Window Light 4 Ways | A Different Light Perspective

Since it’s the winter for everyone in the Northern Hemisphere, let’s talk a little more about window light. What I love about window light is that you can modify it in so many different ways to achieve wildly different results from the exact same window. You can get incredibly moody dramatic lighting and beautifully bright, happy lighting all from the same window at the same time of day. 

I was staying in a hotel in Houston in October that had these awesome tall windows with gorgeous drapes, so I took the opportunity to take some self portraits to show different ways I would use the light.

  1. Silhouette – Especially for a window like this with those dramatic curtains, a silhouette was a perfect choice to show off the beauty of the window. For silhouettes, make sure to think about the overall shape you are going to be. For example, it won’t matter how beautifully you pose your hands if your body is blocking the light to them. I generally like to make sure there is separation between my arms and my body in silhouettes.

  1. Backlighting – This photo was literally taken minutes after the other photo. The only change is in my exposure and focus. I exposed for my skin rather than for the light coming from the window. If the light is very strong, you will often get chromatic aberration in this situation due to the big difference in dynamic range. I avoided this by doing an OOF photo.

  1. Low light – This is one of my favorite uses for window light! I closed down the curtains even more to get just a sliver of light coming in. This creates more dramatic light that is a little harder in quality. By closing the curtains, you are controlling the spill of light, allowing for more dramatic light that falls off faster. You can se that I am quite close to the window here. If you wanted, you could clone out the window, which I sometimes do for a cleaner frame.

  1. Rembrandt lighting/even lighting – For this photo, I opened up the curtains all the way to get brighter, more even lighting. With a larger light source, you’ll get softer light that doesn’t fall off as fast. Rembrandt lighting has to do with the specific triangle that you get on your cheek from the shadow of your nose. You can do this in low light too for a moodier, dramatic portrait.


So there are four photographs you can get out of just one window at the same time of day! If you found this helpful, keep an eye out for the upcoming breakout I am writing with Melina Nastazia Photography, Composing Boldly with Light: How to find and utilize light creatively for striking imagery. In it, I will cover the lighting choices behind these four photos in more depth along with many, many more! It will be live on the CM forums in May. If you’re looking to learn more about taking artistic self portraits, I have a breakout/ebook in the CMStores right now: Being Your Own Model, available for only $30.


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