Pic of the Week_Ellen_Window Light

Canon 5D Mark II camera and Canon 24-105mm f4 L series USM lens @ 105mm Exposure Details: 1/20 second @ f4 ISO 400

Canon 5D Mark II camera and 24-105mm f4 L lens @ 65mm. 1/80 sec @ f4 ISO 800

Here’s an image from a recent workshop on low light portrait photography in Eltham on the outskirts of Melbourne, Australia. 

The image was made in doors with the aid of window light.

I love working in this way. Window light provides a lovely, soft light source that renders the subject in a very flattering manner. The compromise is that there is less light available indoors and, as a consequence, slow shutter speeds are the order of the day. To reduce the chance of camera and/or subject movement try the following:

Shoot with your lens set to its Widest Aperture

If you have a cheaper zoom lens, such as the type commonly sold with the camera (kit lens), your maximum (widest) aperture is dependent on the lens focal length. So, while you might be able to achieve an aperture of f3.5 when shooting at 18mm, zooming in to 55mm will reduce the maximum aperture to f5.6, resulting in a slower shutter speed and a greater chance of experiencing subject or camera movement. 

Make sure your Subject is Lit

A brighter subject will result in a faster shutter speed than if the subject wasn’t lit.

Except in the case of a sunrise or sunset it’s extremely rare that you’d actually want to include the actual light source in your composition. Being much brighter than the subject it will draw the viewer’s attention away from the subject and often cause your camera’s light meter to produce an underexposure.

The trick is not to include the light source, in this case the window in the frame. The exception, as evidenced in the above image, is to shoot at a fairly extreme angle to the window so as to shoot across it rather than directly into the brighter light outdoors.

In this case another window, to the right of Ellen, is acting as the main light source illuminating one side of her face and providing a gentle graduation from light to dark on the shadow side.

It’s always great to photograph an attractive subject. To my mind what makes one attractive is a positive attitude and flattering light. In this case I couldn’t miss.

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Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru

Glenn Guy