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  • Writer's pictureRebekah

RCP Photography School: Window Light

Hello to all who’ve joined me on day 23 of this 26 day challenge to learn about the basics of photography.

We've looked at flash photography, but we haven't looked at natural light - another form of light that can make your photographs look artistic and exposed correctly.

If you’re doing this course, you probably already know a little bit about me but if you don’t, please check out who I am.

Today's lesson is on...

W for Window Light

Window light can be used for lighting a subject or object, or to use to create shadows or silhouettes - it's also 'free' light if you can use to correctly. That's how photographers in the early days lit their studios for portraits.

I remember watching "Dr Quinn: Medicine Woman" when I was younger (and still own all the boxsets!), and there was an episode where there was a photographer using glass plates with a vintage Semmendinger camera and when he was taking portraits of the town folk, he used natural light outside but also using a tent-like studio outside. The fabric was used like a diffuser to take away the harsh light. He also used the shaded areas outside to create portraits of the Indians. Watch this 2 minute clip to get an idea of what it was like back in those days...

Now, in the 21st century, window light is used a lot more - Northern Ireland is well known for the amount of rain that we get, so photographing people indoors seems to be something we do a lot. Don't get me wrong, I still shoot a lot outdoors too, but when it rains, it pours!

I think window light is a basic technique that everyone should know and learn about because it can become useful on those rainy days when you are stuck in the house; when the kids are playing or painting fresh rainbows on the windows; for pets that like to sit and watch the world go by, capturing those wee moments.

Window light and black and white photography work perfectly together. They tell an emotive story; a story that maybe colour photography may not tell the same. For example, during this wedding in New York, I asked the bride to lean against the window for some bridal portraits. I love this one of her leaning against the window sill, hand resting just before she says "I do". The lace wedding dress; the freckles; the marks on the window. WOW - she is embracing single life for the last time and ready for that next chapter.

Another way you can use window light is when your kids run past and you just scoop them up and give them a hug. They rest on your shoulder or your husbands' shoulder, feeling safe and warm. Those beautiful moments deserve to be captured, especially during lockdown. Window light can cause a haze, like you can see below, but for me, it just adds to the image when used correctly.

Ok - maybe not quite a window, but it's natural light coming through a door that has a window (did I get away with that one?) Light, like this, causes that halo around the subject, outlining the little features, as well as some of the surroundings and how cute is this little girls' button nose!

What about those quieter moments on the sofa, in front of the window? How special of a moment is this between a nephew and his uncle! Of course, the subjects could be differ on the sofa - it could be your kids jumping up and down; the cat or dog resting along the top of the sofa, feeling the sun beat down on their fur. These moments might be easier to capture if your subject is resting or reading a book.

Lastly, one of the most beautiful photographs you can create with window light is when you and your family are going on an adventure. Walking down the stairs, heading out on your daily walk or that first look in the morning when your little one's hair is all over the show but they are too cute not to capture.

How do you achieve such a look?

Sometimes it's best to underexpose your photograph slightly, using the light meter on your camera, so that the window light will create a silhouette of your subject or you can slightly overexposure your subject so that the background (window) is brighter and your subject's face or main focus is visible. Always focus on the person, place or thing that you want to be the key part of the photograph, then adjust your settings accordingly.

Why not create a project on window light - use different times of the day or the same time every day for a week to document what each day looks like for you, by the window.

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