? hope so.

  • blair/wisecraft

    December 22, 2012 at 8:52 am

    That definitely counts! Happy Holidays Laura!

  • blair/wisecraft

    December 22, 2012 at 8:53 am

    I know what you mean, even when I think I'm ahead of the holiday shopping and gifting, I'm really not. Something about wrapping on Christmas Eve is now something of a tradition around here.

  • blair/wisecraft

    December 22, 2012 at 8:54 am

    I like that thinking! Happy Holidays Sarah!

  • blair/wisecraft

    December 22, 2012 at 8:55 am

    Every year, I always swear I'll start earlier, but never do. : D  Happy Holidays!

  • blair/wisecraft

    December 22, 2012 at 8:55 am

    You are welcome! Happy Holidays!

  • blair/wisecraft

    December 22, 2012 at 8:56 am

    I've seen professional photography studios use this same trick! Happy Holidays!

  • blair/wisecraft

    December 22, 2012 at 8:56 am

    You're so welcome. Happy Holidays!

  • blair/wisecraft

    December 22, 2012 at 8:57 am

    Oh no! Hope it goes away soon! I've seen all sorts of hot toddy remedies for colds around the internet, maybe they would help. Happy Holidays!

  • blair/wisecraft

    December 22, 2012 at 8:58 am

    You're welcome Jackie, Happy Holidays!

  • blair/wisecraft

    December 22, 2012 at 8:58 am

    Happy Holidays you overachiever you! xoxo

  • blair/wisecraft

    December 22, 2012 at 8:58 am

    You too Molly!!! xo

  • syl

    December 30, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    Thanks for the tip. I have been wondering how to take better indoor pictures. It seems no matter what I do I get a shadow. I was lucky enough to get a good shot in the bath by placing my item on top of the closed commode which is white. I cropped out what I didn’t want seen. There was just a bit of a glare but it was better than some of my previous attempts.

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