Natural light can create dramatic images that can challenge even the most proficient studio based speedlight or monolight professional. Natural light by the window can even produce images that may otherwise be difficult or very time consuming using artificial light.
To get the some of the best result from this type of this type of photography lies in a little planning. The model, time of day, outfits, and poses all play into a successful shot. The most success with this type of photography is having the model wear simple, at least 3/4 solid color dress. A multicolored outfit or elaborate outfit may detract from the type of image. The model's outfit in this case was a light blue color and if you want patterns from the window, try to avoid very dark colors. Of course, some very effective artistic nude images have also been created using window light.
You will most likely want the model close to the window so that you can get a nice wrap around effect. Keeping her away from walls will eliminate the need to get rid of distracting shadows. In the image above, the model was 2 feet away from any wall and positioned herself about a 2 feet away from and in line with the window frame. Standing in the 'middle' of the window may have caused unwanted lens flare.
The time of day of course is important, with the sun casting shadows from the cross beams of the windows into the room. This may occur early in the day or later in the evening. In these images, I also focused and metered on the model closely so as to expose her correctly. I wanted the background to fall into darkness.
Subtle shifts of the arms and head into various poses can produce dramatic effects. In may of the images the models eyes are closed or half open. Sunlight coming in through a window can be uncomfortable for many people to work in for an extended time. If you want to get a shot with her eyes, try the count 1-2-3 open technique.
You can of course also play with color temperature with the light. Depending upon the time of day, color temperature can vary dramatically. In the last image, the model is actually sitting on the window sill and wanted to give her a nice warm glow. I also wanted to overexpose the windows since I really did not care what was outside but wanted to focus on the model. There are MANY, MANY ways to accomplish this in Photoshop or Lightroom including a large assortment of presets and actions that are both commercially and free. If you want a little more control, this clip from Lindsay Adler will also help Color Grading in fine tuning your images.
One final tips is be sure that you are primarily metering (even if from within your camera) on the model herself. it is very easy to meter the entire scene and have details in the model overexposed from sunlight flowing in through the window. Check the back of your camera and histogram on a regular basis since clouds and the position of the sun can dramatically effect your exposure.
- Bob Barford is a photographer based in Southern PA.