Natural Light and Hotspots


I like to work without unnecessary complications. If there’s beautiful natural light available, and it meets my needs for a certain look, then I’m not going to introduce flash, or extra reflectors and flags for that matter. I say, if the light’s there, and it works, then use it as-is. The trick is to know when it’s not quite working. When you’re in the flow of a set of shots, sometimes the light and the subject fall a little out of sync with each other. This is where hotspots, shadows, and high contrast might distract from the overall feel of the shots.

The shots I pulled from this sequence were all taken on a small couch near a large bay of windows with sheer curtains. The light was soft and beautiful when the clouds where just right, and when the subject was in just the right position to avoid the hotspots coming through the gaps in the curtains.

Are hotspots always a bad thing? No. And I have to say, it’s a very subjective call. But you’ll know a good shot from a less effective one when you learn to identify the kind of light that is distracting. When you’re shooting, try to see beyond the subject and the pose, and notice where the light falls, and how it helps tell the story. If the light somehow takes the eye’s attention away from the things that are important, make a thoughtful adjustment and continue shooting the good stuff.


Here, the hotspot on the subject’s nose is just too distracting for me.



Again, the contrast between the forehead area and the rest of the face is too high.



Maybe here, one could argue that the areas of brighter light actually help tell the story.

Whether you’re shooting indoors with window light, as I did with these examples, or outdoors under the shade of trees, watch carefully for those hotspots, and avoid them altogether, or use them to your advantage.

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One Comment

  • steven December 5, 2013 at 10:59 am

    Great photo! I use a piece of translucent drape (don’t know the English word) in front of the window. Couple of big clamps and you have a giant softbox ;-)

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