Natural light for portraits and still life photos

December 21, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Somewhere along the way in my photographic education I decided that studio portraits and still-life photos had to use studio lighting to be professional.  In all honesty this thought was bit snobby on my part.  Recently I watched my niece Jessica shoot an entire season of family and holiday portraits almost entirely with natural light and reflectors.  You can see some of her work on her website at  Next I watched Julie Scholz one of my partners at Gallery Meraki shoot the most amazing floral photos using nothing but the big window in the studio and a reflector!  I set out to re-learn the art of natural light photography.  I don't know why I thought this was not a valid way to shoot.  I use it all the time in my landscape photography. Ultimately using a big window provides a large, soft, directional quality of light which is exactly what I try to recreate in the studio with my lights.  What are the pros and cons of shooting this way.  The big pro is a more relaxed subject!  Without all the lights popping for each shot.  The subject is more at ease and I am free to really be in the moment to get the photo.  The big con is windows just do not put out as much light as studio lights so you have to work at higher ISOs and shoot with the lens more open.  This can be a bit of a high wire act when it comes to sharpness but ultimately it is worth it.  I do not plan to do all of my work in natural light, but adding it back to my bag of tricks makes me a more complete photographer.  Below are a few samples of natural light work I have done in the studio.

This little sweetie wandered into the gallery Tu-Tu and all.  She is the daughter of my friend Shany, who owns the Design Co. across the hall from Gallery Meraki.  I just knew I had to photograph her and did not have time to set up lights.  Setup was window light on the right with a big white reflector on the left and a simple black background.

Julie Scholz ordered a batch of Anemones to photograph.  She does the most amazing photographs of flowers in the studio.  These are my attempts using window light as the light source.

Little kids are great to shoot by window light because you don't need to wait for lights to recycle you can keep snapping away as their expressions change and they are not distracted by all the lights.


If you would like to learn to make better portraits at home by window light and simple studio light setups we are having a workshop at Gallery Meraki on January 10th.  Contact me for more details at 845-499-0178 or

Keep Makin' Art!



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