30-Day Portrait Challenge: Window Light
I love a good challenge.
I am the type of person who works better with a clearly defined goal. Can you relate?
I thought a great way to kick start the re-launch of my blog, would be to give myself a focused goal for the next month.
My challenge will be to blog 30 different portrait lighting setups over the next 30 days. Some of these will be from previous sessions but the majority will be daily exercises to help inspire creativity and growth in this area. I’m thinking of it as a daily journal in my portrait process. I really hope by the end of the next thirty days, I will have pushed myself far beyond my comfort zone and inspired new creativity in my images.
For simplicity sake, I will be defining a portrait as a non-full length image of a single person. I will be challenging myself to use something other than just natural light each day. I will experiment with different light setups and will not redo the same scenario twice. I plan on including pullbacks of my setup when available and additional details for how I completed each shoot.
Portrait One: Window Light
I am starting off with a simple light setup that pretty much everyone has access to. You don’t even need to leave the comfort of your own home, which makes it perfect for pictures in the cold winter months.
I set this image up by simply positioning my subject in the window light.
Now, let me make sure that when I am speaking of window light I mean a diffused window light. We don’t want harsh shadows that straight sunbeams cause. Think diffused, soft light, like what you get with white curtains. I clipped a white sheet over the window to soften the light and get rid of harsh shadows.
The image below shows a pull back of the room. I was positioned where the chair is and my daughter was sitting slightly left of the doll toward the middle of the bed.
My two year old graced me with under a minute of sitting in one place.
Adding A Reflector
The next images are in the same location but this time I added a white poster board to reflect light back to the shadowed side of her face.
You can use any white or reflective surface to bounce the light from the window. Some things you may have around your home that would work: Poster-board, white fabric, polystyrene, or a reflector specifically made for photography use.
The poster-board was to camera left, notice how it fills in the shadows on her face.
A white item is great to reflect light but a black item can be used to do just the opposite. I personally like more shadowed images. An easy way to take away too much light is to use some dark material in place of the reflector. Here I used some heavy black wool fabric to absorb the light creating darker shadows and more depth.
Window light tends to make great black and white conversions, which just happens to be another favorite of mine. Try converting to black and white when processing your images to see what you prefer.
This does not need to take hours of your day, it could take as little as 5 minutes if you chose. I photographed my daughters’ portraits with several different light setups in under 20 minutes.
Carve out the time for it in your day and then do it. Challenge yourself to try something new every day but also set some constraints to work within. This will force you to get creative after you have used your initial ideas.
Here are some more examples from window light around my home:
30 Days will not make you an expert but it will help to kick start your creativity and give you a solid foundation to start creating portraits in a variety of light situations.
So do you want to join the challenge? I would love for you to join me in making a portrait a day over the next month.