Natural Light In Photography: Make the Ordinary, Extraordinary

Lighting can make an ordinary picture, extraordinary! In fact, many photographers say lighting can make or break an image. Natural light is one of my favorite light sources to use. The great thing is you can use natural light inside or out.

Natural Lighting Photography

Get Near a Window

It doesn’t matter what type of house you have, you can still use window light to improve your images. In fact, I thought I had terrible lighting in my house (I live in a house on a military base) but after taking a workshop solely on indoor lighting, I realized there is a lot more light than I thought. I tell you this so you don’t get discouraged that you only have one small window in a room. We can work with that!

Encourage your subject to play in good light.

There are several ways to do this.

One way is to take a minute to make sure that the activity your kids do is near a window. This may require you to re-arrange your furniture but it will be worth it. My kitchen table used to perpendicular to the window.

{You can see how my daughter’s face has some strange shadows from my other daughter’s arm moving around.}

My kids have started to do more activities at the table that I wanted to capture and I knew that one of them would not be well lit, since one would be in the shadow of the other. I decided to rotate my table so it was parallel to the window. Now when my girls are busy working on the bench they are both illuminated by the natural light.

There is also a spot in my living room where they do a lot of puzzles, make believe, and coloring. I made sure to put the popular white table by the back door so that I have continual natural light on them.

You don’t need to make huge changes. Just think about where your subject spends most of their time. Can you move that closer to a window?

Maybe your subject doesn’t have a favorite table or stationary place they like to play. You can still encourage them to play in good light. Do they love to play with trains on the floor? Why not put the box over by the window so when they decide to set it up, they are already in some nice natural light.

Now that you know how to set up your house to make picture taking just a little easier, let’s talk about some tricks you can use to make your subject look even better in window lighting.

45 Degree Angle Photography

Like I said earlier, there are tons of different ways to take advantage of window lighting. One of the most popular is placing your subject at a 45 degree angle from the window. This allows nice soft shadows to fall on your subject. Shadows are a good thing. They add dimension to your subject.

Examples of 45 Degree Angle Photos

To achieve this, you want to place your self next to the window. Have your subject sitting at a 45 degree angle to the window.

Here is the image it produced:

Want to read a little more about natural light in photography? Then head over to my place and check it out!


Oh, catchlights are a photographer’s dream. They can help your subject’s eyes look like they are full of life, instead of black and hollow looking.

Catchlights are the reflection of light in your subject’s eye.

How To Achieve Catchlights

It’s actually quite simple. Have your subject look towards the light. This will help their eyes to “catch” the light.

Examples of Catchlights

See the added bit of sparkle when you look directly into their eyes? It will magically brighten a photo is an instant.

Examples of Images Without Catchlights

Here are a few examples of what photos look like sans catchlights. Hopefully you can see the difference!

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Editing Pictures Online for Free with PicMonkey
How to Straighten Photos: Battling Tilted Horizons

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  1. At this time it looks like BlogEngine is the preferred blogging platform out there right now.
    (from what I’ve read) Is that what you are using on your blog?

  2. Tiffany Preston

  3. Wonderful post but I was wondering if you could write a
    litte more on this subject? I’d be very grateful if you could elaborate a little bit further. Cheers!

  4. samantha says:

    Hello, just wanted to write and say how excited I am that I have stumbled across this website! Its opened me eyes on how to use my Nikon d300 better (ss,iso,aperture) and all the extra little goodies that make a photo pop! I very excited to do a session with catchlights! Thank you so much for making something seem so hard to understand, to understandable!

  5. Can’t wait to go home and find a location inside my home where I can take pictures. Natural lighting is best but not always easy to find.

  6. great info. My biggest challenge is photography and I always try and use natural light. I will try the 45 degree angle rule.

  7. oh..this is all so helpful. Always room for improvement on this front..thank you!


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