When most portrait photographers want to create a directional soft light look, they break out the strobes. Then they usually stick a big octabox on the front of it. But what if you don’t have all that gear? How else can you get soft directional light? Well, you may be able to use the window in your bathroom.
In this video, Jay P Morgan shows us how we can get great soft directional light using only what enters through the bathroom window. Or whatever room in which you happen to be shooting. It’s a great technique if you don’t have flash gear and want to practise your portraits.
In the example, Jay has the bathroom window behind him, and black material taped over the door behind his subject. You can see how the room looks in the shot below. This setup gives a similar look to a big softbox on axis above the camera, as shown at the top of this page.
As Jay mentions in the video, every window in your house is going to be different. And it’ll keep being different at different times of day as the sun moves through the sky. The weather will also play a big part in how the light appears. Each will have its own unique look, and present light into the environment differently.
Of course, you’re not limited to the bathroom. You could try this in any room in the house, but as bathrooms are often white, they tend to help fill the shadows in better with more reflected subtle light. Some windows are larger than others, so some might suit full length better than headshots, or vice versa.
Perhaps you want the light more frontal as Jay did in the video, but maybe you want it off to the side, like one might traditionally use a softbox for Rembrandt lighting. It’s all about positioning. Where everything (you, your subject and the window) is situated relative to everything else. Just remember to hang some kind of background unless you want the room itself to become your background.
Window light can be fantastic to play with, although you will want to bump your ISO up a lot of the time to capture portraits this way. Don’t be afraid to go up to ISO800 or even ISO1600 in order to get a fast enough shutter speed to help eliminate camera shake.