Cranky Photography: Using Window Lighting for Great Portraits

Posted by: Maggie

If you’ve read my ebook, How to Shoot Your Kids, you know that, in general, I am not a fan of flash or artificial light. To me, natural light always looks best.  One of my favorite lighting sources is window light. In general, as long as the sun isn’t shining directly into the window, light from a window will give you the very best lighting when shooting indoors–soft, even, indirect light.

There are three ways to position your subject when using window light: 1) Directly facing the window, 2) Facing away from the window, and 3) At a 45 degree angle from the window. Each of these gives you a different lighting effect.

1. Directly facing the Window

In this position your subject is directly facing the window while your back is to the window as you shoot.

When your subject faces the window they are evenly lit. Depending on your personal preference and style you might really like this position. But, I feel like the lighting is a bit flat for my taste. It’s nice and even, but not as interesting as it could be.

2. Facing away from the Window.

In this position your subject is between you and the window.

This is perfect for silhouettes! Because you have to love that cute slope of her nose! In a brighter room you can get a backlit portrait that’s not a silhouette, which can also be nice. But this is still not my favorite way to use window light.

3. At a 45 degree angle from the window.

In this position, your subject should be facing the window at a 45 degree angle. You should stand next to the window, so that the light is coming from over your shoulder and your subject is also facing you at a 45 degree angle. Basically you are making a little triangle, with you, your subject and the window at each of the points.

This position is my favorite because it creates some shadows which add depth to your subject’s face. I think it makes for a much more interesting portrait.

Here are the first and third side by side:

Which do you prefer?

Have a question for me or a suggestion for another photo lesson? Comment below!

One Comment

  1. CUTE. i think your baby girl has the haircut i want.

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