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Tips for Using Window Light

One of the things that I am asked about most frequently is "How do I get my photos to look nice without using a flash indoors?" There are several ways to do this, but my favorite (and, IMHO the easiest) is window light. Using light from your windows is a wonderful way to get beautiful natural light when you're indoors. I love natural light because it is flattering to human subjects. It is often soft and diffused. When used well, natural light can produce beautiful highlights as well as rich shadows.

There are many ways set up your window light scenario, but I will just show you the one that I use most often. I love how easy it is to set up and how easy it can be to get great images with it.

Here are a few things that you should remember before choosing your location for your window light setup:
  1. Choose a window that is large and not blocked by other buildings, large trees, furniture indoors, etc.
  2. At certain times of the day, light coming in through a window will be too bright to place the subject right next to the window. Watch for the sun to cast a big, bright square of light onto the floor - I usually try to avoid placing the subject inside that square. The sun is just too harsh there. Does that make sense?
Now, on to the photos.
This first graphic is a simple diagram of how I set up my window light scenarios. Please excuse the rudimentary graphics - I just put it together really fast. :-) Notice the proximity of the subject to the window. I often try to place the subject fairly close to the window, especially when there is not very much light elsewhere in the room. However, sometimes the light from the window can be too bright - in those cases you will want to move the subject a little further away from the window. Also notice the reflector. I only actually use a reflector about 25% of the time - but a reflector can be a real lifesaver when you don't have very much light to work with.

I have THIS ONE from Westcott - it's nice and big and I seriously *heart* it. The light that it bounces back is just beautiful. If you don't have a commercial reflector, you can use a large piece of white foam core board.

This first photo was taken with the above setup, but I did not use a reflector. I often prefer this type of lighting. It is directional, and it provides the image with a good range of highlights, shadows, and depth.

The second photo was taken with the same setup, but this time I used a reflector. Notice that the shadowed side of her face is now filled in with light.

So, it can be pretty simple to get good shots when you're using natural light indoors. Just remember to keep the subject fairly close to the window, and watch where the light is falling. Reposition the subject until the light is flattering and the areas of the face that you want illuminated are well lit.

7 comments:

Kickin' Kari said...

awesome thank you!

Brian&Em said...

This is really helpful! Thank you!

Mindy said...

Fantastic! I'm doing my first newborn shoot tomorrow morning in my living room and this was just the information I needed for my setup! Thanks!

Geani said...

Wow, I love your ideas.
Thanks for another great tip!

Brad said...

Great tip, Alexis! Thanks for taking the time to detail this information for us!!!

Delilah said...

I love your website, thank you so much for posting all these tips. I will be sure to give you a plug in on my blog!

Liliana Paz said...

Awesome