Daylight is free and it is wonderful for portrait work. It can be flattering, photogenic and easy to work with. Direct sunlight is probably the only type to avoid because of potential contrast problems.
Your DSLR and standard zoom will be fine, or you could go for something slightly longer for a more flattering perspective. A tripod is advised and you need a reflector – a purpose-made one, some white card or some silver foil stuck onto a sheet of MDF will do.
Natural light portraits taken by Peter Bargh.
To take good portraits with light from a window you don't need a lot of space. In fact, the shot to the right was taken in a stairwell at ePz towers. We asked our model, Chloe, to sit in the window, back against the wall, legs straight out. The camera was set-up facing Chloe with the light coming from the window to the left. If you can, do your work on an overcast day because that way the light is naturally, nicely diffused and won't be too harsh.
We also had someone hold a reflector to the side of Chloe, facing the window. But just in case you don't have someone to hand, a tripod makes a good reflector holder or you can hold the reflector yourself and set the camera on a self-timer. Or you could use a reflector designed to be held by the photographer. If you are shooting tightly cropped images, the model can hold the reflector for you.
If you use manual metering take a reading from the model's face and not the window. If you meter from the window it will think the scene is brighter than what it is and as a result, your subject will be underexposed.
We are working with window light so if there are any household lights on turn them off for neutral results. It is worth trying different white-balance settings. Auto white-balance can work well, but try shade or cloudy for warmer looking images.
Get in as close as you can to capture/use as much daylight as possible. A tripod is useful, hand-held can work just as well but make sure you are shooting at reasonably fast shutter speed and remember to focus on the eyes. Crop in tight on the face and if you wish, you can use the window to help frame the shot.
Most people are not natural posers so communication and guidance are important. For posing ideas, check out the fashion magazines and images in our gallery section too.
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