It’s no secret that one of my favorite subjects is windows. Since returning home from Italy, I’ve noticed that I gravitate toward images of windows as much or maybe more than before. Noticing this has caused me to look closer at how I use them, why they interest me so. For this installment of Exploring with a Camera, let’s dive in and see how and why windows are such an appealing subject.
Source of Light
Windows are important to our existence. The let in light and air, while protecting us from the elements. As photographers, windows are a fabulous source of light when we are indoors. Each window, each time of day will bring a different quality of light to our photos. How often have you captured something with your camera, because you saw it sitting next to a window, in the light?
But windows go well beyond a source of light, to become an integral part of the composition and subject of a photograph. The image below is a great example. The window is the source of light, illuminating the table, but also a critical design element balancing the composition and interacting with the other items in the frame to tell a whole story.
The shapes and lines of windows make them an amazing design element in our photographs. They are usually square or rectangle, and we can decide how we incorporate them inside the square or rectangle frame of our photograph.
In the image below, the shape of the window replicates the shape of the frame. The contrast in color of the window gives your eye a place to focus and rest, while taking in the texture and layers in the wall. I see the texture as the subject, but the window “grounds” the image, giving the texture something to hold on to.
The window in this image is mainly used as a design element. Not only the color contrast, but the shape provides a strong, ordered contrast with the curving and disordered elements of tree, sculpture fragment and uneven texture in the wall.
When you see windows as a shape or a design element, you can see interesting uses for them in your images. Windows become the perfect subject to explore the use of repeating shapes as a dominant element, as in this photograph from late night in Venice. The repeating pattern of the window through the frame provides a separation between the working gondolier at the right and the rest of the empty gondolas on the left. (Visit Exploring with a Camera: Repeating Patterns for more on using repeating patterns in your photos.)
In this photograph from Madrid, repeating shapes plus the point of view reveal the use of windows as a design element to create lines. The strong linear perspective is completely created by the lines of the windows. (See Exploring with a Camera: Linear Perspective for more.)
Backdrops, Frames and Shelves
I find my use of windows in my photographs goes way beyond simple design elements. Windows are an integral part of many of my photographs, interacting with the subject as backdrops, frames and shelves. In the photo shared at the top of this post, the window serves as a shelf that holds the main subject – the colorful flower pots. In addition, the window frames the subject, creating separation from the contrasting space, texture and color around the pots.
Here is another example of a window used as a shelf, to hold the cupcakes. You can’t see the whole window, but you can feel it is there. A second window becomes a backdrop and frame for the person inside the building.
The window in this image serves as a frame for my son, looking out at the world.
In this self-portrait, the window is a backdrop for me. The framing and brightness provided by the window brings your eye to where I am sitting first, making me the focal point.
Since windows are usually made of glass, they provide an excellent source of reflections. My recent favorite photo of the window in Ashland is an example of using the window as a source of reflection, but the window also serves to frame and bound the reflection within the image.
Window reflections can also create complex interactions within the photographic frame. They can reveal things that are not visible otherwise; the reflections create layered images by showing both what is reflected in the window along with what is seen through the window. The window reflection in this image shows a slightly different perspective of my sons face, while also layering it with what is outside and providing a frame.
You can find more on using windows as a source of reflections in Exploring with a Camera: Reflections in Glass.
Windows can have powerful emotional impact in our photos, by creating a strong feeling of being on the inside looking out, or on the outside looking in. There can be a sense of separateness, longing, mystery or even protection created by windows in our photos. They are a useful storytelling element, both to express our own feelings and to draw the viewer in. This image below captures a story. It makes me wonder who lives on the other side of that window, with the colorful pots.
In this image, I am both literally and figuratively on the outside. I want to experience the warmth and companionship felt through the window, not just the warmth of the lone candle that is immediately accessible outside.
Does Stevie the cat long to be part of the outdoors or is he protected from the dangers of the outdoors by the window? You can decide. Either way, the window provides a boundary to explore, along with providing a frame for Stevie to sit within and light to the image.
By writing this post I may have discovered why windows show up in my photographs so much… there are so many different ways to use them! Here’s a quick summary of what I’ve discovered, just by doing my own image review:
- Windows are a fantastic source of natural light, when indoors.
- Windows are the perfect design element to explore shape, line and repetition.
- Windows can serve as backdrop, frame and shelf, interacting with your subject in interesting ways.
- The glass in windows creates complex layers through reflections.
- Windows are a storytelling element, creating psychological barriers that can evoke strong emotion.
To view more of my window images, you can visit this set on Flickr.
What other uses of windows do you have? How do they show up in your photos? Share with us! The link up will remain open for two weeks. I look forward to seeing your interpretations of one of my favorite subjects!