How to Choose Lights for Professional Indoor Photography

When choosing photography lights, the most important question for your strategy is where you're going to shoot. The lights that work best for an indoor shoot are completely different from what you would use outside. That's because outside, you're either fighting the sun or ambient light. Shooting indoors offers you more control so you can use more smaller lights than you would need outdoors. When choosing your lighting package for an indoor shoot ask yourself the following questions: What's my ideal exposure? How intense do I want the light? How many sources are there going to be? What do I want the color temperature to be?

What's My Ideal Exposure?

This is the first step in any lighting plan. This lets you know what you naturally can and can't see with the available ambient light. This will also let you know what is going to help and hurt your shoot.

How Intense Do You Want the Light to Be?

Now that you have an exposure you have to figure out what how much light you're going to need. Will small lights be enough to brighten the room or do you need more to match your exposures? Is this light going to over expose everything because it's too powerful? Knowing how much output you'll need determines what lighting package you will need.

How Many Sources Are There Going to Be?

Think of lighting as painting and this step is where you'll make the broad strokes. You want your lighting to not look overly fake. For example, if the setting is an apartment try to make your light sources look like they're coming from the lamps in the room or from outside windows shinning into the room. This is called motivated light.  You don't want to create double shadows because that would be very distracting for a viewer to look at and will not look natural.

What Is the Color Temperature Going to Be?

Now that you know your sources and intensities you need you can set up your lights and have a good idea of how everything is going to look. But you're not done yet. You need to white balance and color correct some of the lights' color temperature with gels to make it look motivated. For example, lights shining through the window made to look like streetlamps at night need to be given a color that looks orange like the ones in real life. Sunlight coming in a window should look slightly blue, or you could get artsy and make it a straw color.

In conclusion, when choosing lights for indoor photography you need to take into account: what your exposure is going to be, how intense the lights need to be, how many light sources you want and what color temperatures best motivate the lighting.

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