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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Creative Lighting For Portraiture

Affordable lighting setups that can dramatically improve your images

This Article Features Photo Zoom
Traditional continuous lights often are used in a portraiture session because you can see the effects on a set or scene as changes are made. Continuous lights are affordable and easy to learn. Because they're constantly lit during a shoot, however, traditional continuous lights tend to build up a lot of heat in only a short time. They also pack less power than a bursting strobe is capable of. To address this, moving a light closer to the subject gives more light (since light falloff quarters as the distance from the subject doubles), but that also can make subjects hot under the collar, which can ruin makeup, wardrobe and hair.

28-inch Recessed Front Apollo Softbox From Westcott

Looking at these two images, their stark contrast is apparent: the location, people, treatment, mood. The subject matter alone ranges from a tattoo artist in his shop all the way to a model in the studio. What could possibly pair them? There are unifying factors in both of these shots—the modifier I used to light them and the reasons I chose this particular product.

Westcott 28-Inch Recessed Front Apollo Softbox
Both images were lit with a Westcott 28-inch Apollo Softbox and a Nikon SB-800 AF Speedlight flash. This softbox is unique for its recessed front, allowing extra control of where the light goes and—more importantly—where it doesn't. This directional source allowed me to beautifully light both of these portraits from above, feathering the light off of the front of each person's face without spilling onto the rest of the scene. This served to isolate each subject in the image by selectively lighting them and allowing the background to go slightly underexposed.
—Erik Valind

Continuous light sources have made a comeback, as well, thanks primarily to LED technology and video capability in still cameras. Video requires constant illumination as opposed to a strobe or flash burst, and LED technology has improved to the point where LED lights can output enough throw to fully light a scene while producing very little heat and drawing very little power compared to traditional continuous lights. They're almost entirely flicker-free for a constant, unwavering quality of light, important when shooting video, and better LED models also allow you to dial up or down the intensity of light output. A few LED models even let you shift the white balance to match ambient conditions or for unique color temperature effects in an image. You can find LED solutions from ikan, Litepanels, Lowel, Manfrotto, Rosco and others.


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