Understanding Natural Light: Tips to Better smartphone Photography at Home

You might have heard “it’s all about the lighting” or something along those lines when people talk Photography Shop. Truth is, lighting is everything. Circa 2017 I believed I could Photoshop my way out of any situation and all I had to do was take a photograph. That could not be further from the truth.

You do not need a fancy, expensive camera to help you better understand the roll light plays when taking pictures in your day-to-day. You are on the go, in the moment and there are ridiculously cute things that happening all day long when you are surrounded with little humans. Though somethings are unavoidable in your environment (you cannot remove the overhead lighting at the store or in the library), there might be times when you can control some factors to give you the best shot possible. It just takes from practice.

Delivery rooms, changing tables, kitchen highchairs- these are a few areas that you might be able to change a few things so your phone pictures are primetime.

In the tips below, I used a typical family basement and transformed a little nook on the floor as an area to photograph Miss Everly. I pulled the curtains back, moved a few things and gave her dandelions from the front yard to play with, so I could show the do’s and don’ts of taking a simple, yet beautiful picture while using intentional light. You can find a quick, suuuuuper cute video of it here.

All images were taken with my iphone11. All screenshots are of my iphone as well, so if you have a different smartphone, the concepts remain though the layouts/buttons will be different.


A before scene of a cluttered basement and sun shining through a curtain.  The next photo is a young baby girl in a sun dress playing with flowers on the floor for tips on how to take better pictures indoors with your smartphone.

  1. Turn off all indoor lights and get your babies near a window.  Natural light is always the best. Overhead lighting can cast a shadow on their eyes and turn their skin yellow and orange. Move their toys near a window or drag the highchair closer to the window.

A collage of a toddler girl playing with a dandelion in her basement.  The collage shows how to use natural light in your own home to take better pictures with your smartphone.

2. But, keep the window light on their face, not behind them.  Bright windows behind your children can get tricky with smartphones.  There is little light on their face, little light in their eyes and their face will usually be hazy, and have low contrast.  See the difference below. This is the same area, but on the left, the bright window light is behind her. On the right, I quarter-turned Everly so that the light was to her side.

At home indoor photography.  Understanding back light vs side light when using your smartphone to take pictures inside.  A comparison of two images of a little toddler girl in a sundress showcasing the difference between side light and back light.

3. Diffuse light through a sheer curtain, no direct light on their skin.  Try to avoid bright sun coming through your windows, or direct sunlight in your frame.  If there is extreme contrast between the light and shadows, smartphones pick up on the super sunny parts and typically end up blowing out the highlights and making the shadows too dark. With Everly, I pulled the curtains back and clamped a white sheet so the sun didn’t hit her skin directly. A Behind The Scenes video lives on my reels. See the difference below. It’s HUGE!

At home indoor photography.  Understanding diffused light vs direct light when using your smartphone to take pictures inside.

If you don’t have sheer curtains or the energy to clamp white sheets, using north facing windows in your home will be your best friend, if you are in the Northern Hemisphere. North facing windows will be softer, more even light sources (the opposite will be true for our southern hemisphere friends).  Not sure which windows are north? Use your location in your maps app, zoom in on your house and identify north (or south) through your compass. 

A screenshot of a google maps to help someone identify their north facing windows by using the compass tool on their maps.

Smartphone cameras keep getting better and better. Knowing a few basic lighting rules can really go a long way when capturing quick moments that are happening inside your home everyday. If you are a Newborn Mom and have some time to move your babes to different window light around the house, do it! You will be able to find which windows and rooms you like best to keep in mind as your baby grows.

More tips in my Newsletters for how take better smartphone pictures and how to engage your children naturally at home. Sign up here.

Interested in booking a session with Steph Kines? Get in touch here and let’s see what we can create together.

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