But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?

Rain…I’m beginning to think it will never stop, the only good thing has been that I have been forced to concentrate on indoors photography as it’s just too wet to take anything outside.  Indoor photography presents it’s own challenges and whilst I’m no expert (far from it) I do know what I do like and what I don’t like.  As far as lighting my own pictures is concerned, I’m not a huge fan of flash for close up work, although I’m sure there are those of you out there screaming at this post saying “it’s perfect, what does she know!?”.  My lack of enthusiasm is probably because I’ve not really investigated thoroughly how my Canon Speedlite 430EXII works with my Canon 5D MKIII.  A poor excuse I know, but it takes time to work these things out and frankly, I’m too impatient, I’d rather be taking pics.

However, in my limited experience there are pros and cons to using natural light vs flash, there are probably loads more but here areLily taken in the natural evening light from a window the
ones that resonate with me…The pros of natural light

  • it’s free
  • it bounces around, softly wrapping your subject matter in a beautiful soft light
  • pictures look bright and airy

The cons are

  • you can’t direct it to where you want
  • it’s variable as clouds move around
  • the hours of golden light ie early morning and early evening are short

This picture of a lily was one of the first taken with my new 5D MkIII in March 2015, where I managed to capture the soft evening light on the lily petals.  I love this picture and it was one of the pictures that reached Explore status on Flickr – a big thrill for me when the Flickr bots selected this as one of the top pics of the day.  If I ever needed convincing that it was worth investing in a new camera this was all it took.

Anyway…back to the lights my personal reasons for liking artificial lights are

Peony taken whilst waggling the flash around until something pleasing appeared
  • You can use artificial light at any time of the day
  • There are an endless set of gizmos to soften/diffuse/harden the light
  • You control the light and become the light god of your studio

The not so good things in my opinion are

  • They take time to set up, and there’s a whole art/science in this to learn
  • They are expensive, you’ll always want more lights and gizmos
  • They need a power source which isn’t always to hand
  • They break

Out of these two pictures, I prefer the lily taken in natural light lily and during wet and windy days natural light is always going to be my main source for taking close up pics.

So what does my indoor kit consist of….it includes a small ironing board for standing in front of a window, a large piece of foam card for use as a backing, several pegs for pegging different coloured backing paper/fabric to the foam card  and a piece of flower arrangers oasis for standing stems in….unbelievably high tech as you can tell.  I’m fortunate to have some lovely big old windows in the hoAllium Seedheaduse and the house is built with each corner facing either north, south, east or west (those Victorians knew what they were doing).  This means I can move my ironing board around the house/windows to optimise the light depending upon the time of day and the effect I want.

I’ve also invested in some large pieces of tracing paper or you can use tissue paper to stick to the window to create a simple white background.  I read an article recently which suggested taping the paper to an old picture frame to prop against the window which is a good idea but to be honest I’ve found taping the paper directly to the window with masking tape works just as well and it’s quick and easy (high criteria on my list) .  This black and white allium seedhead lent itself nicely to this method and after converting the pic into black and white it has created a striking shot that I’ve used in lots of publicity articles for the open garden.

Whilst looking at some pics on Flickr and 500px I was taken with some really striking flower pics on either black or white backgrounds and some pics that were really high key.  After a bit of research and a few attempts to reproduce them using the ironing board/background card/window approach I realised I needed to get a little bit more high tech to get the full lighting effect I was after.

This pictuHibiscus taken in natural light in front of a windowre of the hibiscus was taken using the  ironing board/background card/window approach but in order to be more flexible and hopefully creative I decided to invest in a table top light box – for £30 on Amazon it consists of a pop up box with  fabric sides and top, four different coloured fabric back drops, two lamps and a desktop tripod.  Amazon have given it the snappy title of “50 x 50 x 50cm Camera Photo Studio Box Light Lighting Cube Tent Kit with Tripod Four Backdrop”.  The lights are LED so they don’t heat the fabric or subject matter, particularly useful when photographing flowers and plants, you really don’t want them getting too hot.

Wow…how good can this be?Light Box png

As it turns out….really good!!

It’s deceptively large, takes up quite a lot of room on my desk and it barely balances on the ironing board (memo to self…buy a bigger ironing board) but it’s great!!! I love it, you can also flip it upside down and fold back the base to open up the cube completely to let even more light in or just use it as it is.  The coloured backdrop cloths are easily changed over and affix with velcro.  It’s obviously not pro studio quality (what can you expect for £30?) but as a home studio option it’s just the ticket.

What have I done with it since I’ve had it…well take a look and see for yourself.  I’m still playing with it but it ticks all my boxes – cheap, easy, adaptable, gives great instant results.  I’m sure I’ll get better pics out of it as I get more used to it but so far it’s fab!

But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks? William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet Act2, Scene 2



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