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If you follow me on instagram, you’ve probably heard me complain about my tiny apartment. When I say tiny, I mean it. We basically live in something like a studio apartment (only except that sounds way more glamorous than what it actually is!). It has two rooms, the bedroom and the living room, separated by a half wall. The living room also has the kitchen in it, which is just a small strip on one side of the room. The walls are wood paneling. Yes. Like in a trailer home. I also have a nasty window unit, a ugly wall heater that doesn’t work (I attempted to hide it with my tv, but it’s still visible!), and a wall heater that does work (there is no hiding that one!). I like to call it vintage. There’s one window right next to the kitchen. Then my back doors are windows, and on that wall there is another very small window. That’s it as far as lighting goes in this place. Although I may seem like I complain about it a lot, I am very thankful for the time I have spent in my little apartment. I got serious with photography about two years ago and we have been living here for almost three. So, despite being small and not having very much light, this apartment has actually helped my photography. I’ve had to get creative with light source and how to use the little light I had available. I also had to get creative with how to use the small space that I had to get any type of image. I have a few tricks to get you inspired with a small space. This could be your own home or even a clients home. All you need is a little light and you can work any space.
Feeling uninspired because of all the rain or snow? Check out my tips to stay inspired during the winter months.
Taken with the Sigma 24mm 1.4.
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use a wide angle lens
Having a wide angle lens like the Sigma 24mm 1.4 will not only help you with your settings, since it has that lovely aperture of f/1.4, but will also help you not feel so cramped in the small space. Sometimes with my Nikon 50mm 1.8, I feel like I can’t back up enough to get what I want in the picture. For in home sessions, I would recommend definitely having at least a 35mm or wider. A word of caution when using a wider angled lens on clients, make sure you leave enough room on either side for distortion help. Which you can fix in LR if it is extremely unnatural looking. I sometimes like to embrace the distortion, especially when I’m photographing my dogs. It’s a fun perspective. Another great thing about the Sigma (not sure if it applies to other wide angle lens) is that you can also get pretty close to your subject, and still have them in tack sharp focus, which helps you eliminate the background/distractions. This is sometimes helpful in small apartments or houses.
Taken with the Nikon 50mm 1.8.
use windows to change your perspective
I can get so many different images with just one window. Even in my small apartment that has very little in the window department. If you find you come to a clients home and there is only one room with good light, but it’s small, you can totally work it and get different looks with just that one window. Not only can you use windows in your shot, but you can also use the windows for different lighting effects. I love using my window light to black out the background (because there are a lot of ugly things in my apartment that I’d rather not show!). Using light dramatically with the help of a window can really help eliminate distractions.
Taken with the Sigma 24mm 1.4.
If I wasn’t pregnant I would do this all the time. Sometimes my couch gets in the way of the pretty light, so either use the couch in your photos, or move it! I can get some nice reflections from my table if the light is right, but my table is up next to my wall and not very photogenic at the current location. I would move it and then photograph it! The same can go if you have a distracting piece of furniture that you don’t want in the background. Sure, you can always clone it out. But why take that extra time when you could just move it and take a few pictures, and then put it back where it belongs later? Sometimes I wait for my husband to get home to move it back for me. Totally an optional step!
Taken with the Nikon 50mm 1.8.
focus on details
Instead of focusing on the big (little) picture of the apartment, focus on some details. Try macro, you can do macro ANYWHERE. It doesn’t have to be a big space at all! Try getting close to your subject to get rid of those distractions! The details of your everyday, of the place you are living right now might not seem important now, but they will when you leave! Get up close to your children, photograph their hair, eyes, little feet + hands. Endless possibilities when we focus on capturing the details. Even in a small space.
clean up before taking pictures
So, this one is something I don’t always do. But a small apartment can seem cluttered and dirty fast. Simplify where you want to take a picture real quick by picking up unnecessary things that don’t add to the story or point of the image. I am not suggesting you go crazy and clean your entire apartment (or your clients entire house!), but just be aware of what’s in your frame. I have gone into a client’s home before and moved things around so that the scene was simple. It just makes for a cleaner image. And less work when you’re processing your images!
Still feeling uninspired by the small space? There’s usually beautiful light outside, just take your client or your subject outside! I have done this countless times when the light just wasn’t bright enough inside. I have a car port right outside my door that gives some nice soft light. Even on an overcast day I can get some nice light in there. But first, try the tips above!
Do you live in a small space? Do you struggle when a client has a small space? What are some ways you go about photographing in a small space? I’d love to hear in the comments below.