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A Quick Look at the Direction of Lighting in Portraits

Lighting portraits is a fairly large subject, here we are just going to look at the direction a single light comes from and not even the way it is diffused.

If we have a light by the camera we have a flat image, often more glamorous as the creases gained over time do not show. Moving the light a long way one way or the other creates a rounded appearance, but lacks the glamorous effect.

Normally we light from slightly above the subject to produce natural looking effects. With fashion photography and some others it has become more common to light from near to the camera often middle height or a little over, producing less shadow.

If the light is very low it produces a spooky like effect.

If we light from behind our subject or at an extreme angle we produce a silhouette effect.

Adding a second light near to the camera with less power, to fill, and we can make most of the effects above less pronounced. And perhaps more pleasing.

While in a studio or controlled environment we often have a number of lights, as well as reflectors, it can be interesting to look at the effects of a single light.

Some like to build up lighting by using a single light at a time to build up a lighting arrangement before turning them all on at once. This is potentially a problem as the subject, unless they are a model being paid by the hour, tends to get rather bored and lose interest. It may however be worth doing once or twice to see the effect, and by this means gain experience.

There is on the internet a tool that allows you to do this, you can see a toy model, and a grid of lights, and select which light is lit. You can also select to have this and a fill light displayed. While not a human model and not being a life like representation, for example no aging effect is shown, it is worth looking at to see yourself the sort of effects you could get by the placing of a light and also doing this with one infill light or reflector.

So take a look here and see what you think!



By: Keith Park Section: Lighting and Reflectors Key:
Page Ref: lighting_portraits Topic: Flash, Studio and Reflectors Last Updated: 04/2009

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