Monday, June 7, 2010

Instructor's Tip: Window Light Portraits

I hope you enjoy this week's "Instructor's Tip" by one of my favorite instructors, award winning nature photographer Russ Burden. I personally have a ton of trouble exposing to maintain white details especially when shooting things such as skiers on snowcapped mountains. To learn more about how Russ captured the above image, join him on one of his photo tours. Visit Russ Burden Photography to get more information.

Photo by Russ Burden

Window light is often used in portraiture. Its advantages are the convenience, ease with which to work and low cost. Its disadvantages are the reliance upon the weather, light levels are usually low and backgrounds may be cluttered with furniture or wall hangings. Working around the disadvantages, the advantages far outweigh them based on the beauty of images that can be made.

The light emitted from a north facing window is very delicate in nature. Not receiving direct sun, it’s soft and easy to work with. Effectively, the light is similar to that from a studio soft box. How close the subject is placed to the window impacts the overall quality. The closer the model is, the greater the contrast between the highlights and shadows.

If north facing windows are not available, any window can yield similar results by diffusing the direct sunlight with a white sheet or shower liner. Lace curtains work well and can be incorporated into the composition for effect. If the window is included in the image, make sure what’s outside is in harmony with the mood of the image. Additionally, realize that much of the exterior portion will be overexposed. The size of the window will have a direct impact on the quality of the light. The bigger the window, the broader the light. This translates to a less contrasty image.

The attached photo is an atypical window light shot to get you to think outside the box. I used direct morning light filtered through slotted blinds. It’s a set up I did for a stock shoot. I encourage you to experiment with different subjects photographed in different window light conditions so you’ll better learn how to read and utilize all types of light.

Check out Burden's "How To Tips" featured on Outdoor Photographer's website. The seven that are dated February 4th are his. Just underneath the articles, be sure to click on page 1 to see an additional 9.

Don't forget to check Take Great Pictures for Burden's most recent tips. On the home page, click on the "Photo Tips And Techniques" button in the left hand column. Additionally, check out his "Digital Tip of the Month" found by clicking on the Digital Photography button.

To learn more about this subject, join Burden on one of his photo tours.

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