Natural Light In Photography: Make the Ordinary, Extraordinary

By Aug 26, 2015July 24th, 201712 Comments

This post may contain affiliate links which may give us a commission at no additional cost to you. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.

Lighting can make an ordinary picture become 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, with a little bit of preparation, you can achieve natural light photography inside or outdoors.

Photography Tips | How to use natural light to get beautiful pictures | Lots of tips for natural light photography + tips to capture catchlights.


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 in the woods with a lot of tree coverage in the fall and winter), but after taking a workshop focused solely on indoor lighting, I realized that 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! Natural light photography is still possible for you.


Star by encouraging 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.

Make the most of the natural light that comes into your home by encouraging your children to play near the windows | Photography Tips For Bloggers

Or you can even re-arrange your children to be near some great windows!

Children playing by a window | Natural Light Photography

My kids have started to do more activities at the living room coffee table and I wanted to capture all the fun on camera. I decided to rotate my table so it was parallel to the big picture window. Now when they are busy playing or working at the table, they are both illuminated by the natural light.

Instead of asking your kids to move, rearrange your furniture so their favorite table is near a window | Photography Tips

Little girl playing backgammon | Natural Light Photography

There is also a spot in my living room where they do a lot of puzzles, make believe, and coloring. They also like to just sit. I made sure to put their favorite rocking chair by the back door so that I have continual natural light on them.

Be sure to place your children's favorite chair in the best path of natural light in the room - so you will always be prepared to get a great photo.

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.


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 a good mix of light and shadows, position your subject so they are at a 45 degree angle to the light | Natural Light Photography Tips

The secret to good lighting in photography is a 45 degree angle!

To achieve this, you want to place yourself next to the window. Have your subjects sitting at a 45 degree angle to the window. Do not have them face the window directly, or the light might look flat. The shadows will add dimension.

Here is the image produced:

Don't have the subject of your photo face the light directly, turn them at a 45 degree angle to achieve a pleasing mix of light and shadows | Natural Light Photography Tips


Oh, catchlights. 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 is the fancy name for the reflection of light in your subject’s eye.


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.

Catchlights are the bit of light and sparkle you see in your subjects eyes when you take a photo | Natural Light Photography Tips

Catchlights add life to your photo, by highlighting your subject's eyes | Photography Tips

Here is an example of what a photo looks like without catchlights. Hopefully you can see the difference!

Example of a photo without catchlights

No one likes a flat photo. Use these natural light photography tips — placing your subject near a window, keeping them at a 45 degree angle from the light, and capturing catchlights to make your photos sparkle and shine.

About Tamara Bowman

Tamara is a professional photographer, a mama of two, a writer/blogger and a nearly professional cookie taster. She has been known to be all four of those things at all hours of the day and night. She is a very proud contributor to the book, The Mother Of All Meltdowns. After two cross country moves, due to her intense Bi-Coastal Disorder, she lives with her husband, daughter and son in glorious western Massachusetts. She spends her spare time looking for moose, taking pictures of her kids, and maybe – just maybe – teaching them about photography. She can be found on Facebook @Tamara Camera Photography, Twitter @TamaraCamPhoto , Instagram @TamaraCameraPhoto , and Pinterest @Tamara Camera Photography & Blog and on her blog @Tamara Camera Blog.