Hello! It’s Mark’s wife Misty again. Just dropping in to talk about one of my favorite ways to take pictures of my own children – using natural window light. This quick photography tip is perfect for moms who are trying to capture the cute antics of their kids through the day while still wanting a nicely lit photograph.
As a busy mom, I spend the majority of my time in the kitchen or living room, which means my kids do too. I love to capture those cute moments during the day that happen quickly. So quickly that it would be impractical to setup any kind of off camera flash or softbox to get a really light a great shot indoors. Luckily, the only thing we need is a window with light coming through. Generally a north or south facing window without direct sunlight. We want a nice soft light that won’t cast shadows on the subjects face. In my kitchen I have a large sliding glass door out to the backyard. I love that sliding glass door! It provides so much light, giving me the chance to take pictures with natural light most of the day. I will sit on the floor such that the kids are facing the window. This large light source produces a beautifully soft light that lights up their faces and creates nice big catch light in their eyes.
Get Close to the Light
I recently learned that the larger the light source is in relation to subject, the softer the light and shadows will be. Next time you are outside during a bright day, notice how harsh and sharp the shadows are. This is because the sun is a relatively small light source (almost a small point) in relation to objects here on earth. A large window that is close to your subject is a much larger relative light source. Usually softer light will be much more flattering on your subject and will make for much better looking shots. You can test this by moving your subject away from the window and observing how the light and shadow changes.
If your kid will allow it, experiment with facing them away from the window at 90 degrees. You still want light to be reflected in both eyes and create that nice catch light, but as you turn your subject you will notice soft shadows that will help add dimension to their face.
Use Shallow Depth of Field
Another way to make these photos pop is to use a wide aperture (2.8 or wider) to achieve a shallow depth of field. This makes the background blurry (in my case this is good to hide all the messy toys in the background). Depending on the amount of light coming from the window a large aperture may mean you need to have a fast shutter speed, which may be good as well when photographing wiggly, fast moving children. If there isn’t as much light as you would hope for you can always turn up the ISO to compensate, allowing you to maintain a faster shutter speed. When photographing children especially I’ve found that a shutter speed any slower than 1/80th of a second will introduce motion blur.
Focus On the Eyes
Another thing to remember is to make sure you focus on the eyes. This is especially important when using a wide aperture as less of your photo will be in focus. You could have a picture where they eyes are in focus but the tip of the nose isn’t. Therefore setting focus to even the cheek or nose could make the eyes out of focus. When looking at a picture we are first drawn to the subjects eyes, when those are in focus the eyes are crisp and clean and very professional looking, making the whole picture pop.