Many photographers swear by the beautiful quality of light provided by large, unobstructed windows. For portraiture work, the characteristically soft window light look is consistently flattering and highly sought-after. For some fabulous examples of the possibilities of window light, check out the work of Sean Archer, or this recent post by our own Britney Smith. However, photographers who rely solely on window light can encounter the problem of its lack of versatility. It can be difficult to modify window light to control its size and spread. The Koldunov brothers have come up with a clever DIY solution for this problem.
Using a system involving a wooden grid, velcro, and black fabric, they have devised a system whereby they can open and close individual sections of their massive studio window to achieve various lighting effects.
While a more basic implementation of curtains, blinds or shutters may be capable of achieving some of these effects, the Koldunov brothers’ solution allows an additional level of control, particularly in its ability to affect catchlights. By uncovering the window in various configurations, the reflections in the subject’s eyes are completely customizable, and can offer a slew of subtle, creative possibilities.
Their system, while seeming fairly labor intensive to build, is actually rather simple. They have created a wooden grid, covering the full area of their studio window, and covered the inside of that grid in strips of velcro. Then, by cutting pieces of black, semi-opaque fabric, and edging them with corresponding velcro strips on three sides, they can quickly cover and uncover whichever sections of the grid they please. For a softer light they can remove more of the fabric pieces, and for harder, more directional look, they can selectively uncover smaller portions.
Established studio photographers with an assortment of strobes and modifiers might scoff at this unwieldy apparatus, but the creativity at work is hard to deny. Perhaps this particular solution is not practical for the majority of portrait photographers, but the inventive approach to solving a problem is commendable, and makes their video worth a watch.