- Best Camera Settings for Portrait Photography
- Advanced Portrait Photography Tips That Will Immediately Improve the Quality of Your Photos
photo by m-imagephotography via iStock
One of the easiest things you can do to improve the quality of your portraits is to use natural light.
Of course, not all natural light is made equal - midday light is often harsh and creates unsightly shadows on the subject’s face. However, if you move indoors and let that harsh light filter through a window, and even better, a window with a translucent shade, then you have a recipe for beautiful natural indoor light photography.
In this guide, you’ll learn a few steps for maximizing the results you get when taking portraits indoors and using natural window light.
Editor’s Tip: Do you already have some gorgeous natural light portraits that are ready to print? If so, the process of getting a high-quality print has never been easier or more affordable. Don’t just settle for tiny paper prints - see what your portraits look like as a large-format fine art print.
Natural Window Light Portrait Tip: Diffuse the Light
photo by dundanim via iStock
If the look you’re going for is soft and even with little contrast, you might need to diffuse the natural light coming through the window.
Sheer curtains work perfectly for this purpose, but if you don’t have curtains, a simple white sheet hanging in front of the window will have the same effect.
Alternatively, if you have a 5-in-1 reflector kit handy, you can use the diffuser in the kit to soften the light so it falls more evenly and gently onto the subject’s face.
photo by gawrav via iStock
But if you’re going for natural light portraits that have more punch and contrast, don’t bother diffusing the light.
As you can see above, you can use strong light coming through the window to create a portrait that is quite eye-catching, but obviously has a much different vibe than the previous image.
Likewise, consider the color of the light and how it influences the look of your natural window light portraits. Early in the morning and late in the evening, the light is much warmer in color while during the day the light has a cooler, bluer tone.
For more tips on using natural window light, be sure to check out the video above by Irene Rudnyk.
Indoor Photography Ideas: Vary the Distance Between Subject and Window
photo by Todor Tsvetkov via iStock
By placing your subject close to the window - say, one or two feet from the glass - you’ll make the best use of natural light. Your subject will be well-lit and bright, and the features of their face will be on full display.
This can work both with diffused and undiffused natural light. As shown above, the natural window light coming through the window isn’t overpowering, even though the man is positioned right next to the glass.
photo by Imgorthand via iStock
For a totally different look, you might position your subject further from the window and let the sunlight stream into the scene.
As shown above, the sun is low enough in the sky that it comes through the window, illuminating the little boys from behind.
Not only does this create a portrait with wonderful contrast, but it also highlights how impactful backlighting can be in a natural light portrait.
Learn all about backlighting, frontlighting, color temperature, and other lighting facts in this tutorial on lighting facts for beginner photographers.
Indoor Photography Lighting Techniques: Turn Out the Lights
photo by kate_sept2004 via iStock
In most situations in which you’re creating natural indoor light photography, you don’t need artificial lights on in the room.
More often than not, the artificial lighting competes with the natural light and throws off the white balance. As such, you might end up with a natural light portrait that doesn’t look natural at all. Skin tones can be off and shadows can be harsh or oddly placed, which you obviously don’t want.
photo by undrey via iStock
Instead, if you find that the lighting situation isn’t quite ideal, there are a couple of indoor photography lighting techniques you can use to brighten up the scene or create more light on your subject.
Perhaps the easiest thing to do is place a reflective surface opposite the window so light bounces back onto the scene. Anything from a light-colored wall to a light-colored sheet or even a mirror will work for this purpose.
photo by Deagreez via iStock
Likewise, you can get into the aforementioned 5-in-1 reflector pack and use one of the reflectors to bounce light from the window back onto your subject.
If all else fails and you need some guidance on using artificial lighting, be sure to check out our guideline on classic portrait lighting techniques.
Natural Light Portrait Composition
photo by pixelfit via iStock
As discussed earlier, you can opt to place the subject by the window or far away from it, depending on the look you’re going for.
Regardless of that spatial relationship, to get the best portrait, you need to give some thought to how the image is composed.
Resist the urge to create the typical “looking out the window while holding my coffee cup” natural light portrait. It’s been done to death!
Play with various components of the composition to create something more unique. Have the model sit and then stand. Have them face the window then face away from it. Get above their eye level and then below their eye level for different perspectives.
photo by opohodzhay via iStock
You can also introduce props or action to give the shot more appeal.
In the photo above, for example, the act of reading the book helps make this a more intimate shot. The use of the woman’s reflection in the window is also an interesting compositional choice that makes this a much more visually appealing photo.
How to Complete Your Natural Indoor Light Photography
Photo by Roksolana Zasiadko on Unsplash
It goes without saying that your job doesn’t end when you press the shutter button. There is much work to be done after the fact to get the best natural indoor light portraits.
Aside from processing your portraits, you’ll want to thoroughly investigate printing options.
A while back, I did a secret shopper challenge for canvas prints, and the difference between the “leaders” in the industry was quite surprising.
In that test, CanvasHQ came out as the clear winner, which is important for our discussion here because I think portraits look like a million bucks on canvas.
If you partner with a company like CanvasHQ to have your natural indoor light portraits printed, your images will benefit from high-end materials like archival-grade canvas, commercial-grade inks made for outdoor use, and hand-crafted kiln-dried frames.
After all, with all the hard work you put in to create the image, why would you want to skimp on the materials used to create the print?!
But if you check out my secret shopper guide, you’ll find that it isn’t just the quality of materials that set CanvasHQ apart. They have unparalleled customer service because they want you to get the highest-quality print possible.
If there’s a problem, you can call and talk to an actual human being that cares about your images. On the rare occasion you might need to resolve an issue, you’ll find that the folks at CanvasHQ treat you like an old friend, not just some order number that came across their computer screen.
Just like you want the subject of your portrait to feel comfortable and confident, CanvasHQ wants you to feel like you’re supported throughout the process of having your images printed.
That’s why there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee and a lifetime guarantee against things like warping and bubbling.
When it comes to creating gorgeous natural light portraits - or any type of photo, for that matter - what you do after you press the shutter matters just as much as what you do before.
So, complete the process of creating a gorgeous portrait by working with the best...CanvasHQ.