The Awesome Light Hiding In Your Home

Did you know that you already own one of the most effective, variable, and attractive lighting setups in all of photography? In fact, you probably own at least 5 of them.

They’re commonly known as windows.

Yep, window light is a wondrous thing. It’s free, all over the darn place, and really really really gorgeous. You basically get the effect of a superhuge softbox, without the superhuge pricetag.

The key to great photography with window light is using your eyes. Look at what’s in front of you, decide if you like it, and adjust to taste. It’s seriously that easy! And once you start to experiment, the possiblities are endless!

In this video, Lauren takes you through some of the reasons why window light is so rad, and a few different looks you can achieve in seconds. Check it out now!

Tips For Awesome Window Light Shooting

  • Use your eyes. Think about the light in front of you. Does it look cool?
  • Shut off all other lights in the room so you only have one light source (otherwise white balancing is going to be a pain!)
  • Expose for the bright side of the subject to avoid blowing out your highlights
  • Expose for the subject when using backlighting (and the window is going to blow out. That’s ok)
  • If the sun is coming directly through the window, you’ll end up with harsh light instead of soft. You might want that, or you might want to use a different window to get the soft stuff
  • When shooting people, try to get catchlights in their eyes to brighten them up. Catchlights are the little white reflections of the light source that show up in eyes. They’re good things.

Different Types of Lighting To Try With A Window

  • Different positions along the window (back, middle, front)
  • Front lighting and backlighting
  • Adjust the angle that your subject is facing the window at
  • Adjust the distance your subject is from the window

Exercise

Window light is extra awesome because you can practice it at home! Just grab your partner, your kids, your pet, your friend, or your stuffed animal. Anything will do!

Have them stand near a window, and try to get as much variety in your lighting as you can simply by adjusting their position.

I bet you’ll be totally amazed at how easy, gorgeous, and fun it is to shoot with only a window!

Lauren Lim

Hey friend, I’m Lauren! I’m a photographer and head ninja here at Photography Concentrate. I’m downright obsessed with photography, and love sharing it with super cool folks like yourself. When I’m not shooting, or writing, you can find me cooking (and eating!), traveling, and hanging out with wonderful people.

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Comments

16 Comments // Leave a comment

  1. Jose Mundo says:

    Lauren, this was an awesome post, it shows how creative people can get with so little.

    I am sure many other people including me would love to see more photography related posts like this one but maybe a bit more hands on, like how do you manage outdoor lighting, I always try to mimic the soft even light that I see in all of your portraits but can't seem to get there.

    Thanks guys, you are doing a great job. Your site is a daily for me :)

  2. Thanks so much Jose! So glad you enjoyed the post.

    And I think you're going to like what we have lined up for the rest of the week ;) Stay tuned!!

  3. Great post, thank you! I have learned a lot following your posts. You have a great style. Thank you for sharing. I look forward to more education!!!

  4. This stuff seems so simple, but until you guys pointed it out to me I was lost. And I love the bit about using your eyes – it's incredible what beauty you can find when you simply make a point to see. I can't wait to see what else you guys have up your sleeves for this week – I'm excited to get even more inspired! :)

  5. *@Janna:* Yes! That's awesome to hear that you're learning from the posts! More to come for sure!

    *@Steph:* It's totally simple indeed! Just takes a new way of seeing.

  6. In the tutorial you mention exposing on the bright side of the face, but I was recently reading Jose Villa's new book and he mentioned to expose on the shadows, .. help!

  7. Hey Alicia!

    Unfortunately I haven't had a pleasure of looking though Jose's book yet so I can't comment specifically on what he said.

    One thing to consider is that if you're exposing for the shadows (the darker part of a face) then naturally the brighter part of the face will become even brighter, possibly becoming over exposed.

    Because there is such a difference in brightness with side lighting at a window, this might be too much, and the bright part of the face could be blown out.

    I would suggest giving it a try yourself and seeing what results work best for you!

    One other thing that comes to mind is that I believe Jose shoots primarily film. When I shoot film I usually expose for 2 stops greater than the darkest shadow in the scene, or about 1/2 a stop greater than skin tones depending on the type of shot. This might be what Jose was referring to.

  8. You guys are so inspiring. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Jessica says:

    Hi Lauren. Thx so much for this post. I would love to know HOW to expose for the bright side of the face (as you mentioned in the video) and HOW to expose for the face with the backlighting. I always hear people saying that but HOW is that accomplished? Is it using spot metering (I have a 5DMarkII)?? I've had a hard time figuring out how to do that. Thanks so much!!!

  10. Hi Jessica!

    If you're having trouble figuring out how to expose for the face, then spot metering can definitely be a great way to begin practicing. It will let you be a lot more accurate with your metering. You can then take your reading from the bright side of the face, and adjust your settings accordingly.

    We generally use center-weighted metering, which isn't quite as precise as spot metering, but still lets us focus our exposure on the face. Then we get our settings, check the exposure on the back of the camera using both the image and the histogram, and start shooting!

    Hope that helps!

    Lauren :)

  11. I love your video explanation. I hope you don’t mind that i shared it with my readers here: http://www.resatroyer.com/photography/2013/05/24/how-to-use-window-light-for-great-indoor-photos-st-louis-childrens-photographer/

  12. I had NO idea I should be exposing for the bright side. THANK YOU!!

  13. Hello from beautiful Montana,
    Thanks so much for caring and sharing. As always, things come in divine timing. We are preparing to do a series of videos this week and I was nervous about the lighting. This information will help us look more natural and relaxed in the videos and still shots.

    Blessings,
    Judy Helm Wright, Pet Grief Coach

  14. I love your guys’ tutorials…..thank you so much! Only starting to really understand the whole window lighting thing now

  15. Thank you again! Ah so easy to read and I don’t break away at all!

  16. Great article and so true that you can do so much with very little. In my opinion, the result is usually better than anything you could create with a fill flash or studio lighting kit. Sometimes I just want to yell, “But I like shadows!!!”

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