Studio lighting kits are great but they can be expensive. If you don't have the money to splash out on a lighting kit make the most of natural light and shoot some indoor portraits with the help of the free light that cascades through our windows every day.
1. Pick The Right Lens
Use your standard zoom or get out a longer telephoto for more flattering shots. When using longer lenses it also means you don't have to work as close to your subject which should mean they're more relaxed.
2. Use Accessories
You may find your hotshoe flash useful for removing unwanted shadows and for adding catchlights, but do try using a reflector first to see if you can direct light to where it's needed.
3. You Don't Want Really Bright Light
Soft, indirect light is good for window portraits. If it's too bright outside put some netting on the window to diffuse some of the light or shut the blinds if the window has them. Don't use coloured materials though as this will create a colour cast and take down your curtains if they are colourful as these will also add unwanted colour to your shots.
4. Set Up In The Right Place
North facing windows are perfect for indoor portraits, but you can use any that aren't in the direct path of the sun. Bigger windows will, of course, give you more light to work with but just because you don't have a set of glass patio doors facing north doesn't mean you can't give this ago.
5. Check The Weather Forecast
You might be wondering why you need to do this if working inside but if the weather presenter says the day will be overcast then it's the perfect time to try this technique because on overcast days, the light's naturally diffused and won't be too harsh.
6. Do A Spot Of Cleaning
When was the last time you washed the window you're going to be using as your light source? If it's not recently you may want to consider getting the cleaning products out as a clean window can be a full f/stop brighter than a dirty one.
7. Switch Off Indoor Lights
For better results, turn your household lights off. When you have a mixture of artificial and natural light it can make life difficult when it comes to setting the right white balance so to make things easier, just stick to using natural light.
Photo by Peter Bargh
8. What White Balance Options Will You Be Using?
Experiment with the white-balance settings found on your camera as even though auto white-balance can work well, the shade or cloudy settings can produce warmer looking shots.
9. Meter From The Right Place
Don't meter from the window as the camera will think the scene is brighter that it actually is and as a result your model will be underexposed. To combat this, meter from your model's face.
10. Where To Position Your Subject?
The closer your model is to the window the stronger the light will be that's on them. That's unless the sun's high in the sky as then the light won't be as direct. However, high sun may cause shadows to appear under the nose so either move your subject further into the room or use a reflector to add light to the areas in shadow.
11. Work With Reflectors
If working with a reflector use your camera's self-timer function so you can hold / position the reflector. However, if you're going to crop in close get your model to hold it, just remember to check to see if it's in-shot before you shoot and move accordingly if it is.
12. Give Direction
You want the model's eyes and the front of their face to be in the light as this is where you want your viewer's attention to be. Start by asking your subject to stand or sit 45 degrees to the window then adjust for the light accordingly.
13. Use Your Feet
Apart from getting your model to tilt their head more to the window slightly it's actually easier for you to move the camera when you want a different shot.
14. More Shooting Suggestions
Try shooting side on, half in and half out of the light (when a reflector would be handy) or have your model stand straight on to the window and add a little fill-in flash to stop them appearing as a silhouette.
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