Headshot Photography Course -2

Using Daylight Indoors.

The first of these blogs used a simple technique to manipulate daylight by putting your subject under a bridge, in a tunnel or a doorway. Then by using a reflector to bounce light back into the face you could produce a beautiful quality of light. One reason why this way of manipulating daylight works so well is that your key light (the sky) is placed above the eyeline in the same way as explained in the 3 point light set up in the Photography Headshot Course 1. It acts as a massive softbox. That coupled with a reflector produces a daylight version of clamshell lighting so often used in the studio and should be your go to setup whenever you start to shoot portraits. The trouble with shooting daylight indoors (and not in the doorway) is the keylight tends to come in at 90 degrees from a window and needs to be manipulated carefully to vary the quality of light.

Gear List: Same as Photography Headshot Course 1 with addition of a large white reflector.

Here is a map of my little studio at home. Its a first floor bedroom facing south east. The blue lines indicate where my windows are and the letters represent areas where I shoot my daylight shots.

20160329-Studio Map-1.jpg

This image uses only a bay window light, diffused and to the left of the subject. Its nice, soft and simple. Area A.


Here’s another from one window diffused, lit from the clients right. Area G.


Manipulating Window Light

As with any light source you may need a a degree of modification to control the quality of light. With a window light direct sun is a no no so if your window catches a lot of direct sun you are going to need to diffuse it somehow. Depending on the brightness anything from white net curtains to a white sheet should soften the light so its usable. You can also buy diffusion paper in rolls. This spreads the light more evenly that the other methods. You may also want to use black flags or blinds to control how much window light you want by covering areas up. Be very careful how you position your subject. You will see how much the quality of light will vary according to the distance from the light source to the face. Generally with a low lux soft light the further you position your subject away from the light source the flatter and less interesting quality of light.

Lets concentrate on position F. The wall next to F is covered by a mirror and the window is diffused. The client is facing towards position G. I get 2 qualities of light from this area depending on the amount of reflection I use. Soft and Direct Soft. To explain this I can use 2 images.


The image on the left is lit only by the window which produces what I call a direct soft light. It is a light that is both soft and directional which will give the subject some contour. The one on the right has a large white reflector close into the clients right. This produces an even soft illumination but does not contour the subject like the previous setup. The background of this shot is the bay window behind her with the blinds open. The other is with the blinds closed.

Here are more images from section A. As you can see from the set up shot I have masked the light and added a reflector. The boy’s picture has the reflector removed.

20160201-section A-2.jpg

20160201-section A-1.jpg

Here is a picture from Section E and as you would guess it’s similar to A with the light coming in from the right of the client.


FocalLength: 106.0 mm ShutterSpeed: 1/160 Aperture: 2.8 ISO: 1600

Section H is the least interesting for me. Flat light from a window can very boring. With this picture I have put a large silver reflector under his chin to ‘lift’ the image.


FocalLength: 83.8 mm ShutterSpeed: 1/125 Aperture: 2.8 ISO: 640

Sections B C and D are for me the most interesting since its possible to create a 3 point light set up using only daylight. If we mask the central area of the bay window we now have light coming in from 2 directions from the 2 smaller windows in the bay effectively rim lighting your subject. Without any modifications it looks like this at section C.

20160202-rim light-1.jpg

Moving the subject closer towards the light source (in this case section D) that light becomes the key light and the one behind becomes the accent light.

Add a reflector as your fill and you have a 3 point light set up from one source. I have left the reflections in the glasses so you can see my expensive modifier (Yes, it’s tin foil on a board). There is no retouching so this is exactly what the light is producing.

20160121-3 point light.jpg

Here is the retouched version


Here is the set up

Lighting Setups-3

A point about lighting balance.

I have not yet mentioned anything about exposure and for good reason. I want you to use your eyes and determine wether your accent light is just bright enough or what is just the right amount of reflection and wether it should be a silver or white one. These decisions are yours and you will get better at them the more you practice.


You don’t have to have lots of expensive gear to shoot well lit headshots. Just some art board, tin foil and some imagination! Find a room in the house and start experimenting. See how many variations you can get from one light source.

In the next installment, Headshot Photography Course 3, we are going to put the these setups and others on steriods and add lights and more modifiers. The next section is where lighting really gets interesting.



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