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Creating soft beautiful images with natural window light

Creating soft beautiful images with natural window light is quite simple to achieve with a few tools and some know-how. Working with soft indirect light can create some stunning still life images.

The setup using window light

In this image, you can see my setup. I have placed my old chippy table in front of the window, which is east facing with indirect afternoon light. Using a double thickness sheer curtain hanging and a scrim behind that as well.

On the right, I have a silver reflector bouncing back the limited window light. To the left and behind me is another window, which also with indirect light.

Because of this weak light, I needed to take a longer exposure, and of course, my camera is set up on a tripod. In this case, I am shooting at approximately 1/50s. Granted that is not a very long exposure, but enough to create camera shake and prevent nice crisp focus. I used an aperture of f/7.1 in some of the images to get more in focus. Some of the close-up shots I changed my aperture to f/3.2, which allowed to increase the shutter speed.

Working with styling

Placing my flowers (Apricot Ranunculus) in a clear glass vase and filled three-quarters full of water on the table. I have found that this level of water creates a nice balance — too full or too little does not look quite as aesthetically pleasing, but that is personal preference. I have placed some vintage white cotton around the vase, this also helps reflect light back into the image. The dark bonsai scissors were added as a contrast point and to help tell a story of freshly cut flowers.

This weak, flat light allows the softness of the petals to really stand out, with just enough shadow to create details. You could use a window with more direct light but would need to either diffuse it more to obtain the softness or work with a stronger light. You may also need to bounce more light back into your subject with a second reflector placed directly in front of the camera, without blocking the shot.

window light

Mix things up, move around the shot

To complete the series, I have taken a pulled back overall view of the scene. Then moved in closer and changed angles from a flat lay to some close-up macro of the flowers. I also sprayed some water from a spray bottle onto some of the flowers to create a just-picked look, in some of the images.

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