Light is the Thing
Make sizzling portraits tip # 4: Make a portrait in good light.
Portraits resonate more with a photography audience because people seem to prefer looking at photos of people, and also because most people alive these days are visual learners. That means we prefer to see things to make sense of them.
A long time ago, when radio was the most common mode of entertainment, most people preferred to learn by listening. Now with more than half a century of television, the advent of the internet and our ability to produce multimedia, weâ€™ve reached an age of visual references. But with this new profile of the average audience member, photographers also have a new challenge. With the countless choices to look at or watch online, the photograph has to really stand out for it to be noticed.
We could start with content, by making a portrait that has interesting elements.
But content will only go so far; after all, there are sites online which trap attention by titillating their audience. What the photographer needs is great content and fantastic light.
Light is still the thing when it comes to photography. Without dramatic lighting, a photograph doesnâ€™t achieve as much impact.
Here are five tips for achieving great lighting in a photograph without it costing too much.
1. Shoot at the right time.
Sunlight remains the most beautiful lighting a photographer can get, and itâ€™s free! Scheduling a shoot in the early morning or the late afternoon can do wonders for your portraits.
2. Use a reflector to fill in shadows.
Iâ€™ve talked about how side-lighting makes a portrait dynamic. But at the times of day when the light is best, it also has intensity in one direction, and positioning the subject so he or she is lit from one side produces strong shadows on the other side. Placing a reflector in the shadow side can fill in these shadows and bring out detail.
3. Control the light indoors using a window.
Indoor portraits are great because you can do these any time during the day. Even though the sunlight has become harsh in the later part of the morning, during midday or the early afternoon, you can control window light by positioning your model at the right spot near a window. If you really feel that the light is still too contrasty and the shadows are too deep, you can diffuse the light simply by covering the window with a white sheet. This in effect makes the window into a huge softbox, softening the light and the shadows on your subject.
4. Control the light outdoors using a shelter overhead.
When shooting outdoors, especially when the soft light of early morning has been replaced by the harsh light of midday, you can still shoot some amazing portraits. Looking for something that you can use to shelter the modelâ€”a roof, a tree or awning. You can even use a hoodie or a hat. As long as the modelâ€™s face is in the shade and you are in the light, what you will get is a shooting situation where you can control the light on your subject. (You can even act as a reflector by wearing white to the shoot.)
5. Learn how direction and intensity affect your images.
With a lot of practice, you too can spot good lighting for a portrait by paying attention to direction and intensity, and how these affect your photos. Starting with the basic lighting situations, you can then move on to experimenting with tough lighting, such as high-contrast lighting and backlighting.
Light still reigns as the most important ingredient in a portrait. Without good lighting, a portrait is just a photograph of a person. Using the right lighting, you can make a beautiful photograph that stands out.
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