Whenever possible I use window light at most weddings. Why? It’s simply the best soft, directional (when used properly), natural looking, light we have at our disposal. It’s infinitely preferable to flash (especially those evil speed lights) in ANY modifier.
It’s no mystery when the great classical painters like Vermeer and Caraviggio used it so much. It’s as thought the glass has some magical property that gives it’s light a soft yet directional quality that delicately wraps my subjects and still reveals details that make the portraits rich and three dimensional. That’s why I’ve sought out any window I could find on most of the weddings I’ve done these past 25 years.
The key to using window light wether your subject is a person or a product, like food or a wedding dress, is proper placement of the subject at the window. Unlike the studio, you can’t move the light source, so the lighting pattern is determined by the subject’s POSE or the angle of view as seen at the camera.
f4.0 @ 1/125th sec., ISO 400
n the image above I placed my bride close to the window (about 3-feet away) and turned her so that I got light in BOTH her eyes. I also used a soft white reflector, on camera right, just out of frame.
WINDOW LIGHT PORTRAIT GUIDELINES:
- Look for windows with NO direct sunlight in them. North or South facing windows are the safest.
- For Portraits, the window is your Light Source NOT a background! You would NEVER show the soft box in a studio portrait. I show no physical evidence of the window—not even drapes or shears. The shears usually over expose and blow-out anyway.
- Keep your subject close to the window for the softest light (usually two or three feet); as you move your subject away from the window the light becomes harder and the level falls dramatically.
- Because window light is so soft I usually use a white reflector, for a soft fill, on the subject’s shadow side—especially if the subject if looking toward the camera. This is to avoid split giving the face. If I have my subject look out toward the window, creating short lighting, then I use NO reflector.
Window light is great for showing detail in most anything—that’s why commercial food photographers use it so much. So, it’s a natural for those wedding details like the wedding cake, the bride & grooms rings or any unusual details like the brides shoes…
f8.0 @ 160 sec., ISO 400
In this image I did show some of the windows because it was an overcast day limiting any blow-out and besides I HAD to put the shoes in this window box!
We always try to do a bridal dress portrait by window light. My wide is great at “posing” the dress with the brides accessories usually while the bride is having her hair and make-up done.
f11.0 @ 1/30 sec., ISO 400
This pure window light dress portrait was posed just like I would pose the bride, except I used no reflector on the shadow side, because I wanted VERY dramatic lighting here. This image was a PPA (Professional Photographers of America) National Merit Print from one of our first digital weddings in 2002.
As always, questions are welcome…Look forward to hearing from you! ’Tis next week…
Author: Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman
Training site: http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com
Client site: http://www.TheStorytellersUsa.com