Lesson 12: Window light

We talked in day 3 of the 7 day challenge about looking for natural light. Light is such a huge topic and a major component in photography that I wanted to spend a good part of this week exploring it. 
When you know how to find the best light as well as maximize the light you have, this will make such a huge difference in your ability to capture the moment and have your photos reflect the beauty that you see before you. 

I love my new workspace for how bright and airy it is with its giant storefront window.

I love my new workspace for how bright and airy it is with its giant storefront window.

First, go back and read day 3 of the 7 day challenge for a quick refresher.

Today, we’re going to start out with window light, as it is in many ways the easiest light to find, as well as some of the most beautiful light - not just for your photos but for your overall experience. In fact, as I write this  I am sitting by a huge window in my sun-filled, bright and airy office and it is giving me such a feeling of well being!

Put this into action:

If you are new to working with window light, these are the most important steps to apply:

  • Observe the light in your home to see which windows give you the best light at various times in the day.  
  • If light is coming in through the window but it’s not direct sunlight (i.e. you can’t see the sun itself and there isn’t a clearly outlined window shaped patch of sunlight on the floor) then you’ve got the makings of some great window light. 
  • We still want to try to capture natural emotions and interactions, so try not to ask your child to come over and stand by the window in order to pose. Depending on your child’s age, you can entice them over to the window more naturally to either play with a toy, look out, or if they are older, maybe to have a conversation with you. You could also suggest they sit by the window to do their homework, read a book, or get engrossed in whatever activity they love. And ok, if they’re a baby, you can just place them by the window! 
  • Ideally you want the light to hit the side of their face, but you can experiment with different angles and distances from the window. Again, try to do this naturally with your kids, or you could ask a grown up partner or friend to model for you so you can play around with it. You can even experiment with selfies this way to see which light looks best.

Once you are comfortable with these steps, here are a few more things to consider: 

  • If direct sunlight is coming through the window, you can have your subjects move further back from it, or you can use a sheer curtain to diffuse the light
  • Look for “catchlights” in your subject’s eyes - that is when light is reflected in their eyes. Not only does it bring their personality to life in photos, it is a sure sign that they are positioned well in the light.

Here are some iPhone photo examples of window light:

Taking it further: 
If you find yourself struggling with window light in your home because of the way it is set up, you might actually want to consider making some adjustments that will not only give you better photo opportunities but a better environment for your family.

For example, you could create a play area near a window, or rearrange your furniture so a seating area or table is near the window. Light-colored materials such as a rug, table, pillows or window treatments can also really help in reflecting and therefore diffusing and maximizing light.  
We have a dark wood dining table, bought before I had kids or became a photographer, that I really wish were a lighter material! On the other hand, we chose light-colored carpeting in the nursery because, by then, I knew I would be taking lots of photos of my new baby! That room is now our bedroom, and the entire space feels great because of it. 

Here are some DSLR photo examples of window light:

Today’s photo prompt: Look for window light! 
Up next: Open shade

Note: I'll be giving you daily photo prompts to help you in your photo-a-day project but they are completely optional. Ultimately you should choose the photo for your project that best reflects what you most want to remember about the day.

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