Using Light (3.1)

During tutorials we participated in workshops experimenting and using different sources of lights in portraiture, in a controlled studio setting. This included setting up and using equipment in the appropriate way, staging a photo and revising the different techniques we used and when best to use them.


The Equipment

A soft-box light is lighting equipment used in portrait, product and commercial photography, usually in an interior setting. It’s purpose is to diffuse light onto a subject or into a set-up in a soft way, that avoids harsh shadows and is flattering for a subjects face. The closer the soft box is to a model the softer the light will appear, replicating the light of sitting by a window. It is designed to diffuse and bounce the light out of it’s box like shape to spread light equally, making it an excellent tool for portraitures.

A reflector is a piece of fabric, usually white, silver or gold that is spread around a bendy ring that is portable, used for reflecting light back onto a subject during portrait photography. It can be used in studio settings but is extremely useful when working outside with natural light. Natural light can be difficult to navigate, often being too strong and bright leading to harsh, unflattering lighting and shadows. A reflector reflects light by bouncing it off the material and back onto the person, perhaps on the side of their face that is less illuminated. Altering the distance to subject effects how much light is bounced back on to the subject. It is good for reflecting light back onto a subject’s who is being backlit, or on a cloudy day where not much light is reaching the face. It produces brighter more flattering shots.

A snoot is a tube that fits over a studio light to create a direct or focused beam of light. It creates a small, hard point of light depending on distance to subject and creates dramatic contrast between light and shadow. A snoot would be used when dramatic lighting is wanted, to enhance a certain mood or visual style to a photo.

Light Sources

A small source light will create harsh shadows on your subject, (hard light), shadows will be darker and there will be minimal transition between the dark and light areas of your photo. If used incorrectly they can produce unflattering shots in portraiture, if used correctly they can produce dramatic, moody shots

A large source light will produce soft light, diffusing the light almost evenly across the shot and there will be a more gradual transition between the light and dark areas in your photo. This is a favoured portrait light as it often creates flattering light on a subjects face.

Studio lighting once mastered, can be an efficient way to take great portraits.  You can control how much light is used, by using the appropriate equipment for the style of shot you need. You can also employ the use of a flash head and flash synchronisation in your shoot.

Natural lighting can be challenging to work with due to it’s inconsistency and often challenging conditions. On overcast/dark days the lighting might be very poor, in these conditions it’s often useful to use a reflector to bounce light back onto a subject when shooting portraiture. Direct sunlight is a large source but because of its distance it produces very hard lighting, creating dark shadows and minimal transition between the light and dark areas. Cloudy days can act as great natural light diffusers for sun light, and produce softer lighting conditions, more favourable for portraiture. It is important to shoot on the correct WB presets according to the lighting conditions, otherwise photos will come out incorrectly coloured.


Light Position

Being close to a light source, will normally diffuse the light and be more balance on the subject, for example a model sitting close to a window.

Being at a distance from a light source will produce a harder light, more contrasted shadows and be less flattering.

Front lighting means shadows will generally fall behind a subject in portraiture, useful when you want to capture all of the details of a person face for example. However, sometimes this light can look a little flat as there is little depth to the image

Side lighting means to place the light source toward one side of a subject, this will produce more shadows and create interesting points of focus on someone’s face. You should be wary of creating unflattering angles by the way the light sits on the face. When using side light it can be useful to get the sitter to face the light source and turn just their head toward the camera.

Back lighting is when a sitter is light from behind, this often creates a silhouette or a halo effect around a subject. Details from the face will be lost but can be combatted if you use a light modifier or manual mode on a SLR



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