Window Light Portrait Tutorial

If your studio has large windows with directional light, white curtains or sheers work well to give you soft, diffused light. Sometimes when they’re working in studio environments, photographers go a little overboard with lights and contraptions when all they really need is there already. This tutorial from photographers Joe McNally and Daniel Norton is a lesson in using available natural light in your studio:

The problem with such large, soft light sources, especially where your model is backlit, is that you have constantly keep an eye on your exposures. McNally reveals he is an Aperture Priority shooter, which effectively means that he uses the exposure compensation buttons to adjust his exposures. He also reveals that he prefers to shoot slightly to the right, meaning overexposing the image to open up the face. However, he stresses the need to keep an eye out for blown out highlights. This can happen very easily in such bright conditions. Watch out for those blinkies!

backlit window portrait

Use window light to your advantage.

With large soft light sources, you don’t really have to try too hard to make good images. Just make sure that your exposure is right and that the model gives you some good poses. With a studio strobe or a speedlight you have to be a lot more precise in your approach. With light this good, precision goes right out of the window.

soft light headshots

Natural Light Portraits

A lot of times good photography means improvisation—using things to your advantage. For example, McNally uses the black side of the V-flat in order to shoot some contrasting headshots.

“If you see beautiful light, use it.”

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