Take stunning natural light portraits

6 ways to use window light

1. Side on

When side-on to your model, the window light creates an attractive mix of soft highlights and shadows, adding depth to the face and body. Look for ways to add shape to the portrait by using the subject’s arms in the frame. 

2. High-key

Position the subject in front of the window then shoot facing it. By exposing for the subject, the lighter background will be completely blown out. As the face is in shadow you may need to increase the ISO to 1,600 or more for an accurate exposure.

3. Silhouette

From the same position as the high-key portrait, turn the subject into a silhouette by exposing for the outside light. As this throws the subject into darkness, their outline becomes more important, so try turning them side-on for a profile shot.

4. Frontal light

Position the subject straight on to the window and shoot from in front of the light, taking care not to block it too much. The direct frontal light is very flattering, as it fills in all the shadows under the eyes and softens wrinkles.

5. Reflections

Ask the subject to lean in close to the window glass and, at the right angle, you’ll get a reflected view of their face in the glass. For a stronger reflection, look for an angle where the background beyond the window is in shadow.

6. Colored backgrounds

Look for windows with colored walls to the side and shoot the subject in front for impactful backdrops. The closer the wall to the window the brighter it’ll be, so corner windows work best. Alternatively, place colored paper behind the subject.

Bounce light for brighter portraits