Tag Archives: Models

Use window light for portraits

You don’t have to have strobes or flash for great light.

The quality of your shot is not proportional to how much equipment you have. You can create great shots with simple equipment and great light. Got a camera and window? You are nearly there.

In the video below you can see simple steps to create great shots often come from simple set-ups. It is the simplicity that often makes these shots work well. A great portrait shows off the subject and if the environment is understated they become the main focus. Simple light and simple props are the key.

The photographer, JP Morgan, uses lighting contrasts, hard and soft light with reflectors to manipulate the light in this portrait session. The use of the light is constantly aimed at creating shadows that flatter the face and colours that bring out the skin tones.

Although he does not mention it, look out for highlights on the skin of the subjects. Did you see any? Well, he used the light at a natural level to control the highlights. Flash often creates nasty bleached highlights on prominent features of the face. That distracts from the overall view of the face and destroys the balance. Natural light, especially soft light helps to minimise highlights and that brings out the character of the face more.

Notice that he explored the different potentials of the two girls to suit them. Skin tone, hair colour, clothes and posture were all considerations. Notice too that most of the poses were ones that suited the girls individual character. They probably had a lot of input to those positions. Remember to involve your portrait subject, they will respond better and photograph better if you work with them and make it about them.
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He worked the scene continuously. He used reflected light a lot to prevent the camera creating a silhouette against the window light. The reflector brought the natural light to the front of the shot, but toned it down. This meant there was a difference between the intensity of the window light and the subject lighting.

The creative use of shadows is great. They are endlessly fascinating to work with and they make a scene look deeper and more natural. The window frame on this shoot also made the shadows more dramatic which complemented the girls own shadow.

This video is an interesting insight to shooting with natural window light. There is also a lot about how to work with a model there too. Watch out for the way the girls seem to be enjoying themselves.