Digital Photographer Magazine – Window Light Portraits
Full Article (Not Published)
Issue 163, July 2015
Matthew Osborne Photography / MrLeica.com
Digital Photographer Magazine asked me to write an article for them listing my top ten tips for window light portraits with some example images. I did so and submitted the article.
Below is a iPhone snapshot of the page I was featured on included one of the photos (Model – Gina) and one of the 10 top tips written. As I already have the full article I thought it might be nice to share it here.
Ten Tips for Window Light Portraits (Full Article)
1) A north facing window is ideal for window light portraits as it provides soft diffused light throughout the day without having to consider possible harsh (high contrast) direct sunlight.
2) Existing window blinds or net curtains can assist in controlling and diffusing bright window light. If the window is without blinds or net curtains a white sheet or semi-transparent material can be hung betweem the glass and the subject to reduce the light levels.
3) Curtains can be used to shape the window light. If you have a large window then shutting the curtains part way can create a slice of light that can often be used more creatively. Having areas of shadow and highlights can add more interest to a photo and shadows can be used to hide distracting backgrounds.
4) For window light portraits where the window is the key light by facing the model towards the window gives large bright catchlights in the eyes. This is similar to the look achieved when facing a model towards a large softbox.
5) Window light can also be used as a backdrop. By exposing for the models face and with the models back to the window the background will become overexposed and can appear as white. Windows can also make a nice frame for the portrait by composing the image so the models head is aligned within the frame of the window behind.
6) A reflector can be used to add fill light to a window portrait. Place the model between the window and the reflector and use the reflector to bounce window light back onto the model to help illuminate shadow areas.
7) Window light on an overcast day or late in the evening might be insufficient to light your model. Light levels can be boosted by placing a speedlight and wireless trigger outside on a light stand and directing the flash back into the room through the glass to emulate sunlight.
8) To meter for window light portraits using the camera’s full auto mode, aperture priority mode or shutter priority mode select the spot meter on the camera to meter for the models face rather than the illumination of the whole frame. Alternatively you can use a handheld light meter and meter for the highlights on the models face such as the cheekbones.
9) Do not rely on your camera’s histogram for window light portraits as often the photo may read as under or over exposed. By illuminating the models face only the histogram will read underexposed and the majority of the frame will be dark. If the window is used as a background the histogram will show as overexposed and the majority of the frame will be bright.
10) Lastly, the effect of window light can be simulated by any area where there is an area of shadow and a direction source of light. Common examples may include a standing your model in an open doorway, tunnel entrance or under a tree canopy.