In the brand new issue of PDN, there is a very interesting feature on Dan Winters and his use of light on a remote photo shoot with Anne Heche. He describes how he set up the lights to NOT point at the subject, using instead the spread and flare of the lights. Very interesting.
Actually Anne wanted the lights to point out so her space brothers from Mooz 27 could find her and take her to her celestial home.....
I haven't read the article yet, but is he talking about Feathering the light? Many people do it, although, I'm sue it was just because the lights had to face the spaceship she flew in on...
Oh, just wait until you see the photograph of her. It looks like she's offering herself to the spaceship.
But seriously, yes, "feathering" is what he vaguely described. What's it mean?
Heche is famous for two thinigs - 1) Switching teams. 2) Having some sort of strange breakdown where she thought she was from another planet.
Feather is the act of aiming the lights slightly off subject in order to light the subject with the softest light the light can produce. The center of the light beam is the most intense and contrasty, the outer limits (hehe) of the light beam is the "sweet light". It is nothing new, been done for years.
I also haven't seen the pictures but there is a technique of firing your lights off into reflectors or fomecore on each side of the subject to create a directionless flat lightsource and very muted catch lights. This is often done in high key lighting setups.
Feathering your lights is a techique to create a wrap around lighting pattern on the face. If your light is at about a 45 degree angle from the subject, instead of pointing the light directly at them you point to the far side of the face. They will receive slightly less light on the highlight side of the face and since the shadow side is father away the most intense part of the light will strike there. This creates a more wrap around and some say a more pleasing light.
This also works for photographing more than one person. For instance if you were doing head and shouders portraits of two people. You feather or aim the center of your light at the person farther away, then there would be a more equal lighting on both faces.
Very informative. I often photograph two people together, but with a single light up and to the right. So in my case I should aim it hard to the left, so the further person is in more direct light and the nearer person is in the feathered light?
Silly question...do I still use umbrella or softbox when doing it this way?
Let me see if I got this right. You take your light and place it at a 45 degree angle to the subject. You make sure the most intense part of the beam hits the FAR side of the face, while the softer parts of it hit the near side?
Does this work with one light setups or do you need some fill?
Reply to Robert and David
In feathering the light, yes, you have the person the farthest away get the center of the beam and the person closest get the slightly less, feathered light. Therefore on the negative since the person that is father away from the light they will get approximately the same amount of light as the person closer who is getting the feathered light.
With a one light set up, which is perfectly fine for most portraits, you are better off to use a reflector on the shadow side to bounce back a bit of light. But feathering still creates a softer wrap around lighting effect. Also the feathering will aid in having light strike the reflector which will inturn bounce it back to the shadow side. The distance from the subject that you place the reflector is quite visible with your modelling lights on. So you can control whether you are getting a 3 to 1 or a 5 to 1 lighting ratio.
When discussing light we talk about QUANTITY of light and QUALITY of light. The quantity of light is the amount of light striking the subject. The quality of light is the kind of light striking the subject.
You can have a meter reading of say F8 on a subject using a six inch reflector on your light and also F8 on the subject using an umbrella or softbox on your light. They both have the same quantity of light but a very different quality of light. Feathering the light works for both.
Since I'm prattling on about lighting, a lot of people don't know that the closer the light is to the subject the softer it is. ( check the catchlights) Another quality of light issue. As for an umbrella vs a softbox both have close to the same quality of light but a softbox is more controllable and easier to feather. As well when feathering an umbrella you have to be careful not to flare your lens.
If you are new to lighting get a book on it and you can easily see how to light a face for a flattering effect. The use of a "broad light", "short light", "butterfly light", "split light", "3/4 light", can have a huge effect on the results of your portraits and all you really need is a light, softbox, and a reflector to do this. These lighting techniques can make long faces look shorter, broad faces look narrower etc and help you produce great portraits.
Hope this helps,