How To Use Window Light For Indoor Portraits
Being able to work with enough natural light for indoor portraits can be problematic at times, but Amy Renfry has a few great tips to share that will help get the job done with any available natural light you have to work with, as she clearly explains in today’s blog post below…
It’s not difficult to create a lovely portrait. Once you have your light right then half the battle is over. What happens when you have no studio light? What then? I have good news; you don’t need studio light. Why not consider window light?
If window light were so successful then everyone would use it, right? Well, yes, that is right. The trouble is that with this is that no one uses window light properly. A lot of enthusiast photographers place the subject in front of the window. The light falls on their back, causing shadow to fall on the subjects face.
When you turn the subject to the window you will see a big difference. The subjects face will be lit with beautiful natural window light.
There are some handy ways to get started in creating some lovely portraits using window light.
To begin with examine the quality of the light that is coming through the window. Is it a hard or soft light? Depending on how much sun is coming through the window, and how close your subject is, the light may be soft. Soft light is ideal for portraiture. The skin tone looks softer and smoother. There are not as many shadows on the face or underneath the nose and chin.
Next think about the colour hue of the light. It is essential to have a white balance that is well suited to the subjects skin tones. This involves changing your white balance. If you do not understand how to get the right white balance for your subject it can be difficult to create beautiful images. This is where your custom white balance comes in.
If you have never done a custom white balance before it can be really confusing. And why do one at all? Well, without getting too complex and giving you a headache, remember this: if you do a custom white balance you will get accurate colour.
Here’s how you do it: place your light meter on the persons face with the invercone facing towards the direction of light. Now take a reading by pressing the side button. Set the camera to the same settings at the light meter. For instance, if the light meter tells you that F1.8 and 1/60th of a second is ideal, and your lens is unable to go to F1.8 then you can’t use that setting, obviously. To get around this and still get ideal exposure simply move the aperture dial until it displays am aperture you have, and, want to use.
Now you have your ideal exposure. Take that grey card of yours and place it in front of the camera lens. Take a shot. Now your white balance should be ok. It’s been set for the conditions you are shooting in and will usually give you the right colour balance. It works 99% of the time.
What next? Now we look at the direction of where the light is coming from. You will be able to see where the light falls and where the shadows fall too. You see, if you have too much top lighting then you’ll get shadows under the nose and eyes, making them look like a Raccoon. That’s not much chop when you are shooting someone in a flattering way. To stop this from happening try and find a window that is quite large. This will help scatter the light uniformly.
What if you still have shadows on the other side of the persons face? In this case try using a white reflector. (Don’t use gold, it just doesn’t work, it has to be white.) A white reflector can reflect the light back on persons face to reduce shadows. This works very well in some situations.
Generally you only see more contrast on people’s faces if you stand them too close to the light. If it’s softer light you want then move them away from the window. The closer to the light you get the more shadows can creep in. By moving them back from the window, the light changes. This will even out the light across their face, but darken the overall exposure of the image. Simply adjust this by bumping up your ISO.
Window light is beautiful, and if used correctly, it can be used to create very flattering lighting for a portrait. This type of method is great for weddings, young people and kids. However, not all portraits are the same. If you want to create something kind of dark and brooding, then shoot with a different direction and quality of light.
Consider window light as an accessible way to photograph people. It’s better to use a tripod than not use one. It just helps the shot remain clear and sharp. Keep your focus on the light and you will be amazed at what you can achieve.