Trick #4: How to Deal With Portrait Lights

4. How to deal with portrait lighting. We all have our techniques. I use a bare minimum to get the results that I want since I specialize in creating confidence I reduce anxiety by reducing non-human elements – like 12 lights all firing (scary for everyone). I have three different lighting schemes and I’ll tell you how I choose which one to use for your portrait. -10 Tips

Portrait lights bug me.

For one thing, when there is a strobe (flash) I always look intoxicated. One eye shuts a bit. It is genetic. My eye doc told me about it.

The second reason is that I don’t do very well with blue-wave length light. In fact, it makes me throw up after about 20 minutes of exposure. When I have to be around that type of light I wear funky amber shades. They cut out the blue and I can go for about an hour.

Maybe you are like me.

My body just doesn’t like flashes and blue-light (fluorescent-type) and even before I knew why, I hated them. Call it instinct.

Whatever the reason, my genetics or my instincts, I try to minimize artificial light. There are a few things though that I will use.

1. Ambient light and reflectors. This is the free-range organics of light. It is all around you all the time. Look around you right now and you will see natural patterns of light and shadow. Portrait photographers use those natural patterns to create shape in your face and body. It is the most subtle way to shape. Reflectors just take what is around you and concentrate it. If helps to draw attention to the sparkle in your eyes or add a glow to your skin or hair.

misha one This is Misha. She is lit only by window light. It is a type of directional ambient light.

2. Speedlight. For whatever reason it never has made me sick. It is also tiny and discreet but packs a wallop. There are a ton of ways to modify it. Things that concentrate or diffuse its beam are fun to use and give different effects. It can even be used to cast shadows or to gently or dramatically shape a face.

IMG_5766 57 watermarked This is Jordan. She is lit by both the ambient light of the bookstore and by a speedlight positioned between the rows of books. That what gives her the edge of light on the left side of her body and creates separation from the bookshelves.

3. If I only need to blast you once or twice and if it is a photobooth or huge gang type photo I will break out some studio lights. I have two types of studio lights – one set is a flashing strobe that is very powerful and the other set is a couple of constant lights. They are often used in video. Neither of these sets are mobile and I like to keep everything fluid and moving through an environment so these are rarely out of their packs.

IMG_2985 This is Ed. He is in a studio setting with one of the constant lights. I am using this light to mimic what nice ambient light would do.

For your portrait I can almost guarantee that I will use a combination of natural light and a speedlight or two. The only time when you will see me setting up studio lights if if your “happy place” portrait location is the bottom of a well or crypt of some sort. Yeah, if it is hopelessly dark I will bring in other lights.

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