Why I Prefer Window Light - J. K. Ribout Photography
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October 19th, 2016

When it comes to photography, people will have their preferences when it comes down to almost everything - lighting, equipment, poses, etc. Today I want to address one of those categories: lighting. I want to go into a little bit of detail and tell you why I love to photograph subjects using window light as opposed to constant or studio light.

Of course when it comes to lighting, you must first look at what you are shooting and what effect you would like to have. Constant or studio light are also great methods for lighting your subjects, but sometimes it doesn't always to the job you want it to. 

I have nothing against constant light, I use it quite frequently - it is my go-to light source if window light isn't quite strong enough to illuminate my subject the way I want it. 


I love window light for many reasons, but here are the main two:

Dramatic Effects and Natural Light Manipulation 


Dramatic Effects:

When I photograph most of my subjects, I always love to create a very dramatic and emotional feel to my photography. Working with window light helps me create this because of the way that it spills over my subject matter. I think that the key to making art with a camera that has emotion and depth is to make sure that there is much contrast between light and dark. 


Natural Light Manipulation:

My favourite part about working with window light, is that I have the full creative freedom to manipulate the light however I want. I typically do this by using a curtain, a board, a reflector (whatever I can find really) to give the light a pathway to the subject, thereby illuminating only the piece of the scene that I want to put emphasis on. Window light gives a very organic and natural look to your subjects. And it's an effect that can be created with a soft box in studio, but there is nothing quite like the real thing.


Disadvantages

There are some disadvantages to planning on using window light for a specific shoot. 

1. If the light coming from the window is too dim, you may struggle with low light, forcing you to have to bump up your ISO, potentially causing your images to have some grain.

2. Again, if the light is too dim or if it's overcast, sometimes this can cause you to get flat lighting (which is what you want to avoid). In this case, you may not be able to manipulate the light in your favour.


Advantages

Now, this may sound bias, but I find many more advantages than disadvantages while shooting with window light. 

1. With window light (like constant light), you have the ability to manipulate the light that is coming through with curtains, reflectors, etc. It helps because unlike flash, you already see how the light spills over the subject, making it easy to adjust it.

2. It can create very nice and emotional feel to your images. You can create some nice contrast between the highlights and shadows. 

3. It creates very soft light over the subject, which looks nice in any given situation.

4. This next one can be both an advantage and a disadvantage: the light is constantly changing. On one hand, you may be trying to capture a photograph with a certain shading and a certain feel and the light changes before you've nailed the shot. On the other hand, you could be struggling to get the perfect angle, when suddenly the light changes in your favour. And with the light constantly changing, this gives you more lighting options to test on your subject matter.


In the end, the preference comes down to the photographers taste and the objective of the photographs. Personally, there's just something about natural window light that I absolutely adore.



Thank you for reading!

I hope you enjoyed this little insight on my lighting preferences and that you found some of my explanations helpful.

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