Thank you to MCP Guest Blogger Sharon Gartrell for this post teaching how to feather window light. This should come in handy as the temperatures drop.
Using Natural Window Light Creatively
Winter is now upon us and many of my fellow natural light photographers are bemoaning the loss of the beautiful scenery and warm weather. The coming of winter doesnʼt mean that you either have to put your camera away until the first buds of spring appear or that you have to spend thousands of dollars for in-home studio equipment. Window lighting is an economical and beautiful option to explore.
You can use the windows in your home to mimic the effect of feathering studio strobes. This produces beautiful images with directional light that feathers across the face of your subject. I love using directional lighting indoors because I think it adds a beautiful dimension to your images.
Hereʼs what you need to do:
1. Find a large window in your home, preferably on the north side of your home. Unfortunately for me, the only suitable windows in my home are on the east side of my house. I can still make this work by limiting my shooting times between the hours of 10:30am-1:30pm. The window acts like a large softbox and creates beautiful catchlights in the eyes.
2. Place a stool, table or chair right at the edge of the window (see pullback 1 below). You will want the chair about 1-3 feet away from the window (see pullback 2 below). Remember the closer your subject is to the light source, the more diffused the light will be. This positioning will put your subject right at the edge of the light, just like when you feather a strobe you are placing the light so it’s edge is just at your subject. You will need to elevate your subject so that they are even with the window. Always use common sense when photographing a baby/small child and have another adult there to spot the child while you are shooting. The childʼs safety is always of the utmost importance.
3. Turn off all the lights inside the room you are shooting in. You don’t want tungsten and halogen bulbs messing up your colors and white balance. I take a custom white balance using a digital grey card.
4. Sometimes I use a reflector opposite the window when I want to brighten up the shadows on my subjectʼs face (see pullback 2 below). If you want a more dramatic look, donʼt use a reflector at all or move the reflector further from your subject.
5. Try this technique at different times of the day and see what the results are. The lighter it is outside, the more ambient light will be in your room and the brighter the shadows will be. If you try this when it is darker outside (like when it is raining) there will not be as much ambient light in the room and the result will be much different.
6. Finally donʼt be afraid to get creative with this. Angle your subjectʼs face toward the window and then away. Move your reflector. Use the light and shadows to mold your subjects face. The only limits are your creativity.