Getting a good portrait is highly dependent on the quality and quantity of light available. That is one of the reasons why so many portrait photographers strongly prefer to shoot inside a photo studio where they have a high degree of control over lighting. One of the most useful lighting accessories in a portrait studio is a soft box, which is a large light box that diffuses the light from a flash or other light to make soft, natural-looking light for well-lit portraits.
You can get much the same soft, evenly diffused light in your own home without the expense of having a
studio by shooting portraits with the subject standing or sitting in front of a window. Shoot when the light comes from the sky, not directly from the sun, or you can use the diffused sunlight that comes through a white sheer drape. You can change the direction of the light on your subject by moving the camera and subject at different angles to the window. This can give you everything from dramatic sidelight to open front light.
One of the very creative and natural ways of shooting indoors is to use the window lighting coming in along with a flash and/ or reflectors. you may add on a tripod /monopod for more stability. Your timing will depend on the direction of the sun in respect to your window. Use the east facing window in the mornings and west facing window towards the later part of the day. there is usually a prime time when the lighting through the specific window is the best. careful study beforehand will come handy. Open up the aperture to the extent that you get a higher shutter speed and shallow depth of field. Your timing and preplanning is very important as good lighting will not last too long through the window. Spend the limited available time in shooting rather than planning your shot.
At Real Alcazar, Seville, Spain, the warm cast is due to the colour of the walls. It will rather look un natuaral, if the warm cast is removed. When the direction of light cannot be controlled, if the subject is looking towards the light, it naturally falls on the face in the right way.
In Leh, this photograph was taken while this kid was peeping out of the car window. The kid is in the rear seat and the hair light, a warm evening golden light is coming through the rear glass window. canon 5d f4 1/125th sec 200mm
canon 5d 105mm f4 1/50th sec
canon 5d 84mm f4 1/30th sec
In these photographs above, the light is coming through the window on the subject's right. Since there are windows all across the wall, the light is actually wrapping around the subject. Had this been a smaller window, there would have been lesser fill from the other side.
Now in this photograph also the window is quite large but the subject is dark because the camera is actually pointed towards the light. Light travels in straight lines, as we all know. The cameras photo meter reads more light as more of the light is directly reaching the camera. That's the reason, the subject against the light is rendered darker than how it appears otherwise. Our eye does not see the same way. A lot of interpretation is done by the brain and the eye is constantly scanning the area.
Window light can change quite dramatically in color depending on where the light is coming from. Light from a blue sky is very cool in color, and clouds can give everything from warm to cool light. Try setting your camera’s white balance to Cloudy or Shade for nice warm skin tones. You can even try using a custom balance setting with the light.
If the light from the window is too harsh, use a reflector to bounce light back to the subject. Just place the reflector opposite the light and reflect the light onto the subject. Large white art boards made of foam in between white paper, called Fome-Cor®, which can be purchased at most art stores, make excellent accessories for your window “studio.” They can be quickly propped up and used as reflectors to modify and enhance the light coming from a window.
Munish Khanna is a well experienced creative photographer based in Delhi, India
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