Fine Tuning Your Portrait Lighting, Look in the Eyes!

The eyes are the window to the soul and also the first place to look as an indicator of good lighting.  If the eyes are not lit properly you will not create a portrait that has a high probability of selling to a client.  Many photographers either get lazy or they just have never learned, but the first thing you do each time you pose a client is adjust the main light to that client in that pose and you do this by looking at the light reflections in the eyes.  You raise the light to a position it is obviously too high, then slowly start lowering it until you have two large catch-lights in approximately the 10 o’clock or 2 o’clock position.  At this point you have a basic lighting that at least has a chance of selling.

Outdoors the eyes are even more important as a indication of good light.  With distinct catch-lights in the eyes, your light is too flat meaning it is from too large of a light source.  If the eyes have a tiny little dots as a catch-light your lighting is too directional or you think an ‘on-camera’ flash is a professional quality light source.  Should you think an ‘on-camera’ flash is  professional quality light use it the next time you go into a studio situation, if you like the effect, then you can use outdoors as well.

I use a reflector as the main light source for a majority of my outdoor portraits (video clip on  I have my assistant stand in the same approx. position as the main light would be placed in the studio, at the same approx. height. So many photographer place a reflector on the ground, which is great for lighting a horror movie (which always has the main light coming from underneath the subject) but for a portrait the reflector should provide catch-lights in same 10 o’clock or 2 o’clock postion (as a general rule)  I simply have my assistant feather the main beam of direct sunlight over the subjects head and have him slowly lower it until I can see bright catch-lights in each eye from the camera position.  This works for all but very scenic portraits.

If you will take the time to look into the eyes of each client in each pose you will create more salable images!


~ by jeffsmithbooks on March 18, 2010.

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