Using Window Light For Portraits

san francisco, family photography, joseph fanvu

Whenever I book a new family portrait session and we are shooting at or near their home, I make it a point to try to meet with the family in their home beforehand. I don’t even bring my camera. It’s a time for me to get to know the family members and see how they relate to each other. In that way I can get a sense of what kind of shots they might be up for. I am also scoping out their house for potential shots. One of the first things I look for is what kind of natural light enters their house. I look for the placement of windows and think about ways I can use them.

Window light is so great for portraits. Windows have beautiful, diffuse, soft, directional light. From there we can play with exposure and composition to take all sorts of interesting photos.

Here’s a little tip to take great pictures of your kids. Find a window, preferably without direct sun. (You can close the drapes or even tape up a bed sheet if the sun is directly streaming in) Have your kids look out the window. Sometimes I tell them I saw a bird, or a plane, or if they are up to being silly, tell them you saw something outrageous, like a magic carpet or flying car or anything else. From there I start parallel to the wall and shoot their profile remembering to keep camera focus on their eyes. You can get some nice expressions from this first view. Hopefully, if you can keep them engaged, they’ll look directly at you and you can get shots like this one, with nice window light coming in directly from the side. If you keep at it long enough you can also get a nice range of emotions, from silly, to contemplative, and sometimes even bored. Don’t be afraid to change up your camera angle too. Shoot from behind to get a nice silhouette or from above to get a unique perspective.

Happy shooting!