Window-light Portraits

August 01, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

Studio quality light from just a window? Free? At home? Yep.

Have you seen photographers using white umbrellas and soft boxes to fire their flash through? Well, what they are doing is making their light source larger to create softer light. A typical flashgun is only a matter of inches in size (the lens that emits the light). The light that comes out of such a small light source is hard, e.g. the shadows it casts have hard edges, just like your shadow on a sunny day. Drag a cover of cloud across the sun and you have soft light. It's diffused by the cloud just as the shoot through umbrella diffuses the hard light of the flashgun.

There is a very simple way for everyone to find and use soft light and therefore make better portraits - and it's FREE. Window light. 

Windows allow light into our rooms and tend to be quite large which means they transmit quite a lot of light deep into the room. If you position your subject so that they are facing the window you will notice that their face is filled with light, their eyes will gleam and the window will show as a catchlight in their eyes. Get yourself in-between the subject and the window and, without blocking the light with your body, make your photographs. Ask the subject to look out of the window or at least ensure they are orientated in the windows direction. 

Just to clarify - I am not talking about sunshine, actually quite the opposite. Sunshine creates hard shadows; we are after soft light so you don't want the sun streaming through the window. A north facing window is perfect but you can use any window as long as the sun is not beaming through it.

My cute model Daniel visited me on a bright but overcast day. We made him some toast and sat him at the kitchen table facing the window. I sat to one side and made a few pictures. I said it was an overcast day and you can tell that light was at a premium when you see my camera settings. Aperture wide open at f/1.4, ISO at 1600 and shutter speed at 1/125th.

window light portrait

Understanding light, how to find it and how to use it is among the most important skills in photography. Perhaps even the most important. 

I will be posting more on understanding light in future posts. If you already know how to use a camera but you are not getting great results it could be that you are finding light elusive. Be sure to like my Facebook page and subscribe to my mailing list (in the right hand sidebar) to receive tips, information and learn about exclusive offers. 

If you would like tuition to improve your own camera skills please check out my Tuition page and drop me a line with your requirements. 

 


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