is all about light. Literally translated, it means "painting
with light". Having the right light can make or break
your photos. When people are starting out with photography, they
should start out by learning to control the available light (also
called ambient light) that they have in the atmosphere
to work with. Using flashes and studio lighting can really only
be done effectively when you've got a good handle on what shadows
do and how they affect your final photo. However, when you're
working inside, and because people as subjects tend to move, studio
lighting is sometimes necessary in order to get the fast shutter
speeds needed for successful portraits.
photographer is interested in portrait lighting but most seem
not to understand how to do it. The techniques that we are going
to discuss can be used with either hot lights
or studio strobes. You can use these same concepts
with flash units, however you will not be able to see the effect
until after you shoot. With practice you will be able to control
the harshness of the light as well as being able to de-emphasize
problem areas, such as a narrow face or a round face. The wrong
lighting will emphasize these features and will not be flattering
to your subject.
(Ambient) Lighting or using the available light in the
atmosphere produces no harsh shadows on the model's face, and
the overall even lighting makes for a nice fashion portrait. On
a sunny day having the model in the shade is a big help. If there
is no shade to work with use the photographer's greatest friend,
the reflector card. A reflector card is used
to bounce light that's shining down back up onto a subject to
add light to the shadowed areas, making for a much more even overall
reflector card can be made of any number of things. You can buy
them in photo equipment stores, but generally white poster board,
a white umbrella or aluminum foil (first crinkled and then stretched)
can be used to reflect light back onto my subjects and fill in
dark spots. As a side note, aluminum foil can be especially fun
if you can find it in gold color. It will cast a very nice, warm
light onto your subject.
If it's not a sunny day and you have a high, overcast, cloudy
sky, congratulations! You've been blessed with the world's biggest
softbox. A softbox is a piece of studio lighting equipment
that nobody should be without. As its name suggests, it spreads
a diffuse light out over your subject so as to avoid harsh shadows.
Overcast skies do the same thing. If you get skies like this,
grab your subject and head outdoors to snap as many portraits
as you can.
Light (on camera flash) There is just about no light
less flattering than a bright light aimed straight at your subject
that causes harsh shadows. There are studio strobe units that
you set off to the side of your camera and flash as you press
the shutter and those are a completely different thing. It is
not recommended to use camarea's flash unless you are going to
be in a dark situation where you absolutely have no choice. If
you need to and your camera has a hot shoe than you may use interchangeable
flash units, placed on stands as high up and far away from your
camera's lens as possible. This will at least produce a more flattering
light and eliminate the "red eye" effect
we've all seen too many times. Several manufacturers make white
plastic diffusers that go on the front of the
flash to defuse the harsh flash light.
A studio flash (also called a strobe) is an extremely
bright light that comes on momentarily when you hit your shutter.
Due to the light intensity, these lights can be extremely hot
and uncomfortable for a subject, which is why they are used as
a brief strobe instead of left on all the time.
Link to commonly
used Lighting Terms
Studio Lighting Techniques
are four main styles of studio lighting.
Broad Lighting. Broad lighting is when the main light
is positioned in such a way that it illuminates the side of
the face that is turned toward the camera. This technique
is used mainly for corrective purposes. It will de-emphasize
facial features and is used mostly to make thin, narrow faces
Short Lighting is when the main light illuminates
the side of the face that is turned away from the camera.
This technique is used when the subject has an average oval
face. Short lighting emphasizes facial contours more than
broad lighting. This style can be adapted for a “strong”
or “weak” look by using a weaker fill light.
This narrow lighting (as it is sometimes called) is especially
good for use in low-key portraiture. Because
short lighting has a narrowing effect, it is great for use
with subjects that have particularly round or plump faces.
Butterfly Lighting is achieved by positioning the
main light directly in front of the subjects face and adjusting
the height to create a shadow directly under, and in line
with, the nose. This style is best suited for subjects with
a normal oval face and is considered to be a glamour
style of lighting best suited for women. It is
not recommended for use with men because it has a tendency
to highlight the ears – crating an undesirable effect.
Rembrandt Lighting. Rembrandt lighting is obtained
by combining short lighting and butterfly lighting. The main
light is positioned high and on the side of the face that
is away from the camera. This technique produces an illuminated
triangle on the cheek closest to the camera. The triangle
will illuminate just under the eye and not below the nose.
Rembrandt, the great painter and artist, one of the "Masters"
of his time used a technique of setting his subjects near
a large north-facing window (so no direct sunlight would hit
the subject) and turning them in relation to the window to
create flattering lighting effects that really emphasized
the high spots and depths of his subject's face.
Tip: If you have a large window that faces
away from the sun you can easily achieve very professional
looking Rembrandt lighting without studio lights.
The positioning of the main light is usually about 45 degrees
from the camera-subject axis and should be slightly higher
than the subject. A good method to determine proper placement
of the main light is to look at the catchlights
in the subject’s eyes. The catchlights should be at
either the one o’clock or eleven o’clock position.
Depending on your subject, the height of the light may need
to raised or lowered to get the catchlights in the eyes.
catchlights the eyes look too dark and recessed; giving the
eyes a lifeless look.
You normally place the fill light on the opposite side of
the camera from the main light. The fill light also needs
to be a much lower power unit than the main light. If you
use too much fill you’ll loose the effect of the lighting
style. The purpose of the fill light is to add just enough
light to soften the shadows created by the main light.
The fill light is used to control contrast. By increasing
the power of the fill you reduce the contrast in the photo.
By decreasing the amount of light from the fill, you will
increase contrast. When setting the distance of your fill
light watch how noticeable the shadow from the main light
is. This will be your guide to how noticeable it will be in
the final image. The fill light will almost always add a second
lower pair of catchlights. This is usually objectionable because
it gives the impression that the subject has a directionless
stare. This second pair of catchlights should be retouched
from the final photo. Also watch for reflections if your subject
wears glasses. You may have to reposition the fill light slightly
to eliminate eyeglass reflections.
can use a reflector card to add a soft, supplemental light
to areas that may still appear too dark. Some of these cards
have a gold side that you can use to add a warm glow to the
photograph. Others, have a silver side to provide more neutral
fill light. The reflector cards do not need another light
source, as they will reflect the light that is already there.
To find the proper location for the card, just move it in
and out from a spot to see the effect. It will be noticeable
to the naked eye.
The hair light is a lower power light that illuminates the
subjects hair providing separation from the background. This
is especially important when photographing a subject with
dark hair against a dark background. To properly place a hair
light, you should bring the light forward enough to let the
light spill onto the subjects face, then slowly move it back
until the light disappears from the subjects skin.
Background lights can be used to illuminate the background,
gaining more depth or separation in your image. This light
is usually placed low to the ground on a small stand about
half way between your subject and the background. A low power
light is generally used. You can dramatically change the look
of the shot by adding a gel to background light. Just remember
when using gels you have to use a stronger light to compensate
for the illumination being lost through the gel.
is not necessary to use all of these accessories and techniques
together. For the most part they can be mixed and matched
to get whatever result you’re after. Although it sounds
complicated with a little practice light placement becomes
second nature and you’ll develop a setup that you’re