Window Light Portraits

Window light portraits have so many advantages for photographers. It's cheap, it's easy, and you can have some beautiful light without much effort. You just have to decide which window works best for your photo.

Advantages of Window Light Portraits

Window light. It's often a large, diffused light source that looks great on a variety of subjects. One of the local food bloggers in Orlando used to beg me to take photos of the food she created to post on her blog. Once I showed her how to position her food by the window and take her own photos, she went wild. No more begging me to come over and take free photos. She gets great shots with beautiful light – and it doesn't require any complicated equipment or setup work.

There are several advantages with window light.

  • It's free
  • It's easy to diffuse
  • It's directional
  • No major equipment to buy
  • No complicated setups with strobes, stands or light modifiers
  • You can create great photos with great light using everything from an iPhone to a DSLR

There's another feature of window light portraits that I like. It also makes a great frame for your subject.

Shooting Inside or Outside

Many people think of window light for photography as an interior shot. By that, I mean they expect the light to pour through the window to hit their subject inside, and that part is true. The other part is that they expect to be inside with the subject. It doesn't have to work that way, though.

Window light is just like any other light source. Just because it comes from a direction doesn't mean that you can't move around to see how the light interacts with your subject. Sometimes your best shot through the window means that you need to be outside.

Take a look at the photo below. I shot it in midday light, about 12:45pm. Common wisdom is that you should shoot portraits that time of day because of the harsh light. There's always a way around common wisdom, though.

Just before 1:00 o'clock, the angle of the sun was high enough to block the harsh light using the eaves of the building, but still provide plenty of directional light for Summers while she was facing out the window. She has nice shadows under her jawline and nose for definition, but the light isn't so harsh that it's blasting her skin.

I have a nice 53″ octabox and Elinchrom strobe that can deliver this kind of light, but it's nice to just use available light with a little thought to get the same result.

Just Another Light Modifier

I'll spare you from another one of my rants on why all light is natural light, or why you shouldn't listen to people who tell you not to shoot at High Noon because of the crappy light. Those are the same people who believe that natural light is magic light, except when it isn't.

The simple truth is that light is light and you just have to pay attention to how it behaves. Sometimes you can control it. Other times you can just take advantage of it as it exists. I did the latter in this photo of Summers Hardy.

It's not that hard. It's just one more of the myriad of things you have to watch while you're taking portraits.

Window Light Portraits

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