Make the most of the windows in your home or office by using them to take great photos. Read on to learn how to set up the scene, choose the best time of day to shoot, and control the light. Window light also teaches us a lot about shadows and how to use them to enhance the details, depth and features of our craft.
1. Get to Know Window Light
Window light provides two important features of great craft photos: light that is both soft and natural. Soft, natural light is important because it’s almost always flattering. Window light is accessible, easy to use, and it can be combined with other handy tools, such as a light tent.
The large, soft light source that is achievable using windows washes over your craft at a lovely angle, highlighting details and features along the way, and giving your photos depth. The key to getting it right is to shoot at the best time of day and to know how to control the light if it's not quite right.
Other than a window, of course, to begin with all that’s required is a table. Position the table near to the window. The proximity of the table to the window depends on the strength of light; if the light is intense, you can position your table or craft further away from the window. Positioning the table against a wall near perpendicular to the window will give you the option of creating a seamless background that is lit on one side, that is, the side closest to the window. (Learn how to make a seamless background in this tutorial on 10 great backgrounds for craft photography.)
Optional extras for window light setup are white paper and tape—use these to cover the table, control the light, or create a seamless setting. In the example shown above, the top of the table is evenly lit, with a soft glow and no harsh shadows. This is achieved by shooting at the best time of day, which, for this particular window, is early-to-mid morning when the sun is near the top of the house but hasn’t yet moved over to the side of the house where this window is. This table is a high-gloss white laminate, but you would also see a similar soft glow on a matte finish like natural wood.
3. Choose the Right Time of Day
Familiarise yourself with the direction of the sun over your home or office at various times of the day. Know when you can catch the light at a window at the back of your house and when you can’t. When the light has moved from one side of the house, you may be able to make it work on the other.
A good time to experiment with window light is when the sun is directly over the top of the building. At this time the building is acting as something of a diffuser and absorbing the majority of the direct or hard light, and, as a result, the light that does make it through the window is nicely softened and much easier to work with, as shown in the example above (Step 2). When the sun is streaming in at an angle through the window at the brightest time of day, it will be too harsh and bright.
Examples of the Wrong Time of Day
Hard light causes strong shadows, is less flattering to your craft, and is more difficult to work with. This is clear in the example below; notice the angle of the sun through the window and the dark and light areas on the table top.
5 Steps to Taking Great Photos of Your Craft Using Window Light
Make the most of the windows in your home or office by using them to take great photos. Read on to learn how to set up the scene, choose the best time of day...