andre kertesz

Photographs through an Indoor Window

A Strategy for Staying Home

Susan Sontag once wrote that travel becomes a strategy for accumulating photographs.  Why not  save the planet and shoot your pictures from a window at home.

Photographer Andre Kertesz shot many photographs from above or from a window

Also, I remember a New York City woman in her eighties who rarely left her apartment, but shot memorable street photographs from her apartment window.

“When I was young, the Dead Sea was still alive.” George Burns


The most famous use of through a window photography was in Alfred Hitchcock’s movie “Rear Window”(1954), where a photographer with two broken legs is confined to his apartment. The photographer, played by Jimmy Stewart, even discovered a murderer while spying on his neighbors through an open window with his camera.

See a clip from the movie “Rear Window” below: ( Grace Kelly plays the girlfriend)


Photo Tips for Shooting through a Window at Home

  1.  Open the window if possible to avoid glare 

  2. If you can’t open the window, get as close to the glass as possible or put your lens against the window to cut down on glare

  3. Turn off your flash 

  4. Use exposure compensation to underexpose (-) the scene  by a third to one stop

  5. Follow the general photography rules and don’t shoot outdoor scenes between ten and four unless you’re shooting through tinted glass.

  6. Hold your camera with two hands and keep your arms close to your body when you don’t use a tripod

Photo Tips through Windows when You Must Travel

Scenery from Moving Bus
Arizona Scenery from Moving Bus

If you must travel, take a bus or car. I shot this photo with a high shutter speed late morning  from a moving bus in Northern Arizona. When you are moving, use a high shutter speed to keep things in focus.  I like the reflection in the window, but you can avoid it by pressing your lens against the window. Unfortunately, you will also pick up more motion from the moving bus when you lean your camera against the glass.


When you stay in a hotel, always ask for a view and change rooms or hotels often for the best variety of shots. The following photos were taken from windows in two different rooms at the Miyako Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.

For the richest colors, take advantage of the golden light up to an hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset as in the above shots

Copyright ©, 2013 M. Hutchison

Photo Tips for Indoor Natural Light Photography

Find Drama and Mystique Indoors

Sometimes the world begins to look a little flat when we  use our camera flash or shoot outside in evenly lit conditions.  Natural light coming through windows can add mystique and drama to your photographs. Other benefits of  indoor photography include the usually pleasant climate and the lack of need to slather on sunscreen or wear a hat.

Mundane Scenes Get a Boost from Natural Light


On his 77th birthday when American Film comedian Harold Lloyd was asked his age, he said “I am just turning forty and taking my time about it.”


How to Avoid Noisy pictures and Camera Shake

You may not think of photographs as noisy, but they can be noisier than a group of unruly children. Lack of detail and a grainy gritty look are common.

The Problem of Noise:

 Gritty looking low detail photos are common in low light digital photography.  How sensitive your camera is to light and how it records it on your camera sensor is partly determined by your ISO setting.  Low numbers such as 80 or 100 ISO, record a lot of detail and little noise. Higher ISO settings such as 800 record less detail and more noise (grain). Since the higher settings allow more light to fall on your camera sensor in low-light conditions, they are generally more ideal. In some cases, such as at a rock concert, you may like the noise and lack of detail, but chances are you’ll want to remove at least some of  it in a photo editing program like Photoshop.

 Use a tripod like in Andre Kertesz’s 1926 photograph below and you’ll avoid the noise problem because a steady camera can record long exposures and make everything sharp.

Paris, 1926 by Andre Kertesz

The highly lit window photo below gives just enough detail about the inside.

Building from a Window
Old Chicago Restaurant

 The Problem of Camera Shake

Use these techniques indoors to avoid camera shake and undesirable blurry images:

  1. Hold your camera with both hands and press your elbows into your body
  2. Relax and then hold your breath
  3. If possible, set your camera to take several pictures at once (continuous) to increase chances of a sharp one
  4. Set your automatic timer to two seconds so there is less movement when the camera fires

 Possible Manual Control Settings for Indoors:

1) Set aperture (f-stop) for the widest possible opening (lowest number); 2) Set  shutter speed to 1/100 sec. or higher; 3) Set ISO to 800 or higher (not too high); and 4) Use exposure compensation to underexpose 1/3 to 1 stops so you record more detail; 5) Brighten it up later in a photo editing program

 Tips for Portraits: Use a Window as a soft box

  1. Position your subject in front of a window so that part of them is in the shadows (profile)
  2. Narrow the light coming in by adjusting the curtains and shades
  3. Set your camera f stop on a small number such as f 1.8, 4.5, etc. (wide lens opening)  in order to allow more light to reach the sensor and to blur the background.

A Story about Jack London’s Portrait

  When Jack London had his portrait made by noted San Francisco Photographer Arnold Genthe, London began the encounter with praise for the photographic art of his friend. “You must have a wonderful camera…it must be the best camera in the world”…Genthe then used his standard studio camera to make what has since become a classic picture of Jack London. When the sitting was finished, Genthe couldn’t contain himself. “I have read your books, Jack, and I think they are important works of art. You must have a wonderful typewriter.”

More photo tips next Friday on shooting the outside from the inside

copyright © 2013, Marlene Hutchison