Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Lighting For Success

Three simple, classic portrait lighting setups that will generate income
Text & Photography By Tom Bol Published in Shooting
Lighting For Success
For a simple, yet stylish corporate headshot, you'll need two lights, two stands and either a white or black seamless. Start with a large, soft main light placed slightly left of your subject. Get the light as close as you can to your subject, since the larger the light source, the softer the light.

Next, set up your second light, the accent light, on the right side of your subject, almost directly opposite of your main light. This creates a cross-lighting setup, a tried-and-true lighting technique. You can use a standard reflector with your accent light or a softbox for softer light.

Set the power on the accent light one stop brighter than your main light. The idea here is to create a bright rim light on your subject, creating separation and dimension in the image. Be careful not to create hotspots on your subject's nose from your accent light. Position it so that the light doesn't spill onto your subject's face. Having your subject facing your main light, at a slight angle to the camera, prevents accent light spill and creates a more flattering portrait. You don't want the "frontal-linebacker-blocky-shoulder-bruiser" headshot!

How do you meter the flash output? If you're using speedlights, set these in TTL mode and let the camera determine exposure. If my exposure is off (based on the LCD histogram), I use my wireless transmitter to change the output. If you're using studio flash you can use a light meter or your LCD. I use my LCD to meter my studio shots, using the histogram and highlight indicator to determine exposure.

Backgrounds are important. Generally, you want a clean background, often white, gray or black, but you'll see a variety of backgrounds in executive headshots. Changing the position of a white background will change the color of it. If a white seamless is close to your subject, the large main light will illuminate it for a white color. But if you move your subject and lights farther away from your background, there's less light spilling onto the white seamless, and the color will change to gray.


Generally, indoor ambient overhead lights don't affect the shot. If you shoot at 1/200 at ƒ/8 at ISO 100, your flashes should be the only light source showing up in the final image. Tip: It's important to shoot in a bright room; if you photograph in dim interiors (with modeling lights off), your subject's pupils will enlarge and not look good in the final shot.

Optionally, you can use a third light illuminating the background separately. This creates even more separation for your subject and allows you to control background exposure independently of your other lights.

The Athletic Portrait. Whether it's a hometown little league baseball team or pro basketball players, athletes want their picture taken. Sometimes this is an assignment from a client, other times it's the subject who wants a "cool" image of herself in uniform. Athletic trainers use these shots to promote their business.
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