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Creative Portrait Lighting

12 time-proven lighting techniques for making pro-quality portraits

10. Control The Light

Let’s move outdoors for some tips on controlling the light. Reflectors can bounce light onto a subject’s face, filling in shadows, adding color (silver or gold depending on which side you use) and adding contrast. The picture on the left is a natural light shot. The picture on the right is a reflector shot. For the maximum effect (brightness), the reflector needs to be facing the sun or light source.

Diffusers soften harsh light and reduce shadows. They can eliminate what pros call “raccoon eyes” (dark circles under the eyes caused by an overhead sun).

Here you see me using a diffuser during a portrait session in Mongolia.

Fill flash, as discussed at the beginning of this article, can be used outside, too. This before-and-after pair of images shows the effect: left, natural light; right, fill-in flash. Use the same technique of balancing the flash to the natural light.

LED Lights are also great for filling in shadows: left, natural light; right, LED light.

That’s me using my ProMaster battery-powered light during a portrait session in Venice. This light comes with a soft-focus panel and a warming panel, both of which I used during the session. You control the intensity of the light via an output control and by varying the light-to-subject distance.

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