At its best photography is inspired by light. Whether it’s a rich shade of reds and purple for two minutes following sunset, or the warm cast of tungsten lamps on a model’s bare skin, it’s the light that guides our work. It doesn’t matter if I’m shooting indoors or out, my focus on finding great light is the same.
However if it was simply up to me and not the client, I would instinctively head outdoors in search of a great location for most shoots. I admit to a weak spot for photos with natural light. After all, what better gift to photographers than the sun and its free and abundant rays? It’s the ultimate source of illumination for photographs, whether for portraits or glamour shoots or fashion. We can manipulate it with reflectors and know well in advance what it will give us throughout the day.
Beyond the light, I also find that there’s a feeling of creative energy by engaging with the world at large. Something exciting takes place when shooting, for example, on location along a busy street or within any public space where the elements and passers-by create a dynamic atmosphere.
This feeling of aliveness and the look of sunlight can be challenging to attain in the studio but there’s a different mindset indoors. Here the light and other elements can be precisely controlled and all outside distractions are removed. Sometimes such control can be a lifesaver and only a set-up studio in your home will do to attain the results that I’m after.
Every photographer has a preference for outdoors or indoors photography yet nearly all of us need to work in both environments from time to time. It’s best to have a familiarity with both and the different techniques when working within artificial and natural surroundings. Let’s take a look at why you might choose one or the other for your next shoot.
Although my natural tendency is to head outdoors for photography, I regularly set-up my mobile studio when the situation calls for it. This applies for portraits and fashion and lifestyle, the ease and convenience of working indoors often makes sense. With the unlimited amount of creative freedom provided by lighting systems, I can dial in exactly what I want whether it’s fluorescent or tungsten lights, side or backlighting, or the all-important brightness and diffusion and tone. There’s a freedom that comes from setting up and shooting away knowing that a scene is perfectly lit and won’t change until you want it to.
Another major advantage of the studio set-up is the privacy and lack of distractions. Few would consider a boudoir session in full view of the public. Inside though, knowing nobody is looking over my shoulder while I work, means I can focus completely on the job at hand. The relationship between photographer and model can take front and center in the home, where the communication is easy without being distracted by onlookers.
Perhaps the best reason to shoot indoors is that no matter the weather, I can always work. The wind, heat, dust, and rain have all conspired to thwart my plans for shooting at one time or another but have never been a concern in the studio set-up at home. This ability is what makes it possible to stay in business – if the only time I could work was when the weather was merciful, I would not be in business for very long.
I find that while I can get stunning photos with the studio set-up, the sunlight imparts a dynamic and energized feel especially when combined with artificial lighting.
Besides the advantages of working with available sunlight, another perk of working outdoors is the unlimited backgrounds. Think about it – these can vary from a deep blue sky, to a sandy beach, to a field of grasses swaying in the breeze. Such environments invariably impart an organic, relaxed feel into my photographs that can be perfect for portraiture or other shoots involving models. If I want something gritty on the other hand, an old barn or maybe even a junkyard might form the perfect location for a shoot. There’s no end to what’s available, see below: