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mollyc

macrumors 604
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Aug 18, 2016
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Welcome to our P52! This project is designed to get you out with your camera once a week in a meaningful way. Each week I will post a prompt for you to consider. The prompts are merely suggestions, and you are free to shoot off topic if you wish. All images posted must be taken by you, be safe for work, and be taken with this project in mind. Please do not post archive photos. For a further discussion of the guidelines, please refer to this thread, and you can find the previous weeks linked there if you missed them. Feel free to join in at any time of the year, and you may go back to missed weeks if you still wish to participate.

Week 19: Window light

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This week we are moving back to a more technical challenge, although still quite open to interpretation. We will be focusing on using a single window as your light source (note, if you have two windows banked together as I do, that is fine as well). Learning to see and harness indoor light can really up your game as you are not reliant on always being outside for “good” light.

Window light is well suited for portraiture, and if you have a human subject available this week, I would encourage you to use them if possible, even if you don’t wish to share people images in this thread. If you don’t have a willing human subject, use your pet, a vase of flowers, a shoe, a toy, or anything else you can think of for a still life.

Although this is not a week devoted to portraiture, for those of you who have a subject at home who can sit for you, the best advice I can give to start out is to place your subjects so that you can see well defined catchlights in their eyes. Catchlights are the reflection of the window (or a softbox/modifier when using supplemental light). Subjects without catchlights are often described as having “dead” eyes and is not a typically a desirable look in traditional portraiture. As you practice taking portraits with window light in the future, you can start playing with the angles of your subject to the light and using the light for different shadow patterns such as flat light, Rembrandt, 45°, split lighting, and many others. However, as I said above, you are not obligated to share portraits this week; the lighting principles are the same regardless of your subject, but objects won’t have catchlights (although you might find reflections in shiny objects). Notice the reflection of the window in the eye below, complete with seeing the window muntins and the slight shape of my head. This is the catchlight. That the catchlight is directly centered in the pupil is a dead giveaway for a flat light set up.

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Ideally your window will be the main light source in your room. If you have a house with a large bank of windows, a sliding door, or multiple windows on a single wall, I’d suggest finding a smaller room, like a bedroom, where the light is more limited. If you have light coming through the room from other angles, you may not get some of the light fall off like we want to achieve this week. Alternatively, you could close blinds or curtains on extra windows if that is how your room is set up. We don’t want a lot of light bouncing around the room; this challenge is designed to control the lighting from one specific light source.

I have a studio above my garage that does have windows on all four sides. However, because I use the same location for many of my images, I know how the light falls throughout not only the day, but also the months throughout the year to know the best time to achieve good lighting for any given scenario. The goal of this week is for you to find a window location that receives a lot of different light patterns throughout the day so that you can create different looks from one window. Even though my studio gets a lot of light, I am able to control what light hits my subject, so I can discount light coming from other windows (plus, they are relatively far away from the window I primarily use).

For those of you who like to work through the concept multiple times throughout the week, I’d encourage you to come back to your window multiple times throughout the day and week, with the same (or similar) subject to learn how the light falls. All images in this post except for two are taken from the same window location; the walls in my studio are white. Notice how the quality and intensity of the light changes in each image; some are more shadowed, some have bright white backgrounds, and some have darkened to near black from the inverse square law.

With a single window, you can achieve almost any lighting you want; my window of choice creates soft, even lighting or dramatic, turn-the-white-wall-dark gray-dramatic lighting, depending on if I am using the right side or the left side of the window; I can shoot backlight and minimize distractions outdoors, or I can meter for the light outside and create a dark interior. Note, however, this week is not about shooting through the window to the outside; your subject should still be in the room with you.

If you haven’t used a window as your primary light source before, here are some things to consider when setting up. Get your subject as close as you can. This might be inches away from the window, or three feet or more into the room, depending on how you are set up.

The most basic light setup is flat lighting. Put your window behind you, put your subject facing the window, and shoot into the room. Flat lighting is a very even lighting, and is great for older subjects where you want to minimize skin imperfections. Flat light has very few shadows and does not have much depth to it. Notice below the centered catchlights and even shadowing along both sides of the face. The image on the left is not fully flat as there is a tiny bit of shadowing camera right, but that is more due to his chubby toddler cheeks, as his ears are evenly lit on both side. Note the following two images are the only ones in this post that use a different light source than my studio window; every other image contained herein used the same window bank.

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For portraits, you will also want to consider a 45° angle for your subject, which is universally flattering, and creates nice soft shadowing on the far side of the face.

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I love side light for still life/macro images, so I set my subject on the table, and then stand perpendicular to the window; sometimes I am so close that I clone or crop out the window frame in my image.

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Most likely you will have to use a higher ISO than you do outside, unless you are shooting in a spot that is getting full sunbeams streaming through. Do not be afraid to raise your ISO to keep your shutter speed at a comfortable spot where you won’t get motion blur (especially with little kiddos) or camera shake. I regularly shoot above ISO 1000, and often as high as 2500 or 3200 indoors using window light.

Backlighting can also work at a window location, although take care to use the window as a framing mechanism or as part of your overall story so that it is not distracting to the final image.

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If you are shooting in full sun, expose for the highlights. What does this mean? Watching your meter or histogram in camera, make sure that none of the very bright areas in your image blow out and lose detail. Shooting in full sun can make for very dramatic lighting and can make your background fall to black or dark gray.

Below I've included a set of images (which are already scattered in groupings above) that I took of the same subject on the same day at different times throughout the day and at different angles. Even though the light source is the same in each, the light quality and fall off is different in each, depending on how close the flowers were to the window, which side of the table the flowers were placed, and my exposure level for each image.

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I look forward to seeing what you all come up with this week!
 

mollyc

macrumors 604
Original poster
Aug 18, 2016
7,890
48,354
"Phantom pedestrian." View west from Brew on the Grid, with reflection of folks moving east. 56 Franklin Street, Worcester Commons, Worcester, MA.

View attachment 2199544
The goal this week is to use the light coming in through the window to light a subject on the inside. You are using the window as a storytelling element. We'll get to that later in the year. 🙂 For now, find a subject *inside* your building, and use the window as a light source.
 
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mollyc

macrumors 604
Original poster
Aug 18, 2016
7,890
48,354

katbel

macrumors 68040
Aug 19, 2009
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29,680
P52* Window - 1.jpeg


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Clouds are coming and going and didn't have the nice light of the first shot of this morning so I tried something new
First one was shot on purpose to keep a decrescendo soft focus from the first bottle to the last one
Second shot shape and colours and some more light coming in

CC welcome 🌷

P.s. Scrolling up and down the bottles looks like they are moving 🙂
 

mollyc

macrumors 604
Original poster
Aug 18, 2016
7,890
48,354
View attachment 2199879

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View attachment 2199887
Clouds are coming and going and didn't have the nice light of the first shot of this morning so I tried something new
First one was shot on purpose to keep a decrescendo soft focus from the first bottle to the last one
Second shot shape and colours and some more light coming in

CC welcome 🌷

P.s. Scrolling up and down the bottles looks like they are moving 🙂
Do you see how your position and the light quality changes the mood of the photo?

Tomorrow try moving your objects into the room a bit and don't include the window...use the light like a softbox, where it's off to the side, but not part of the frame. 🙂
 

mollyc

macrumors 604
Original poster
Aug 18, 2016
7,890
48,354
The goal this week is to use the window as the light source, but unless you are using it *specifically* for backlighting or as a compositional element, we don't need to see the window in the image.

Use the light, not the window. 🙂
 
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mollyc

macrumors 604
Original poster
Aug 18, 2016
7,890
48,354
View attachment 2200420 View attachment 2200419 View attachment 2200418
Here they are: this morning the sun was shining and I had better chances to play with light and shadows

View attachment 2200424 One more, taken with a different lens : a softer light

CC are welcome 🌷


I love how much you are experiementing and shaping the light and objects differently each time.
 
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