A little over a year ago my family moved from Texas to California, downsizing our living space by 50%. We sold much of our furniture because there was simply no room for it and adjusted to smaller rooms and living areas. Our new little house has lovely light in two of the bedrooms and that is where I do almost all of my indoor shooting. Sometimes I struggle to come up with something fresh and new in the same spaces but I have a mental game plan that I’m going to share with you that has really helped me to continue to produce images that I love in my tiny house.
1. Observe the light over the course of the day
The lighting in your image plays an enormous part in the feeling it imparts to the viewer. Is it lighthearted and cheery? Is it dramatic and moody? I know that the light in my girls’ room starts the day rather soft. Mid morning it is flooded with beautiful cheery light, and the last light of the day gives me shadowy directional lighting. The fairy wings image above was shot using the last light of the day coming in from an east facing window. The next image with my daughter in the red dress was shot during the day when light was filling the room. It has a totally different feel to it even though it was shot within two feet of the fairy wing.
2. Change your perspective
This is such a simple thing to say, but I generally like to sit back and observe and sometimes I need to remind myself to move in close to my subject. Maybe you are the exact opposite. Either way, when you actively think about changing your perspective you will liven up your images. Try shooting from above your subject, lay on the floor, shoot them from one side and then shift yourself around them. As you do so, pay attention to the lighting and how it falls across your subject. Try moving your subject closer or further away from your light source and see what works best.
In this series of images I shot my baby from directly above her, from the side, and then from in front of her. I love the variety of looks that I managed to get in only a few minutes of shooting.
2. Change up the room
Don’t be afraid to move things around or rearrange furniture. I took this image while I was taking Megan Cieloha‘s Mastering Natural Light Indoors workshop. I moved the rocking chair out of the way and it felt like I was shooting in a new room.
Likewise, I will change up the bedding on my daughter’s bed to fit my mood or the feelings I want to evoke from my viewer.
4. Place limitations on your shoots
Most of my favorites images have been taken during the course of a CMU class. I’ve slowly come to realize how focusing on one or two things can drive growth and evoke creativity. You can focus on almost anything that you want. I like to participate in the CM monthly challenges when I’m lacking inspiration. One week I focused on showing motion in my work.
You could try something like filling the frame with your subject, shooting shadows, pets only, serious faces. The possibilities are endless but it is really encouraging to see that you can come up with something new time and time again just by choosing one new thing to focus on.
5. Revisit the past
When I’m feeling particularly uninspired, I will go back to some of my favorite images and attempt to recreate them. I might look at them and think about what I could have done better when I shot them the first time around. Or try them in a different lighting situation to see how it changes the impact it makes on the viewer. The most important thing is that you are picking up your camera and using it and not letting your small space hinder your creativity.
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Elicia Graves is a Texas girl living in the hippie enclave of Berkeley, CA with her husband and two little girls. Her photography style is simple and earnest and she enjoys documenting her family in her free time. She tries to make it to the beach as often as possible, and is always on a mission to find the best ice cream in the Bay Area.