Practice 26

A portrait by a window

The best light!
Make your subject comfortable
The lovely softness of window light
Window light is magic! It’s soft and flattering to everyone and so easy to access. Teach yourself to use it and you will always have it in your pocket to make great portraits. I photographed baby Eliana as she sat comfortably in her mother’s lap on an airplane. That wonderful sunlight illuminated her little face. The reflection of the window added sparkle to her bright eyes. It would be easy for you to make this photograph. Simply frame the shot, being sure to touch your fingertip to the place your subject’s face appears on your cellphone screen and shoot. When shooting candids, do several shots before you attempt to make eye contact or signal your subject that the session has begun. You never know if you will lose the charm of the moment when you call attention to your camera.
The quality of your portrait will depend on your ability to see and capture what you like about the person you’re photographing. Since you have been shooting photographs thoughtfully and fully focused as you’ve worked your way through almost a month of practices, you are probably to feel more comfortable with your camera. Soon it will feel like it is almost a part of your body. That comfort and, more importantly, your comfort with yourself, will allow you to be totally focused on the person you photograph. You will be free to help them relax, making it possible to capture not just how they look, but who they really are. If you express sincere interest in your subjects, they will open themselves to your lens, and likely to you as well. The same is true, of course, without the camera in your hand.
Today, find a willing subject. Settle them as comfortably as possible standing, leaning or sitting next to a window, or on the windowsill itself. Try to capture the person inside, rather than just the predictable "smile for the camera" look. Relax as you work and have fun. I like to take a few test shots as I begin, telling my subject I am just testing the light. I am, but sometimes those first test shots can be the best of the day. Ask your subject to turn into or away from the window, even to face it directly. Note the way those subtle changes in light can enhance your photos. Keep talking. If you want a person to look happy, say something they want to hear. You’ll see the light!