Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Photo lighting - Everything You Need To Know

By Dan Eitreim

Learning photo lighting is pretty easy. Though the true test of good photography lies in making your subjects look their best, this is accomplished by using the correct lighting for their faces.

Poor lighting - as well as myriad other mistakes - CAN be fixed in Photoshop. That is, if you are willing to spend all your time and profits in front of your computer instead of in front of your models.

To avoid all those hours fixing mistakes, you'll need to know some basic patterns and techniques for controlling light. Try this...

First, you will need to know the basic lighting / shadow patterns, i.e.:

Broad light, Narrow light, Split light, Renaissance, Butterfly, Open loop, Closed loop.

The best part is, all this knowledge can be gotten for free! All you need to do is visit the photo section in your local library. There are plenty of books that will describe what each of these patterns look like and how to create them. Take a ton of notes, you will want each of these in your repertoire. Each one tends to be the best pattern for certain effects and faces.

Now for some experimentation, leave your camera in the bag.

Grab a model (yours or your neighbors' kids will do admirably) and place them on a chair in a darkened room. Using a flashlight as your only light source, move the light around the models' head and learn where it has to be to replicate all the lighting patterns. Make notes and draw diagrams so you can repeat the pattern at will.

Right now, we are concerned with the angle of the light and shadows. Not the color or intensity.

Once you know the what angle the light needs to be in - in order to create each of the lighting/shadow patterns - then start playing with the intensity. Move the light closer and further away. What affect does that have on the length and intensity of the shadows?

Stick a piece of tracing paper over your light. See how the shadows change once they are diffused? The same thing happens when a cloud comes between your subject and the sun.

This is called your main light. Have one of the kids hold the light in place and add a second flashlight to the mix. Try putting it where the camera would be. This is your fill light. What happened to your lighting pattern? How about the shadows? Move the light closer and further back. What changes?

Move your subject closer to and further from the wall. What happens to the shadows on the background with 1 light? What about 2 lights?

A willing model, a few flashlights and a couple hours of experimenting should answer all your lighting questions and make you a much better photographer. Make notes.

Once we are comfortable with the patterns and how to create them, all we have to do is make them on location.

If your vision calls for using one light, use the sun. Position your subject so that the sun is at the right angle to create the pattern you are after. You may have to adjust the time of day you select in order to get the angles, intensity and color of light you are after.

If the look you are after calls for 1 diffused light, (remember our tracing paper experiments?) position a diffusion screen of some sort between your model and the sun.

You could use a white sheet, a piece of translucent white silk or you could buy a commercially produced diffusion screen. Or you could go really high tech and use the shadow of the nearest tree to diffuse the light.

If you want a pattern that calls for two lights, use the sun as a main light and your on camera flash as the fill. If diffusion is needed, tape tracing paper over the light. Two layers of paper for additional diffusion.

I hope this will answer some of your lighting questions. The results are worth the trouble it takes to learn.

You now know more about lighting than half the professionals out there. To learn how YOU can make money (a lot of money) with your camera follow the links in my resources file... - 16651

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