The challenges of indoor photography can be daunting for a photographer who is new to the field.

Photographers should be aware that artificial, natural, and reflected light can create unwanted results when photographing an object. Shadow is your worst nightmare because you can’t see it coming.

Sometimes, there is a lack of lighting and sunlight. But, if you have good indoor pictures with no shadows and perfect megapixel-quality images, your pictures will be of professional quality; this gives you an edge over other photographers without proper lighting.

The art of creating shadow puppets requires you to do just the opposite of what will enable you to have a clear, uncluttered background in your indoor photography.

So, keep these things in mind as we go through the six tips to avoid shadows in indoor photography.

Why Do We Have Shadows in Our Indoor Photos?

Sometimes, shadows in photos can be so distracting that they take away from the overall composition and ruin the subject. In some situations, bad positioning of the light source and subject in relation to the backdrop/floor can often cause shadows.

Shadows are caused by either natural light coming in through windows or artificial light such as light bulbs.

Shadow Cast by an overhead ceiling light
Photos by Oscar J Harper

Good and Bad Shadows

The presence of shadows, whether they are good or bad, depends upon how they affect your desired outcome. There are 3 types of shadows that can be considered good or bad, depending on your desired outcome:

  • Shadows are cast on the subject by their own facial expressions.

Good Shadows

The shadows that appear on the subject’s face due to their own features can be considered good as they produce established lighting patterns.

  • Loop Lighting
  • Split Lighting
  • Butterfly Lighting
good shadow
Photo by Oscar J Harper

The following lighting setups, which have been used by photographers for decades, will help you add a little depth and contrast to your images.

Bad Shadows

In beauty photography, shadows on a subject’s facial features are undesirable and bad if they are distracting or unflattering and when the photographer desires an almost shadow-free picture.

If you are seeking to look your best in a photo, you can employ one of several flattering lighting setups.

  • Flat Lighting
  • Clamshell Lighting
  • Key and Fill Lighting
  • Cats Eye Lighting
studio lights
Photo by Oscar J Harper

These lighting setups are flattering, because they eliminate shadows on the face and produce a soft glow.

  • Shadows are cast on the subject by other objects.

Good Shadow

Shadows can be used to add texture or mystery to a photograph, and you can create them by positioning other objects between the light source and the subject. You can create a gobo effect by holding an object up between the window light source and the subject. The other great way to create this effect is to introduce a gobo on the artificial main light source.

Bad Shadow

bad shadow
Photo by Oscar J Harper

Bad shadows happen when a shadow is striking an object that you want to be in focus and interfering with the composition. In this case, you should move the offending object from the line of light or move the light source away from the object.

  • Shadows are cast by the subject by walls, floors and ceilings.

Good Shadow

If the shadows in a photograph add some kind of balance or unity to the composition, they could be considered good.

Bad Shadow

bad shadows
Photo by Oscar J Harper

However, if a shadow is merely a distraction from the main subject, you can say it is a bad shadow and must be eliminated.

1. Set Your Camera to Manual Mode

When you use a digital camera, put it in shutter priority mode (S for Nikon cameras and Tv for Canon).

The shutter speed should be set no slower than 1/60 to 1/200 of a second in order to prevent the appearance of artificial light interference and capture sharp images without motion blur.

When a camera’s shutter speed is faster, the camera can capture an image more quickly. However, if the shutter speed is too fast, it may cause interference from artificial light sources, resulting in an image that appears blurry or distorted. These flints are captured as blue and orange bars in this close-up image at high shutter speed, creating a visually interesting composition.

The manual mode also controls the depth of field (DOF).

When shooting indoors, it is advisable to reduce the depth of field because it will help to eliminate unwanted background noise. You can use several manual settings to help you capture sharper images in different settings and lighting conditions.

2. Use a Reflector

A reflector is one of the most useful pieces of photography equipment because it can be used in a wide variety of situations.

The white paper provides great compensation for lighting, making photographs look professional indoors and outdoors. It creates a soft fill for shadows that fall onto your subject, making the image look professional.

Reflectors are among the cheapest photography accessories you can buy. You can make one with two cardboard boxes and some aluminum foil!

Neewer 5 in 1 reflectors
Neewer 5-in-1 Reflectors

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Here’s how to make one:

  1. Get a large piece of white paper or poster board to cover a large area with light. Cover the board with aluminum foil if you need more reflectivity—for example, use a flash to photograph an object close to the paper.
  2. Ask someone to reflect on the subject at hand.

Now that you have your own reflector, you can use it to improve your photography in any way you want.

3. Shoot with a Tripod

A tripod is a very helpful tool to have on hand in many situations. Here are some examples of when you might need one:

  • When you use a telephoto lens.
  • When you’re capturing memories of the winter season.
  • When taking photographs of landscapes and nature.
  • When photographing sunsets and night scenes.
  • When you are taking action shots and photographing sports.

A tripod can help you achieve a greater depth of field and sharper shots by keeping the camera stationary for indoor photographs. In low-light indoor photography, you can use a long exposure set-up to capture fixed subjects while enhancing the light sources and compensating for shadow-light proportions.

Truifoto Camera Tripod Stand

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4. Take Advantage of the Daylight

The soft light of the afternoon sun that is streaming through the window gives the subject a nice appearance. The sun provides a bright, even light that creates shadows to make the image appear with a shallow depth of field and good white balance. Its power is greater than that of most camera flashes, making it the ideal choice for photographing subjects in vivid detail.

However, if you want to create a unique visual effect, you can cast light onto your subject to create a silhouette.

5. Understand Your Camera

Every camera has its own strengths and weaknesses. There are many different types of cameras, each with a different brand and set of features. If you want to get the best possible images from your digital camera, it is important that you know its capabilities and limitations.

When you know when to take a photograph, you can take it under better conditions and with a better chance of getting a good picture.

Related: Is A Digital Camera Input or Output Device?

6. Avoid the Shadowed Wall Effect

If you’re taking a portrait shot indoors, don’t forget to eliminate shadows from the subject. These shadows will distract the viewer from your subject and make your photo unappealing. This is known as the shadowed wall effect.

The primary reason a shadow appears behind the subject is that the subject is too close to the wall, where no light reaches.

So, the first thing you should do is move the subject away from the wall, which will create a more interesting composition. A background reflector or light source will make the picture more dynamic.

Then, adjust the lighting position so that shadows are cast down and away from the wall.

Altson Photography Video Lighting Kit
Altson Photography Video Lighting Kit

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7. Do not Use On-camera Flash or Built-in Flashes to Prevent Shadows

When you are photographing your subject, be sure to take a look at the scene to see if there are any unwanted shadows. If your camera has a built-in flash, it is possible that if you use it to illuminate the scene, it will cast a hard light shadow directly behind the subject onto the wall.

Because the flash is so close to the lens axis, it shoots directly out at the subject, casting a strong shadow on whatever is behind the model. By placing the flash off-axis, you can make sure that no shadows appear on the face of your model as it delivers a less harsh, more natural light.

Do not use camera flashes
Photo by Oscar J Harper

The problem is that any shadows cast by the subject will always appear in the frame as the camera and flash are in virtually the same place. The use of off-camera lights can help eliminate this problem.

8. Use Off-Camera Flashes to Avoid Shadows

The placement of the flash head is much more flexible with an off-camera setup, allowing you to position the light source to get the right amount of illumination.

When working with a light that has a direct line of sight to the camera, the light will cast a shadow on the subject. This can be avoided by positioning your light off to one side so that it casts its shadow outside of the frame of the camera.

Powerextra flash
Powerextra flash

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9. Change the Camera Viewpoint to Avoid Shadows

changed viewpoint no shadows
Photo by Oscar J Harper

The single most effective way to eliminate shadows from a scene is to move the camera. To fix a shadow on your subject, move the camera slightly while still pointing back at the object. Then, in the viewfinder or on the LCD screen, you’ll see the shadow disappear as you change your viewpoint.

But it can be hard to focus on a single element when other objects appear in the background.

10. Use Only One Type of Light Source to Avoid Shadows

Most photographers often make the mistake of using too many light sources when taking indoor pictures. This leads to dark shadows and other unwanted effects in the photos. To avoid the problems associated with multiple light sources in photos taken indoors, it’s best to use a single light source.

You can use a few different types of light sources to create the right ambiance for your room. Natural light works best during the day, but you can also use ceiling lights or other artificial lights in addition to natural light.

Some photographers prefer to use flashlights that come in the form of studio strobes or Speedlites, but the device you use depends on what you are trying to achieve with your photograph.

When using multiple light sources, keep them in the same position. In order to create a clear and balanced lighting scheme, avoid using more than one type of key light source.

The color temperature will change if you swap your light source, so it is important to choose the correct type of light source depending on the type of photo you are taking.

Neewer TT560 Flash Speedlite
Neewer TT560 Flash Speedlite

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11. Diffuse the Light Source to Avoid Shadows

The light source should be diffused to eliminate shadows and avoid a “stage-like” effect. This is most easily achieved by using natural light through a window on an overcast day.

hard light shadow
Photo by Oscar J Harper

By using diffusion materials such as white cloth, a sheer curtain, or modifiers such as umbrellas and softboxes, you can diffuse the light source and avoid harsh shadows on the subject. To avoid harsh lighting on the face of your subject, you should place a diffuser between the subject and the light source.

A diffuser is an effective tool for creating flattering light. It wraps around the subject and minimizes facial shadows on the backdrop.

Fomito Godox softbox modifier
Fomito Godox softbox modifier

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Common Pitfalls to Avoid Shadows in Indoor Photography

If you take indoor photos, you are probably familiar with the problem of shadows. The indoor lighting is often not enough to illuminate the whole scene, leaving dark corners and patches in your photos.

Luckily, there are ways to avoid these pitfalls. Understanding these pitfalls can help you avoid shadows in indoor photography.

· Insufficient Custom White Balance

You should learn how to set your camera’s white balance manually because most indoor settings contain multiple lighting situations, which can change the overall appearance of the photo.

For this reason, you won’t get the best quality shot by leaving your camera in auto mode.

To get the best shot of your subject, learn how to adjust the white balance while shooting in mixed lighting conditions.

· Not Paying Attention to Small Details

The architectural details of an indoor scene can be lost if you’re not careful about the placement of light sources and the position of your subject. A cluttered, shadowed image with an off-white balance will result.

· No Catchlights in the Subject’s Eyes

The lack of catchlights in a subject’s eyes is an unflattering portrait. When the subject’s eyes appear black, sunken holes rather than sparkling and bright, it means that there are no catchlights in the subject’s eyes. The light does not come in contact with the subject’s face.

Direct the light onto your subject’s eyes when shooting indoor portraits to make them sparkle. You can do this with a reflector or artificial light.

Another technique is to have your subject turn toward the light source. This will allow you to highlight their eyes.

Wrapping Up,

Photographing indoors can be a bit challenging because of the different light sources that can create harsh shadows or unwanted glare.

To eliminate shadows in portrait photography, it is crucial to understand your camera’s limitations and maximize its capabilities. You should avoid letting light sources ruin the shot by positioning yourself or your subjects to compensate for their position in relation to the light.

After applying all the tips outlined above, you should be well on your way to avoiding shadows from ruining your indoor pictures. But don’t forget that there are a lot of other things that can ruin an otherwise good picture too. Pay close attention to lighting, framing, and the background; you’ll be looking at some great pictures that everyone will enjoy.

Neewer 5 in 1 reflectors

Neewer 5-in-1 Reflectors


Truifoto Camera Tripod stand

Altson Photography Video Lighting Kit

Altson Photography Video Lighting Kit