Shoot stunning por­traits with win­dow light

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To cre­ate sim­ple, at­trac­tive por­traits we usu­ally want our light to be soft and di­rec­tional. Why soft? Be­cause it’s more flat­ter­ing than hard light. Why di­rec­tional? Be­cause it gives the face depth by cre­at­ing high­lights and shad­ows.

For th­ese qual­i­ties, we need look no fur­ther than the near­est win­dow. Be­cause win­dows have a fairly large area, the light they of­fer is flat­ter­ing for por­traits. For this rea­son most stu­dios (those used by pain­ters and sculp­tors as well as pho­tog­ra­phers) have large win­dows.

You want to avoid di­rect sun­light, so north-fac­ing win­dows are best if you’re in the north­ern hemi­sphere, as the an­gle of the sun means they never see di­rect sun­light. In the south­ern hemi­sphere, south-fac­ing ones are best. Turn off ar­ti­fi­cial lights, as they have a dif­fer­ent colour tem­per­a­ture to day­light and the colours can look mud­dled if you mix them to­gether.

Of course, the beau­ti­ful bank of light from a win­dow comes from one fixed po­si­tion. But that doesn’t mean we’re re­stricted to one di­rec­tion of light. By mov­ing the cam­era we can con­trol how light falls across the sub­ject and come up with a va­ri­ety of por­traits. Here's how...

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