The lighting in your studio are just as important to your portraiture as your subject is. Proper setup of your photo lights will greatly enhance the look of your subject, creating the best portrait possible. Before setting up your lighting for a portrait, you will need to understand how to operate the equipment in your studio, including all of the accessories such as lights, diffusers, reflectors and light modifiers.
Main LightThe main light is one that focuses directly on the subject, while secondary lights are used to remove shadows from the photo backdrops. You may have to play with the light’s position for desired results.
Fill LightsNext to the main light, fill lights are the second most important part to studio lighting. These lights fill in any shadows that may fall onto a subject from the main light. This light is not as strong as the main light, but helps fine tune the contrast between the light and dark portions of the subject. The distance the fill lights are placed from the subject determines the harshness of the shadows. Check to make sure the position of the fill light does not create any catch lights, which are reflections of the studio lights in the subject’s eyes.
Split LightingTo create more dramatic shadows, place the main light at a 90-degree angle from the camera using a technique known as split lighting. This technique can help hide blemishes or narrow a broad nose.
Short LightingShort lighting will create distinct shadows on a subject. Place the main light off center from the subject at a 45-degree angle from the camera. The light should be placed just above the subject so it shines slightly downward on the side facing away from the camera.
Broad LightingBroad lighting can also be used to correct blemishes on a subject. To use broad lighting, place the main light directly in front of the subject, flattening out his features. The light should be placed so it is shining on the side that is closest to the camera.
Butterfly LightingPlace the main light directly in front of the subject when using the butterfly technique. A subtle butterfly shape will appear under the subject’s nose when the height of the light is in the proper position. This type of lighting shape is also known as beauty, glamour or paramount lighting.
Rembrandt LightingTo create more contrast in your portrait you should use a lighting technique referred to as the Rembrandt effect. This will offer greater contrast by illuminating the top of your subject and casting shadows on the lower portion of it. Place the main light in the same position as you would for short lighting, however, you will raise the light well above the subject.
Hair LightIlluminate the subject’s hair by placing a hair light, also known as a kick light or side light, behind the subject.
Back LightPhoto lights can spruce up any plain background in a portrait. Back lights are not always essential when shooting a portrait and are used at the photographer’s discretion. To use a back light, set the light on the floor behind the subject and point it upward. This will help separate the subject from the background and create a soft silver lining around her head.
-Backdrop Express Photography Team
Interested in reading more about studio lighting? Check out A Guide to Lighting Terminology!
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