For some photos, nothing beats the natural beauty of ambient light. When used correctly natural light can create soft portraits that bring out great looking skin tones and display a seemingly perfect balance between shadows and highlights. As limiting as it may initially seem, shooting with natural light can offer a pretty diverse range of lighting styles.
How to Find The Perfect Window Lighting
There can be a learning curve to using natural light effectively, especially when shooting indoors where your options may be more limited in regards to finding usable light. It goes without saying you should locate a room in your indoor space that is home to a window.
Just like any light source, the size of the window can vary depending on the mood you are trying to create in your image. A large, bright window will be helpful to create a softer image, whereas a small window can be an effective tool to create a more dramatic, directional look.
How to Pose Your Subject to Take Advantage of the Gorgeous Lighting
The angle in which the light falls onto the subject will also dictate the mood and overall feel of the image. When photographing your subject from a front facing angle, if they are posed facing the window, the light will fall evenly across their face, thus softening their features.
On the other side of the spectrum, if the subject is posed at an angle against the light, their facial features will appear more prominent. It really depends on the look you are trying to achieve as to what angle you will want to take advantage of the light.
Ways to Manipulating The Light for Even Better Results
There are a few tricks you can use to manipulate natural light to create different effects and make it just the right intensity. For example, you can use sheer drapes to filter the light and further soften it. You can also add a GOBO (a shaped template which controls the shape of the light coming from the window) to create unique light patterns on your subject.
Another way to control the light, or give it a boost, is to introduce a reflector into the equation. The reflector can be one made specifically for photography or you can also use a large sheet of white cardboard, even a white piece of fabric such as a bedsheet. This will allow you to bounce additional light back onto the subject and help fill in undesirable shadows.
What Camera Settings Should You Use for Best Results With Window Light?
It's true that the advancements in DSLR technology allows us to shoot at higher ISOs without much loss to the image quality. There's also a selection of great software on the market that can drastically reduce the appearance of digital noise caused by high ISOs. That being said, you should always try to shoot on the lowest ISO possible for your specific situation.
Start on a lower ISO and faster shutter speed, slowly reducing the shutter speed until the image is properly exposed. If the shutter speed gets so slow that camera shake or movement is picked up on the exposure, then try increasing your ISO. You can also make adjustments to your aperture to let in more light so long as a shallow depth of field does not compromise the look of the photograph you are trying to achieve.
Camera settings can be tricky, since every situation will be different. It's often a good idea to experiment with different settings and take multiple test shots until you are happy with the results–one of the perks of shooting digital! The process of experimentation is a great educational process. So try out different settings, pose your subject in different ways, and don't forget to move yourself around, too!
More Great Photography Tutorials on Window Light Portraiture
- The Awesome Light Hiding in Your Home
- How to Use Window Light When Photographing Newborns
- Tips for Using Window Light in Portrait Photography
- 10 Tips for Natural Light Portraits