A northeast-facing window is filled with soft light. Skillfully incorporating this light into your photographs can create an appealing atmosphere. Specifically, by utilizing the natural light in the early morning, shining it onto subjects like ice cream or a coffee cup, you can express a unique mood.

Incorporating Atmosphere into Photography


The light filling a northeast-facing window is soft. You can create a captivating atmosphere by incorporating this light into your photos. Specifically, by utilizing the early morning natural light and illuminating subjects like ice cream or a coffee cup, you can express a unique mood.
If you have a northeast-facing window and a corner where sunlight (called natural light) pours in from outside, there should be a soft light filling the area in the early morning. This light is precisely the essence of the atmosphere dominating the place. Try incorporating it into your photographs.

Our subject this time is this photo of affogato. The atmosphere of this photo depends on the timing and location of the shoot.

hero-cat-coffee-life-artThe northeast-facing window of my apartment. This is the most saved post on Instagram over the past two years.

Shooting Time

First, the shooting time. According to records, it was taken at 7:14 on January 3, 2021. Sunrise in Yokohama on this day was at 6:50. It was taken about 20 minutes after sunrise. The magic hour (the few tens of minutes before sunrise) had ended, and just before the winter sun began to shine, you can see the soft light reaching the ice cream in the cup. The first element in creating an atmosphere is this soft sunlight.

Shooting Location

The Kanto region is often sunny in winter. The air is dry, and a refreshing morning sun shines through the windows. The window visible beyond the wooden table faces northeast, and the sun rises from its far end. The soft sunlight refracted by the window glass bathes the window area. This shooting location by the window is the second point.

photo9844Rooms facing northeast can maintain stable natural lighting throughout the day, making them perfect for photography that takes advantage of natural light.

Composition Leveraging the Stage

photo9867Affogato garnished with red beans on the ice. The finely powdered coffee on the ice adds an accent to the flavor.

We've talked about how the northeast-facing window creates an atmospheric place and makes an excellent stage for shooting. From here, we will introduce specific styling and shooting ideas. A list of styling items is also included at the end of the page.

Styling Ideas

Our star this time is the coffee cup and the ice cream inside it. Additionally, we have a wooden milk jug with a pouring spout. Here, piping hot espresso is poured. In order to highlight the cup containing the ice, we select the surrounding supporting characters in reverse order. Let's follow the thought process at the time of shooting and introduce some tips for choosing items.

Choosing Items on the Fly


At the time, I had traveled to Nagano a few weeks before the shoot. I found a charming vintage tray at a local antique shop, so it was decided first and foremost to shoot something using this tray. The theme ultimately became an Affogato with red beans, but the selection of fine items is always improvised during shooting.

Unify with Vintage Items

photo0533A spoon from Nobuka's childhood home. It seems to have been used in her early childhood.

While saying that the Affogato is the main character, I had the true intention of wanting to show the just-purchased vintage tray looking just as good. Therefore, I decided to unify all the items with vintage-themed pieces. When combined with shabby items that have aged, it prevents an individual impression from standing out and creates a sense of unity throughout the tray.

Choosing Items That Stand Out

You might have noticed that items with different textures, like the wooden tray, white porcelain plate, and the wooden milk jug on the plate, are layered on top of each other. In fact, there is meticulous calculation here too. While creating a cohesive unity throughout the tray, it's better if individual items can be distinguished, right? So, instead of using a wooden plate, we purposely chose a white porcelain plate to emphasize color contrast.

w=2048,quality=80,fit=scale-downBy layering items of different materials and colors on top of each other, the visibility of each item is enhanced.

Shooting Ideas

From here, let's introduce some shooting ideas.

Limit the Number of Colors

Color determines the atmosphere of the photo. In order not to ruin the atmosphere of "a northeast-facing window bathed in morning sunlight", we make the overall color tone blend in with the entire space as much as possible. For that, it's important not to introduce unnecessary colors into the scene. The color palette introduced below is an example extracted from actual photos.

w=2048,quality=80,fit=scale-downColor palette actually extracted with Adobe Color

From the tray surroundings and the workbench-like table to the retro hexagonal tiles on the wall and the wooden measuring spoon hanging on the espresso machine peeking into the frame, they all contribute to creating the atmosphere.


The composition follows the orthodox rule of thirds. We divide the screen into thirds, focusing on the subject at the intersection of the left and bottom lines, and adding blur to the background.

w=2048,quality=80,fit=scale-down (1)The focus is on the blue cup, positioned at the intersection of the divided thirds.

Equipment Used and Settings

  • Body: Sony αIII
  • Lens: Canon EF 100mm f2.8L Macro IS USM
  • Focal Length: 100mm
  • F-number: f/2.8
  • Exposure Time: 1/80

How did you find it? We introduced ideas for taking photos and selecting items based on the theme of "a northeast-facing window". We hope this will be useful not only for product photography such as small items, but also for shooting spaces like detached houses and apartments.

List of Items

  • Wooden tray | Nordic vintage purchased at haluta in Nagano
  • Milk jug | RISE&SHINE milk pitcher purchased at Actus
  • White plate | Charming ARABIA vintage with a calm atmosphere
  • Cup | cafenoma original cup (MUKU white / HAKUJI blue-gray)
  • Spoon | Something that was at Nobuka's childhood home (source unknown)