Family Photography

6 Secrets to Perfecting Indoor Photography

June 17, 2021

Taking photos indoors can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be a fun, creative adventure if you have the right tools, approach, and attitude! Truth: I adore doing family sessions, including newborn and sometimes maternity photos, indoors. It’s such a cozy, sweet, and intimate environment to capture families together in their […]

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Taking photos indoors can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be a fun, creative adventure if you have the right tools, approach, and attitude! Truth: I adore doing family sessions, including newborn and sometimes maternity photos, indoors. It’s such a cozy, sweet, and intimate environment to capture families together in their own space, playing and enjoying their time together in their home. And over the years, I’ve picked up several simple ways to perfect indoor photography, so that it doesn’t look dark, dreary, or shadowy.

When I was first starting out in my photography career, I shied away from indoor sessions because I couldn’t seem to figure out the right camera settings or technique to capture gorgeous photos. Over time, I’ve learned there are a few things you want to avoid when doing indoor photography so that you get clear, bright images. And there are a few tricks to remember so that your pictures do actually turn out.

Today, I’m sharing the 6 secrets to perfecting indoor photography so that you can learn to love doing these sweet, special sessions with your own clients, too!


1. Pay attention to the weather and time of day.

When I’m planning an indoor shoot, I never want to shoot early in the morning when the sun is still low or too late in the day when it’s less bright. Aim for scheduling your shoot for the middle of the day when the sun shines most strongly through the windows you’ll be shooting in. I also would always, always rather reschedule an indoor shoot than try to get photos when it’s overcast or stormy outside.

Think of it like this. If it’s dark enough inside that you’re tempted to turn on overhead lights or lamps, it’s too dark to shoot. Natural light is your friend… Take advantage of it whenever you can!


2. Open up all the window blinds and curtains.

Speaking of natural light, we want to let as much of it into the room as possible before starting to shoot. That means lifting blinds all the way up so that there aren’t any funky lines cast on your clients’ faces, and pushing curtains and blinds all the way open. This small step can allow so much more light into home and indoor spaces, which will make YOUR job of capturing (and editing) indoor photos sooo much easier.

However, you do want to be careful not to place your clients in DIRECT sunlight, where it’s shining right on them. Indirect natural light is best for bright photos that don’t look harsh. Place and pose them in strategic areas to allow them to be in the indirect sunlight.

3. Utilize light, bright backdrops and props.

I always reach out to clients before indoor shoots and ask them to use white, cream, or light gray or tan bedding, throw pillows, and blankets on their beds and in their living rooms (or wherever we might be shooting in their house). Utilizing light colors as backdrops in your photos allows those blankets and pillows to become natural light reflectors. 

Think about it. If someone has navy or forest green bedding—sure, it might be cute and all!—but it absorbs the light rather than reflecting it. Dark colors, neon colors, and even some colorful pastels tend to wash out the main focus of images, aka your clients. If your clients don’t have anything light on hand, you can offer to bring a throw blanket or a few pillows to help stage their area and add more brightness to the images.

4. Play with your camera settings.

Indoor photography requires different camera settings than outdoor photography because there are different shadows and light. You’ll probably have to increase your overall exposure by boosting your ISO, and you may have to slow your shutter speed to 1/100th. I like an aperture of f/4 or less when doing indoor portraits, but you’ll have to play a bit and find what works well for YOU and in specific scenarios.

5. Ask clients to remove clutter and dress fairly simply.

Of course, everyone has a personal style and you want to bring that out in photos of your clients! However, cutesy, kitschy things all around the house don’t always photograph as cute in pictures. We want to aim for simple, light, and clean when it comes to what’s in the frame. That might mean putting away a few gadgets or clearing off kitchen counters. It might also mean helping your clients style their outfits so they’re in complementary colors that aren’t too noisy or bright. It’s up to you to help guide and coach them to feel comfortable and also like their best selves!

6. Pay attention to how you edit.

When the shoot is over, it’s edit time, baby! I LOVE the editing process because it’s when you get to really pull out all the beautiful colors and tones in your images. For indoor images, there are a few tips to remember to make them as vibrant and crisp as possible:

  • Boost shadows
  • Add a touch of vibrance
  • If necessary, adjust white balance to make white pop

There you have it, sweet friend! You’ll be able to master indoor shoots with these simple tips. Most of all, just have fun, get to know your clients like friends, and keep experimenting at every shoot, because that’s when the true magic happens. Images from the Petrone Family Session, check it out HERE!


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I’m Jillian Goulding, a photographer and educator raising babies and building my life in Sacramento, CA.

Over the years, I’ve transformed my side hustle into a thriving photography business that has taken me and my camera to the beaches of San Francisco Bay, the pages of People Magazine, and the screens of Extra TV.

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