There’s a lot to think about when shooting people: how they are posed, what they are wearing, hair and make up, and most importantly, the lighting.
Get the lighting right and everything else will follow. Sound easy right?
Lighting was and still is one of the hardest things for me to manage. Looking at a lot of my current work, I’m seeing the error of my ways. Here’s a few of the great tutorial from Digital Photography School I found and re-attempted myself, and the lessons that I’ve applied.
- Reflector and mini tripod mound
- Canon 7D and primary tripod
- Canon 50 mm f/1.4 lens
- 3 Softboxes with Flourescent Lights
- Willing husband and dog (your subjects)
I shoot in manual mode with my live viewer turned on to help save my eyes. In the beginning I had my ISO on auto. That changed very quickly as I saw many of my shots coming out grainy, and even blurry. I turned the ISO back down to 400-650 and saw a huge improvement right away. I also normally shoot in RAW + M JPEG so that I have some variety to work with in post-processing.
1.) Split Lighting
Split lighting is just what it sounds like. The light source splits your subject’s face into half shadow and half light, and can be very dramatic and dark. To attempt this, I positioned my lightbox 90 degrees to the camera and to the left of my subject. Accurate split lighting will allow the eye that is in shadow to pick up light source. This way, you don’t have a subject that has flat or ‘dead’ eyes.
Here I’ve split the subject’s face into half dark and half light. But you might notice that it’s grainy and fuzzy. This is when I had auto ISO set. Also, the subject’s right eye should be picking up a catch light (failure on my part, but that’s why it’s a tutorial).
Loop lighting creates a small shadow created by the nose on the subject’s cheek. To accomplish this, I raised the light source to the left of my subject and re-positioned it to be around 30-40 degrees from the subject. Then, I grabbed my reflector and put it on the other side of the subject to reflect the light back on his face. I tried not to reflect the light back under his chin or on his neck.
In the left hand shot below, you can see a small triangle of a shadow caused by the subjects nose. This shadow should always try to point downward and be relatively small without creeping under the subjects nose like it does on the right hand photo (below).
- Everyones face is different. Even if I set up the lighting sources the same way, light will hit the curvature of faces differently every time. When shooting for a client, it’s remember that you may have to move both the light source and re-position your subject accordingly to get the best results. I had to move my man several times and ask him to get up and down in order to get the right lighting.
- Shadows under the nose are unflattering and should be avoided. Try to keep your subject relaxed and their chin up.
- Customize your ISO and don’t shoot on auto. I easily controlled the amount of grain in my images this way and found that they came out much clearer.