THANK YOU. That was great. What one book would you recommend above all others?
I haven't looked at books for a while on this but I remember Kodak's Portrait book with the little girl on the cover leaning on her hands was not too bad. I'll have a look around at a couple of books stores and get back to you. You need books that show different setups and diagram their lighting. Then you get a model that will sit patiently while you tinker around. It's not a good idea to get someone new as they will make you nervous. You just need a face that you can take your time and watch the lighting patterns on their face.
To give you an idea when I was first training in portraiture, and I took many different seminars and courses in this from many different instructors
(Winona School of Professional Photography, West Coast School, etc) the best advice I got was the following.
Facial Evaluation- Sit the subject on a stool, sitting up straight, feet flat on the floor, facing straight ahead. With no lighting on them you evaluate their face to determine things like, where their hair is parted, because if you shot them from one angle and you shoot into a hair part, you are making their face longer. If they have a round face you probably want it longer so that is a good way to shoot them. If they have a long face already, you want the part more away from the camera. You them get them to turn their body 45 degrees and turn their head back and you evaluate, then you get them to turn the other way 45 degrees and turn their head back and you evaluate that. Nobody's face is perfectly symetrical and you check the distance from the corner of their eye to the corner of their mouth, and if the difference is noticeable you pick the side that doesn't accentuate this. So evaluate. Then you pick the side you like best.
Lighting Setup- Now you have them on the side you want, you choose whether to broad or short light them, meaning, if they are turned to their right with their face towards camera, and you place the light on their left side ( camera right) you are creating a broad light. This will broaden the face because the light is illuminating their face from their left ear to right cheekbone. If you place the light on their left side you have a short light and will keep their face more narrow because the light is illuminating from their right cheekbone essentially to their left cheekbone and leaving their left cheekbone to their left ear in a more shadowed light.
In all cases you need a fill on the shadow side to lower the contrast and when using negatives, meter more for the shadow side.
This evaluation will give you time to talk to them and help make them at ease rather than immediately pulling out the camera and firing away. As well it will give you a starting point and these simple decisions can have a great effect on the flattering effect of the portrait.
Remember lighting a face is like making love to it. It need to be soft and sensuous,(usually) so you light it like you're using a feather not a sledge hammer.
Hope this helps
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I read the article last week & my impression was that he was talking about using hardlights, and skimming the light across the sbject from the edge of the light--where it's more even & contrasty on a non-fresnel type/open face reflector. We light like this with speedotrons in our studio when we shoot objects, the way the speedo blackline reflectors are made, the light is much more crisp on the edge of the beam--not from the center where the tube is. It's pretty much like that for every hardlight that doesn't use a fresnel. The shadows are always more defined from the edge. I shoot alot of furniture this way--skimming the lights across the set with the head almost pointed at the camera using the edge to hit the piece, and then fill from the front, or use more hardlights either gridded down or flagged out to keep the light just hitting the subject....
just read the article, maybe I got it wrong, but it made sense to me...I didn't get the impression he was talking about any classical portrait style.
BTW--the photo of Anne Heche, he talks about using two hardlights if I remember correctly, one hitting her about ten feet off to the right, and the other as sort of a kicker from low on the ground in the front, but not hitting the pavement.
A good book though, is Ross Lowell's "Matters of Light & Depth".
Once again...thank you for the information. I can't wait to test this. I have lit people for years with either a softbox to one side at about 20 degrees off the camera, or an umbrella up and to the right or left, about 30 degrees off the camera but pretty far away from the subject, thinking that the further it is, the softer the light is.
Could I email you a photograph or two of what I've done for your critique and suggestions? I am becoming more and more interested in portraiture and, honestly, I'm just eating up what you are sharing here.
PS What's the difference in light from a softbox versus an umbrella?
I live in Northern California and if you are close by I'd be happy to show you. If not email me at email@example.com and I'll critique whatever you like. The catch lights in the eyes will tell you a lot about the lights and where they are placed. The closer the light the less defined it is in the catchlight. It's like the difference between the effect of the harsh sunlight, which is pinpoint and a cloudy day which is diffused light.
Way back, when someone came up with the idea to diffuse the light they came up with using an umbrella. It was and still is a great light. However the light tends to head off in too many directions. So someone came up with the softbox to control it better. Both have a great quality of light but the softbox enables you to control the light direction better and to feather the light. It can keep the light from striking the lens and as well keep it off the background, if that is what you want.
A classic setup is to put the umbrella behind the camera as a fill light. Then use the softbox as your mainlight up close at about a 45 degree angle. Set the umbrella at F5.6 and the mainlight at F8 and you have a 3:1 lighting ratio. When using negs set the camera at F5.6 and shoot away. Move the mainlight for different lighting patterns. Keep the light so the catchlights are at about 10 o'clock or 2 o'clock in the eyes. A nice soft effect is to have the light so there is a nice triangle of highlight just below the closest eye.(this is caused by the nose blocking the light). Anyway play around with light and you'll see it.
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