Glamorous Lighting

A potential client wants a portrait taken for her husband.  It is natural for her to envision herself in a portrait like those she sees in fashion magazines and in print, after all these are the images that set the standard of beauty for a fashionable woman.  This young lady calls a local studio that has she has heard good things about.  When she calls, she asks how much, the price seem reasonable for what she has in mind, so she makes the appointment.

She shows up on her session day, looking for her fifteen minutes of fame, or at least an experience that makes her feel that way.  Although she has brought many elegant and alluring outfits, the photographer acts as though this is a problem.  He explains that for the session she paid for she can only change two twice, so much for her fifteen minutes of fame!

The session starts and the photographer arranges his lights in very much the same configuration as he did the session before this young lady, as well as he will for the session after.  He works with a large soft-box for a main light, a flash for a fill and a 3 to 1 lighting ratio, not too much different than many studios light the majority of the portrait they produce.  Here is the problem,  the client is expecting to look like the model in the magazine and she is going to end up look like someone’s mom or a real estate agent.

As professional photographers shouldn’t we select our lighting style based on the expectation of the client?  Just like clothing and pose, the lighting style will create a certain look and to make the client happy, as well as make the sale, the style of lighting needs to produce the style of portrait the client wants or has in mind.

Glamour in a lighting style can be heightened in many ways.  In our studio, for the majority of standard portraits (bread and butter stuff) we add a light or reflector coming from under the subject, because this light brightens the eyes and adds an over glamorous look to the lighting.  While some photographers might argue, I think that most clients would like to look appealing to the opposite/same sex which ever they prefer.  This isn’t to say they want to look sexy, they want to look attractive.

While the majority of a session might be done with our standard lighting (standard for us) every client gets a variety of lighting styles.  In an average session we will start off with traditional light, then change to a parabolic lighting with barn doors to control the light beam, as well as adding a harder look to the lighting.  Many of our clients tell us this resembles the “Old Hollywood” style lighting of the Movie Stars of the Forties and Fifties.

We will then do at least one background/set and two poses with a ring light, which is a fashion light that is a larger version of the ring light attached to the lens for macro photography.  This again is a lighting style that clients see in magazines and is different than what the average studio photographer will give their clients.  We use a the Alien Bee Ring light, which is a little smaller than I would like, but for the price you can’t beat it.

In the session we also make sure to include at least one to two ideas that have a Butterfly lighting or at least a modified butterfly lighting.  This again is a fashion lighting that has the main light source directly over/in-front of the camera with a reflector or secondary light box under/in-front of the camera.  The idea is something like the ring-light in that the camera is place between the two light modifiers.  This style of lighting can be used for a more fashionable look for a single person or even a family portrait.

We have to remember, portrait photographers don’t set the standard of beauty in the minds of our clients that is done by photographers in fashion and advertising.  It is our job as portraits photographers to follow that lead and produce the styles of portraits that are clients envision, not what we think they should have based on our “Portrait Lighting Training”.

To Order the DVD STUDIO LIGHTING CLICK HERE OR TO VIEW FREE SAMPLE For more on Lighting, Posing, Outdoor and Business you can click to my books on BOOKS BY JEFF SMITH


~ by jeffsmithbooks on December 18, 2009.

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