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5 Top Tips On How To Use Window Light For Indoor Portraits

Make the most of the free light around you and shoot some portraits next to windows or patio doors in your own home.

|  Portraits and People
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Daylight is free and it is wonderful for portrait work as not only is it flattering and photogenic but it's really easy to work with so it's a good place for beginners to start. You don't need a fancy studio, either, as you can pick a location outdoors or simply set-up next to a window in your own home.  


1. Light & Time Of Day

To take good portraits with light from a window you don't need a lot of space but do try and avoid an area/time of day where direct sunlight is flowing through the window to avoid contrast problems. If you can, work on an overcast day because the light will be naturally diffused and won't be too harsh. 

As we are working with window light, you don't want other light sources spoiling your shot so turn your house lights off for neutral results.


2. Use A Reflector 

You'll probably need to bounce some light onto your subject's face and the best way to do this is with a reflector. You can either use a purpose-made one, some white card or some silver foil stuck onto a sheet of MDF will do.

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 a photographer. If you are shooting tightly cropped images, the model can hold the reflector for you, too.




3. Metering Tips 

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.

4. Get The White Balance Right 

It is worth trying different white-balance settings. Auto white-balance can work well, but try shade or cloudy for warmer looking images.  

5. Framing & Capturing Your Portrait 

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 a 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, too.

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