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Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Make Your Model Shine Like a Top Model by Cleverly Directed Light

by Michael Abela

Lighting is one of the principal elements in portraiture. In order to produce quality photos it is essential that one understands the very basics. An important aspect that one has to keep in mind is the direction of light.

I would like to differentiate the types of light that a photographer can work with when shooting portraits. As a novice usually one can work with two principal types of light. On the contrary, as one gets more experienced it comes as second nature to introduce more types of light for various effects.
The Modelling Light
This is the main light that will illuminate the features of the model. Photos produced by this light are high in contrast and very dramatic. Usually this type of light is set at a 45 degrees angle from the line of camera to model.
If you are working with a natural source such as sunlight or moonlight, a side window can be your main light. Ideally you pose your model at an angle to the window. To avoid direct strong sunlight make use of a white translucent curtain so that the harsh glow is diffused nicely.
The Fill-In Light
To compliment the modelling light a second type of illumination is needed. The fill-in light main use is to lighten up the harsh shadows created by the modelling light. This usually has half the power of the main source. Commonly it can be achieved either by moving the light away from the model or reducing its power by half. Most of the time this type of light is set close to the camera.
Again, if you are using a side window as your source, your fill-in is light reflected from practically any type of reflective surface, as long as luminance is bounced back effectively. This way you light up the dark shadows on your model's face.
Effects Lights
There are three basic types which one can work with:
Background Light
This light in the background defines the shape of the model being photographed. Also it brings out details in the backdrop being used.
Top Light
The main use of the top light is to highlight the hair giving it body and shape.
Back Light
In order to obtain a rim-light on the face, head and shoulders normally a backlight is placed behind the model. This must not be confused with the background light, where its main purpose it to light the backdrop.
This is also possible when you have sunlight behind your model. Using this kind of back light wisely the results can be amazing.
Understanding more the directions of light and applying them to your work, by experimenting and try out new ideas, you can easily produce more creative photographic work.
Next time you are posing and directing models make sure that you also direct light intelligently to your advantage.
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