Portraits – Lighting

Light is what I call one of the “basic three”. Without light, either natural or artificial, it would be impossible to see or photograph anything. Now we have an understanding that light is important, but what are the other two parts of the “basic three”? They really are so practical we think too hard when trying to answer this question; A quality camera and a well designed lens.

Onto our topic for today, light is so common and we have so much of it in so regular a time that we take if for granted. Lighting is essential for contrast and definition but before we scatter into all the areas to which light pertains, let us take a moment to remember some things which we have previously discussed.

Lighting angles are vital:

  • Portraits are best lit when the light source is within a 45 degree angle to the subject on a horizontal plane and not to high above the subject to avoid deep shadows around the eyes.
  • Silhouettes can be made when the light source is behind the subject and the camera is appropriately set.
  • Back-lighting is meant to remove shadows and highlight the edges of the object.

We have also talked about a few things which will add light to a shot by reflecting the natural light which already exists in a setting and how to soften this light. This is all well and good, but I would not serve you well if I did not address equipment which can add light in your photos.

Flashes and studio strobes are wonderful tools for adding light, however I must say they are not the cheapest tool. I am grateful to have some experience with studio lighting but it is this experience I want to share with you.

Studio strobe are adjustable in intensity and power as well as offering tethering ability, which enables the photographer to use more than one at the same time. In our next post we will look into strobes and how they use other methods of lighting with one source.

Lighting Is Not Everything

I keep bringing everything back to light from almost every post. So perhaps some illustration  and explanation are in order on how lighting is important but “is not everything.”

You may ask “I don’t understand! If lighting isn’t everything, what is lighting?” Without light shots are practically impossible yes. Lighting is important, however just adding light is not the “cure-all” for poorly lit photography. The key to added lighting is its positioning. Light positioning came up in our 6 part article on “Back Lighting” and “Jewelry Photography” single, but how about “simple scenes”? What can be done to improve a shot with “house-hold lights”?

I want to caution anyone who may consider scenes “simple”. It may not  be difficult to see or understand, although a “simple shot” is exactly the photo with which you will come away. Simple shots often do not have depth, intrigue or definition, thus they appear “flat” and are not “interesting”. Lighting properly placed can change this in seconds.

Photographers who specialize in portraiture are aware of the technique “3/4 (‘three quarter’) lighting”; if not by name, I am certain they do in practice. A brief explanation of “3/4 lighting” and I will show you how I applied it in my illustration.

3/4 Lighting is strategically placing your light to the side of your subject and no more than 45 degrees below. From the starting position for lighting directly in-front of your subject’s face, pivoting the light around the side of your subject and then lowering the light in that plain to achieve your desired effect. Positioning a light in such a way will light about 3/4 of the face, thus “3/4 lighting.”

Lighting is not just a catalyst for capturing a photo, but also the important ingredient for making an image which has intrigue, contrast, clarity and definition.

Construction Zone – Part 3

I cannot be sure that I can say enough times that safety is very important in Construction Zones. So without belaboring the point I will let you know that being always observant of your surroundings and scanning the work area will not only show you new possibilities for your next shot, but could very well save your life.

If you have been invited into a Construction Zone, the Safety Officer will give you some very important information and guidelines to follow, both for your safety and the safety of the workers with whom you will come into contact. Please pay special attention to these instructions!

Even if you are not allowed into the Construction Zone, it was well worth the asking!

Another minor point of discussion would be not to assume the Construction Zone to be road construction alone, but also housing construction, business zoning, and what about small projects around the house or artists such as sculptors? There are many items Constructed from many substances! Use your imagination and consider the possibilities!

How do these mentioned projects fit into the category of backgrounds for portraits? Is this not getting a little far afield of the original post intent? I will let you judge that, I only wish to help you cultivate a fertile imagination for your photography. Small projects around the house are great for portraits of children and perhaps an artist wants to showcase themselves as well as pieces of work.

Portraiture and Stock have an odd way of working across their lines of definition. As well they should; to keep us on our toes, showing us that life is not all cut and dried. I have just finished several photography projects. As I bring them to a close, I am learning a lot about what it means to put into practice what I have learned as well as some finer points, just so that a photography experience with my studio is natural, coordinated and inspiring.

We all have our own “Construction Zones”.