Be sure and read to the end for a special offer from Sarah this week!
Windows. Whether you have a home with floor to ceiling windows in every single room or just a few tiny ones here and there, everyone has them. While it’s more challenging to work with window light in some homes than others, there are some simple things you can do to create beautiful light quickly and effectively.
Windows are essentially soft boxes. We can’t move them or turn their power up and down but they’re still pretty versatile and can be used to create many different looks just by changing the position of your subject.
Ten Tips for Using Window Light Like a Pro
1. Shut off the other lights in the room. Remember light has a color and chances are the lightbulbs in your home are cooler than the light coming from the window.
2. Look at the way the light is falling on your subject. If you don’t like the way it looks in front of you, it’s not going to photograph well and you aren’t going to like how it looks in your image.
3. With digital cameras you need to expose for the bright side of the face (the highlights). If you expose for the dark side (the shadows) you will lose detail in the bright side. In this image, the window was about two feet away, camera left. I metered off of the side of the face closest to the window.
For this one, window is about three feet away, camera right. Again, I metered for the bright side of the face.
4. When the window is behind the subject (backlight), you’ll want to expose for your subject. The window will blow out (turn white) but that’s better than the alternative.
5. If the sun is shining directly through a window (are there window pane shadows on the floor?) the light is going to be harsh. Sometimes you might be going for that, but usually it’s something we try to avoid. Use that window at a different time of day.
6. Look for light in the eyes. Ideally, you want to see the reflection of the window (a catchlight). The closer you are to the window, the larger the catchlight will be.
See the light in the baby’s eyes? Those are catchlights!
7. The bigger the light source, the softer the light. While you’re kind of stuck with what you’ve got, placing your subject close to the window will give you soft light. Moving them away, causes the light to become smaller and harder.
8. Shadows are your friend. Whether you like them dramatic or soft and barely noticeable, shadows add depth and dimension to an image.
In this image, you can see where the window is in relationship to my subject. He’s positioned close to the window and angled away from it so that it’s hitting the side of his face softly, giving us a nice soft transition from highlight to shadow.
9. Placing your subject directly in front of a window creates flat light. While shadows are desirable, flat light isn’t always a bad thing! It’s great for capturing expressions and if you’re photographing someone with more mature skin, you may not want more depth and dimension.
10. Flash isn’t a dirty word. We all know that some of life’s most precious moments happen after the sun goes down and that sometimes, the moment we want to capture isn’t happening anywhere near a window. In these situations, knowing how to use a speedlight on-camera allows us to create a window wherever we want. It’s not only possible, but also quite easy to create soft, natural looking light with flash.
WEEK 5 CHALLENGE: This week your challenge is to find a window with soft diffused light coming through it and create five completely different images with the light. Try positioning your subject to the back, middle and in front of the window. Have your subject face the window. In any of these spots, see what happens when you change the angle of your subject. Try backlighting. See what happens when you’re subject is close to the window and then move them away from it. Go like the Kensie M Photography Facebook Page and post your favorites from the week there! We can't wait to see what you are working on. And remember we love questions, so feel free to post them in the comments section!
Sarah is the co-founder of my very favorite photography forum The Photographer Within and has given us here at Kensie M a great offer. If you would like to join TPW, which you totally should, it's amazing, you can now save 40% off a yearly membership by using the code "Kensie" at checkout! Enjoy!!
Sarah Phillips lives on Boston’s North Shore with her three kids and her husband. She thrives on organized chaos and guarantees that you’ll never see pictures of her house, dinner, outfit or the crafts she does with her kids on Pinterest. She loves to laugh, likes beer a little too much and will never give up carbs. She’s a Booty Barre addict who frequently stays up all night to finish a good book or watch an entire season of a television series and would rather drink wine with her best friends at home, wearing yoga pants than get dressed up and go somewhere fancy. Sarah never knew what she wanted to be when she grew up. She graduated from college with a degree in social work and went on to get a masters degree, but the need for a job drove those decisions, not passion or love for the work. Photography changed that. It started as hobby, something that brought her joy and in the midst of newborn and toddler chaos, felt like her own. Six years later, Sarah is a professional portrait and wedding photographer, you can check out her website here. She’s also a co-founder of The Photographer Within, teaches a popular on-camera flash workshop, and mentors.