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5 Tips For Using Window Light In Portrait Photography

By Matthew Celeste | Inspiration

Not all of us have the luxury of owning expensive lighting gear. We also don't all have access to a fully equipped photography studio. We all can, however, find a window somewhere!


You may have heard photographers crooning over 'beautiful window light' and using words like 'soft' and 'wrapping'. What's all the fuss about? It's because you can produce beautiful photos with no equipment besides your camera. That's a win. I want to hit you with 5 things you need to know about shooting a portrait using a window as a light source.

1- Proximity makes a difference. Moving your subject closer to the window is going to give you a higher lighting contrast between the lit side and the shadow side of the face. Moving them too far away is going to reduce the effect of the light so much that it'll look dull and flat. Find the sweet spot (usually a couple feet away depending on how bright it is outside). The sweet spot will yield incredible light.

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2- Angle matters. Have your subject stand so their shoulder is pointing toward the window and you're shooting straight on to them. Having them angle their face toward the window will have most of the face lit with a small amount in the shadows for a pleasing look. For more drama, have them angle their face away from the window. The majority of their face will be in the shadows.3- Turn off the lights in the room! If you're going to maximize the awesomeness of the window light, we don't want other light sources in the room mixing in and ruining our shot. Turn off overhead lights, lamps, and anything else that's throwing light around inside. You want a 'one light setup', where the window is your one light.

4- Size matters. Generally speaking, the larger the window the better. The bigger the window is, the more the light will wrap around your subject and the softer the transition from light to shadow will be. This is flattering for portraiture. Go big or go bigger.

5- Pay attention to the sun. Just because we're inside doesn't mean we can ignore the sun. The positive effects of window light go down the tubes if the sun is directly glaring in. You want light pouring in, but not at a direct angle. That's actually what makes window light so magical. If the sun is raging in you're going to have hard ugly shadows on your subject. If that happens, go to another window that faces another direction. The sun can't be on all four sides of the house at once!


Hopefully these few tips and points will help you take better photos with the available light that's built right into your house. Check out a few of our brides posing next to... yup, windows. Want to know more? Check us out at blueflashphotography.com or follow us on Facebook here and don't be shy - we'd be happy to answer any questions! Now go practice!

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