Three Dimensional LIGHTING, for Two Dimensional PHOTOGRAPHERS

Light, shadow and the transitional area in between the two is what gives a Two Dimensional piece of photographic paper the illusion of a Third Dimension.  Younger photographers are often so concerned about lighting and excessive shadows that they typically over fill the shadows or use a main light source that is much too large.  Light on the human face/body directs the viewer’s eye to the most important areas.  Shadow contours and draw’s the viewer eye to the light.  The transition-area (from where the highlight ends and the shadow is it’s darkest)  between the two (highlight and shadow) is what gives the image depth or the appearance of a third dimension.

Let’s focus on these two problems, over filling the shadow and using a main that is too large.  The size of a main light source should be selected by the type of portrait being taken (head and shoulder/full length) and how far the light will be placed from the subject, as the closer the main light is to the subject the softer the light from the source and the farther the same is placed away from the subject the harder the light becomes (more contrast it produces)  Ideally, we would have a small light box for head and shoulders, a medium light box for 3/4 poses and a large light box for full lengths.  This would produce the same lighting patterns on every photograph created, no matter what the composition.  Since most of us have neither the space or budget for this, we must learn to use the main lights we have to produce an adequate lighting and shadowing in all compositions.  A simple way to achieve this is place a larger light source at a distance for full length poses and leave it at the same distance for closer compositions.  This way the lighting characteristics stay the same. You can also light full length portraits with smaller lights, lighting just the face, shoulders and upper body, while using accent lights to light any other areas that might be important to show in the final image.   (Jeff Smith’s Studio Portrait Lighting DVD)

Creating an adequate shadow and transition area between the highlight and shadow is achieve through the proper placement of the main light source.  The closer the main light is to the camera position, the less shadowing you will have.  This results in a flat image, without contrast or depth.  With the main light in the 90 degree position (directly to the side of the subject) you have adequate shadowing, but the light isn’t flattering as it lights only half the face.  With the body facing to the shadow side of the frame, bring the face back toward the main light source at or closer the 90 degree position.  This provides light to the facial plain, while also providing an adequate shadowing and contour.

The final step is to fill the shadow, but not too much.  Over filling the shadows destroys the contours of the face and the depth in the portrait.  I prefer to use a reflector for filling the shadow.  What I see with my eyes is the exact shadowing I get in the final image.  I typically use a white fabric for traditional portraiture.  It produces a softer fill and the greatest transition area (the area between the high light and dark part of the shadow).  When I am using a harder light source (like the small light box with the grids) I will often use a silver reflector for a harder fill.

The main point here is that you must select the main light source and the position of the main light source to not only light the subject, but provide an adequate shadowing and transition.  For any of you in or near Fresno, Ca. I will conduct a workshop on Portrait photography success, which I will not only be discussing marketing and selling portrait photography but the correct ways to light and shoot Portrait for higher sales!   PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY SUCCESS WORKSHOP JUNE 11TH    

Segment of the Studio Lighting DVD on YouTube click here!

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~ by jeffsmithbooks on May 25, 2012.

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