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Window Lighting
Lighting, Technique

Natural light is my favorite light source. In fact, if someone asked I would say I was a natural light photographer. By the way, it’s taken me a long time to finally call myself a photographer. I digress.

When inside it is best to get your subject by a window if at all possible. Interior lights can wash out your subject and typically never allow for catchlights. When I first started out, I thought that you wanted your subject to face the window head on. What I didn’t know at the time was that when your subject faces the window you can get flat lighting. Basically, this means that while your subject’s face is light up there is no depth or shadow. Their face looks flat.

The trick is to position your subject so they are facing the window at a 45 degree angle. Therefore, you can stand next to the window so the light is coming over your shoulder and your subject is facing you at a 45 degree. This allows for there to be some subtle shadows which adds depth to their face.

Flat lighting

45 degree

Flat lighting

45 degree

27 Comments
  • March 28, 2011 at 9:59 AM

    you are so BEAUTIFUL! I hope you will join in our project and take photos of your beautiful daughter too!

    the 45 degree angle is a great way to help others understand positioning their subject :-D

    blessings,
    jill

    • March 28, 2011 at 10:23 PM

      I need to take a photo so I can join in the “I am beautiful” fun :O)

  • March 28, 2011 at 10:39 AM

    I recently joined your website through Amber’s. I am slowly going through your posts on Manual mode and loving them so much! Thank you for all of the (free) tips on photography! :) I can’t wait to keep learning more.

  • March 28, 2011 at 11:29 AM

    Great examples, you can see the differences very clearly and therefore 45 degrees it is.

    • Daralynn Lett
      February 9, 2016 at 1:08 PM

      I need help. I see the flat shot is a big darker, but without seeing the 45 degree shot, I wouldn’t have any issues if that flat shot was given to me. Someone help me.

      • February 12, 2016 at 9:08 AM

        Flat light isn’t terrible but shadows are better. Don’t worry, it will all come in good time :)

  • March 29, 2011 at 12:01 AM

    Great examples. I just wanted to let you know a good friend of mine, Katy, who has been following and learning from your blog gave you a shout out. Here is her link: http://durec.blogspot.com/2011/03/spring-was-here.html

  • March 29, 2011 at 4:04 AM

    nice! i love how kate is coming into her own with the modeling poses! i’ll have to try this…

  • March 29, 2011 at 9:43 AM

    oh, so happy you posted this. I guess I should install my lightroom! It has been sitting her since Christmas!

    • March 29, 2011 at 2:14 PM

      Don’t be scared! You’ll love it!!

  • March 30, 2011 at 12:18 AM

    great little lesson – thanks for taking the time to help us all!!

  • Karin
    March 30, 2011 at 5:56 AM

    That second picture of Kate is too cute!

    Thanks for the lesson:)

  • These are fantastic. Natural light is my favorite style too. I did a blog post about it last month or so, because a friend of mine calls it a cop out, which I whole heartedly disagree with; to each there own.

    I think it’s so soft and always gives me great images, especially with portraits.

    • March 30, 2011 at 2:58 PM

      A “cop out”? I have NEVER heard that before. If anything, I think it is more of a challenge because it is constantly changing and never the same. Glad you have stuck with natural light!

  • March 30, 2011 at 1:10 PM

    Love the one in the flowers! How fun!! :) And that beach photo is so stinkin cute!!

    • March 30, 2011 at 1:10 PM

      And….this comment is on the wrong post. Ooops.

  • March 15, 2012 at 4:47 AM

    So that’s why my photos always looked “eh”. 45 degrees is the key!

    • Courtney
      March 17, 2012 at 3:29 PM

      Isn’t it amazing how just a little tweak can change your pictures!!

  • Melinda
    February 6, 2014 at 12:01 AM

    I just started my photography business. I want to really stick to the natural light too, but I still have a lot to learn on that. My question is, do you ever use a flash? I have one but it isn’t the best. I’m nervous about doing a wedding reception and not having natural light to take good pictures.

    • February 7, 2014 at 2:53 PM

      No, I don’t use the flash on my camera and I don’t have an external flash either. However, I’m not in business or shoot weddings so it isn’t an issue for me. That is definitely something you may want to tackle before shooting weddings. Good luck!

  • Tiffany Croteau
    February 15, 2014 at 3:46 PM

    Hi! What do you do when it is overcast out? I am a mom that just wants to take better pictures. During the winter- very overcast and i have trouble getting my exposure right even with all the lights on. Any recommendations on what I can do?

    • February 17, 2014 at 7:59 PM

      You can use these tips when it is overcast. Make sure your aperture is wide open (lowest number possible like 1.8) and raise your ISO if you need more light :)

  • konasrinivas
    September 12, 2015 at 2:20 AM

    Thank you for providing free tips. Could you please put some diagramatic representation of window lighting using angle as per your specs.

  • Daralynn Lett
    February 9, 2016 at 1:06 PM

    I’m sad to say I don’t see a difference in flat lighting and the 45 degree example. The all look great! The catchlights are in all the images. The images are too dark and shadowy. I don’t see it.

  • Daralynn Lett
    February 9, 2016 at 1:16 PM

    How is the third photo flat? It looks great!

    • February 12, 2016 at 9:07 AM

      It’s flat lighting because I’m facing the light head on and there are zero shadows on my face.

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