How to take whimsical images using window light

Ever wondered how to achieve whimsical images and get a nice flare in your images? Well you’ve come to the right place. This tutorial will help you to achieve a light soft glow just from using window light. Yes, that’s it! No fancy lighting or equipment necessary - just a bed sheet! 

You will need: 

  • A camera with the ability to change the exposure
  • Sheer curtains or a sheet to cover your window
  • Your styling props

And that’s it!

let's get started

First up you will need to cover your window light with a sheer cover. If you have sheer curtains then it’s as easy as drawing them across. If you don’t have sheer curtains then never fear. I’m sure everyone has a spare bedsheet lying around or you can also use some light weight fabric from a fabric store. 

In the images below you can see that the original scene from the background. One, it’s very distracting from the props and two, there isn’t anything very exciting out there to ensure we are exposing for.

Whimsical images using window light-Background.JPG

So the sheet will help create focus on your props and also help to create a lovely diffused light. Remember that diffused light helps to create more even lighting over the scene. This means you won’t get blown out highlights and really dark shadows. 

So once your sheet is up, put your props in front of the sheet. Then it’s time for shooting!

There are three ways of achieving this lovely lens flare and whimsical style to your photos. 

Option one

If you have a dark object in your picture then you can aim your focal point on this. Even when your camera is metered for the whole scene (evaluative metering), the contrast between the highlights and shadows is very different. By focusing on the darker object, the highlights (i.e. the sun through the window) will be blown out.

In the three images below I’ve focussed on the dark basket, the coffee cup and the window light. Can you guess which is which? 

Whimsical images using window light-Basket.JPG
Whimsical images using window light-Coffee Cup.JPG
Whimsical images using window light-Window.JPG

In the first image I’ve focussed on the dark basket, in the second image I’ve focussed on the coffee cup and in the third image I’ve focussed on the window light. 

But what if you don’t have a dark enough object in your frame or if you don’t actually want to the dark object to be your focus point? 

Well read on for option 2 and 3! These options will give you more control of the light in your scene. 

option Two: 

Put your camera into your aperture priority mode (typically A or AV on your camera). This sets a fixed aperture and then the camera controls the shutter speed to get the exposure you want. You can move your exposure meter to the right to get more light into the scene. 

To simplify it:

Whimsical images with window light - Light Meter.png

So if you go and move our exposure level to the right until you wash out the background and the objects in the foreground are nice and bright. Remember you can always edit the shadows in post-production so don’t increase the exposure to a point where you can’t see the lighter objects. 

It’s worth pointing out that if you shutter speed gets below 1/50 seconds then you need to put your camera on a tripod. Otherwise even with the most stable hands, you’re going to get blurry images. 

You can also increase your ISO to increase the light into the scene but I typically don’t like going over an ISO of 400 as it creates ‘noise’ (grainy) in your images. 

option Three: 

Go onto manual mode! Don’t be scared of this as it’s actually very easy. 

Set your aperture with your ISO and then you can manually control your shutter speed to get the desired effect. 

It’s practically the same to being in Aperture mode. If your ISO and Aperture are the same then technically your camera should technically use the same shutter speed as Aperture Priority mode.

Really the only time I use manual mode is when I’m not using evaluative metering  (evaluates the light in the entire scene) or bracketing photos (taking many photos at different exposures). 

This is the final image using a bit of editing and some cropping. 

Whimsical images using window light-Final.JPG

This week’s challenge image with the lovely Aromatherapy Co NZ products was also shot using this technique. 

Aromatherapy Co NZ.JPG

Let me know if you give this tutorial a go and if you have any questions then ask me at