Learning about lighting… from politicians?

I don’t know what it’s like where you live, but in my part of the country election season is really heating up. I was watching TV the other night when I noticed a commercial for a Senatorial candidate. As is often the case, the commercial heavily referenced the candidate’s opponent. And that’s when it hit me: we can learn a lot from political commercials and print ads. How? By examining how the candidates are lit and photographed. In the commercial I saw, the candidate who had funded the spot was photographed beautifully in warm, soft, inviting light. At the end of the commercial was her opponent, and of course they chose a photo in which he didn’t look very good. They used a news shot, made from an awkward angle, converted it to black and white, upped the contrast, and made sure there was a hard, raking light source that brings out every flaw. Basically, the campaign utilized lighting to help send a message. We can learn from this, because that’s exactly what we as photographers need to do with every picture we make. Want to make someone look warm and friendly? Use a warm, soft light. Want them to look beautiful, friendly and approachable, make sure it’s not too high contrast and that the source is nice and broad. Want to make someone look a bit more evil, maybe even sinister? Remove the color, go high contrast, and use a hard light source to show them in painful detail. Put this to good use and, next thing you know, politicians will be contacting you to photograph their campaigns.

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