OneModelPlace.com‘s resident tech expert Don Becker of dbCreativeImages.com (OMP Member #155) has contributed the following article designed to help you put your models in the best light when using natural lighting from a window.
One of the most flattering types of lighting for glamour portraiture can be a large, soft light source. In the studio I get this light from a large softbox or light reflected out of or through an umbrella. However, the simplest form of this type of lighting is embodied in a common, everyday source of light… window light.
The advantages of window light are that it is continuous, free, reliable, and can be found everywhere (at least during daytime!). You can use it anywhere – home, studio (if you have windows), or on location, and in any kind of weather. In fact, some of the best window light happens when the weather is cloudy, rainy or even snowing… weather which often makes location shooting difficult. It can be easily metered using a hand held light meter, or with your in-camera light meter. The soft, directional quality of window light is especially flattering for glamour portraiture.
For setting up a “window light” shoot, select an appropriate window, preferably directed towards open sky (no direct sunlight), or if outside, you can get the same effect by choosing an open porch, an overhang of any type, or even thick overhead trees. What you are looking for is directional light, coming in from the front or side. If you have the light coming from only one direction, you can have the model/client turn somewhat to get shadows and modeling that can add a third dimension to the face/body. I often prefer to select a setting in which the area behind the subject is dark, so the subject is outlined against the darker background.
Below are a number of examples of the kinds of lighting described above. The top image is a photograph of model Hootie (OMP Model #313203), a young model that I photographed on location. The outdoor weather was rather chilly and windy, so we went inside a store at a rest stop, and took a series of photos with the light coming through a front window. You can see that the light is coming from my right side, and she is turned a little so that the shadows on her face give a nice three dimensional effect. Her beautiful blond hair and symmetric face make this a glamorous image.
The second image was taken during a studio test shoot of dancer TMarie (OMP Model #174750), a shoot which was abruptly terminated because of a power failure due to a thunderstorm. We then moved to a window, partially opened the blinds, and I decided I liked the effect of the partially opened blinds across her face and body. Parts of the image were selectively blurred to provide the very soft, dreamy look using the “Dreamy Photo” filter from Auto FX. Another option, if direct sun is coming through a window you wish to use, is to hang a large diffuser over the window… a white sheet will work, white translucent window curtains, or a white translucent photographic filter material from Rosco (e.g., Rosco Cinelux 3000 Tough Rolux). Be cautious with colored curtains or filter material, as they will impart their color to the light falling on your subject.
The third image of beautiful Chelsi (OMP Model #448304) was taken with what I call “synthetic window light,” made in the studio. The lighting was a single flash head directed through a large, translucent flat, made from the same Rosco filter material above, which produced the very soft lighting seen here. You can see that the color temperature of the light was warmed somewhat by the light passing through the filter material, which produced the pleasing warm tones seen in the photo. (Note: I like warm tones!)
In the fourth image, the photograph of beginning model Eilish (OMP Model #445547) was taken outdoors in a parking garage, with the directional light coming from the open driveway. Again, the soft, directional light gives a beautiful modeling shape to the face and figure. I included part of the sign, which I feel provides a stark contrast to the curvy body figure.
Finally, a word about color temperature settings on your camera. When working outdoors using only open sky lighting or cloudy day lighting, you generally will want to warm up the resulting images, either by setting your camera’s white balance on the “cloudy day” setting, by setting the numerical degrees Kelvin setting at a warmer than normal setting, or by making a color correction in your post production workflow.
Different individuals and different cameras have different ideas as to what they think the “correct” skin tones should be, so that is largely a matter of personal preference. Just know that these different controls are available to you, to make the resulting images exactly what you envision them to be.
Don Becker is a Faculty Member and Technical Director at the Washington School of Photography, Bethesda, MD (www.wsp-photo.com).