You really can’t get more perfect lighting then from natural window light. The reason being, that the window diffuses the bright light coming through it, especially at the edge of the window. This will leave you with soft, yet clear and illuminated images and none of those squinty-eyed smiles. For as gentle and beautiful as window light is, there are some subtle nuances to be aware of when shooting subject matter utilizing the natural glow. Below are the top 3 most frequently asked questions of window light shots.
Window Light FAQ #1: Where do I position my subject?
If you are shooting a portrait, start by having them sit just past the window, about 6 feet away from the wall. This will allow the light to gently and fully envelop them. Too close and too direct in the sunlight will have you seeing some real funky dark and light contrasting. Also, have your subject sit with the side of their shoulder facing the window. This allows the light to fall flatteringly across their face, leaving soft natural shadows on the far sides.
Window Light FAQ #2: Where do I position myself?
Although it may seem more natural to stand right in front of them while shooting, what actually is more natural is to shoot closer to the angle in which the window light is streaming. This means that you will position yourself with the side of your shoulder right up against the window. Be careful not to stand in the light, but right at the edge of the window. You will end up aiming backwards slightly, due to the way you positioned your subject, but it will create the most striking portraits.
Window Light FAQ #3: What if I’m not shooting a portrait?
As with the picture below, sometimes allowing the light to shine through the subject matter, can create lovely and dramatic photos. Obviously that doesn’t work with humans, and if it does, they may need more calcium… In any case, it all depends on what emotion you are trying to create. Start by placing your subject in the same position mentioned above. Again, that edge light is the softest and most complimentary. Once you have accomplished that, feel free to move around it and see what each angle will produce. As always, make sure you are zoom checking each shot for tack sharpness.
BONUS Tip! Ok, so we’ve established that natural window light is fantastic, but did you know that you may still want or need a light reflector? Additionally, and contrary to popular belief, you don’t always want to place that reflector on the shadowy side of your subject. If you want to open up those shadows, try placing the reflector above the camera position. Bouncing the light down onto your subject matter from closer to the window will accomplish the same thing but in a less aggressive way. And that’s what we’ve been talking about all along right? Soft, natural lighting? Awesome, get to practicing and pretty soon you’ll be known as the Portrait Specialist in your ‘hood!