Every good photographer has a few tricks up her sleeve to alter the time of day and the seasons of the year indoors. Whether you have a studio or not, it’s possible to create terrific effects indoors with a few simple tools that will turn your pictures into works of art. The tools you’re going to need are all about using filtration to change the color temperature of your pictures in a way that suggests fall and winter, the two times of the year when the light is noticeably different than spring and summer.
As the sun makes its way lower in the sky (or to be more accurate, as the earth rotates around the sun) there is more atmosphere to get through and this turning, bringing us to autumn and winter, brings with it a change in color temperature that affects outdoor photography. In autumn the colors get warmer and you can easily see the transformation from the bright and clean light of summer to a hazier shade of color into the orange and yellow end of the spectrum until winter brings with it icy cool blue tones. Each of these colors can easily be created indoors with the right tools.
See more: Studio vs. Outdoor Photography
You could easily use a tungsten light to create the warmth of fall indoors, but let’s assume you are shooting with flash and attempt to manipulate its neutral white tone to make pictures that reflect the changing seasons.
Take any still life you want to photograph, say pumpkins and leaves and add a human being to it, a nice family still life, or any other subject appropriate to the season. An unadorned flash will do just fine, but let’s alter that light by softening up the light with a softbox, or if you’re working without that luxury, a large piece of vellum hanging from a boom arm. Whichever way you choose to go, the point is to soften the light.
Now, another way to enhance the light would be to lower your horizon by lowering your light to an angle that corresponds to angle of the sun in fall. To eliminate any unwanted shadows, and this holds true whether your photographing people or still life, put a reflector board in front of your subject to bounce some light from below. This will create a nice even, soft tone to your picture.
The last part of the setup is filtration. Gel filters are available in large sheets so that you can either gel the vellum, or smaller sheets to cover your flash tube. If you choose to cover your flash tube, be sure to cover it very loosely so that there is plenty of circulation getting to your flash tube and modeling lights, otherwise you may wind up melting your gel. The gel sheets are cheap, selling for less than seven dollars for a twenty by twenty-four sheet. For autumn, start with a 1/8 CT Orange CTO Color Conversion Gel Filter that will convert daylight to tungsten, giving you a beautiful warm tone. There will be a certain amount of light loss, but not enough warrant a significant change in exposure. For creating a winter scene indoors, say, if you’re going to photograph holiday still life or family photos indoors, all the same ideas apply, except that you’ll need a 1/8 Blue CTB Color Conversion Gel Filter. The filters come in ¼ and ½ gradations of each color as well. If you are particularly skilled at manipulating the filtration, you can easily cut a hole in a large sheet of blue CTB for the background and insert an orange CTO in the hole to warm up the primary subject, especially that subject happens to be people. Blue skin tones are not going to be appreciated by anyone.
Another nice touch to add to a scene is a window, even if you don’t have one. You can easily make one: use tape across the vellum to create the effect of a window: just take two strips of one inch black tape and make a large cross on your vellum or softbox to suggest window panes. The effect will be subtle, but noticeable. It adds a nice last touch to an already beautiful picture.
All these filters come in a handy reference kit that is readily available from each of the manufacturers, with many, many colors and diffusion materials to choose from and you should have no problem picking them up at a well-established photo store for free. Then you can start having some fun altering your pictures in the studio to suit your mood.