Best Light For Portraiture

Home Forums Photography Q&A Best Light For Portraiture

This topic contains 9 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Caitlin Compton 1 month, 3 weeks ago.

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  • #33652

    Caitlin Compton
    Participant

    When watching the replay of the most recent Photo Critique webinar, I noticed that you ( @jamesstaddon ) mentioned that you often position people so that theyโ€™re facing into the sun for portraits. From portrait videos that Iโ€™ve watched elsewhere some of them mentioned that backlighting is a great light to work with for portraiture (albeit challenging!), so thatโ€™s the lighting that I often find myself defaulting into for portrait situations. But hey, you know more about photography than me! So, I was wondering how often do you use backlighting? Do you ever use side light, reflected light etc? How do you deal with the squinting eyes (that sometimes come from facing into the sun!), and the flat look that can be created from having light shining right on to something? Is front lighting the type of light that most professionals would use or is it more preference/ depending on the circumstances? Just curious to know what anyone has to say on their favourite type of lighting for portraiture and what they find works best for them. ๐Ÿ™‚

    #33654

    Lydia Bennett
    Participant

    I don’t have a ton of experience here, but I love light, and being able to see its effects in photos – so I love backlighting! But I am definitely curious to hear what others have to say, as well. ๐Ÿ™‚

    #33661

    Caitlin Compton
    Participant

    I love light

    Me too! And if it’s golden hour. . . well I’d better not get started on how much I like golden hour. ๐Ÿ˜‰ The thing is, once you get into photography you can never look at light the same again.

    #33683

    Lydia Bennett
    Participant

    once you get into photography you can never look at light the same again.

    I had never noticed sunshine before I got into photography like I do now. Just the other day, I was out in the yard with my younger brother, and I began exclaiming about how absolutely beautiful the sunshine streaming through the trees was, and he looked at me like “uh huh, okay, if it makes you happy” ๐Ÿ˜€

    The other thing I’m curious to know in regards to the original question here is, are different types of lighting used for portraits when you’re outside vs. inside?

    #33686

    Caitlin Compton
    Participant

    Yep! I can relate to that! ๐Ÿ™‚

    are different types of lighting used for portraits when youโ€™re outside vs. inside?

    Well, I’m not a lighting pro obviously, but indoors there’s really 2 types of light you can use – natural light (from a window, door etc) or artificial light (flash, speedlite, light bulb from the ceiling etc). So I would say that you may use a different type of light when shooting inside, but you use the same principles. If using a speedlite for instance, you can point it to the side for side lighting, you can set it up to have backlighting, or you can bounce it off a white wall to have reflected light etc.

    I have no idea if that’s helpful. . .

    #33699

    James Staddon
    Keymaster

    I noticed that you ( @jamesstaddon ) mentioned that you often position people so that theyโ€™re facing into the sun for portraits.

    Glad you brought this up, @creative-click-photography! I didn’t actually intend to mean it was better to have folks facing into the sun. In that photo, the subjects were in the shade. There was no direct light, only reflected light. Same thing on a cloudy day (which was the situation in the example I gave about positioning people around the airplane), there is no direct light, only diffused light. So in those lighting situations (reflected or diffused), I like to position folks so that they are facing in a direction that the reflected or diffused light will fall on their face (instead of falling on their backs, putting their faces in shadow). Does that make sense?

    What you said about direct light, especially at golden hour (which get’s me all excited too! ๐Ÿ™‚ ), definitely backlight is better! Which reminds me of this photoshoot I did back in the day…. https://www.lenspiration.com/2016/12/the-secret-to-taking-portraits-at-golden-hour/

    #33700

    James Staddon
    Keymaster

    Do you ever use side light, reflected light etc?

    Side light is better than front light! And reflected (or diffused) light is always better than direct, harsh light! So you do the best you can with what you’ve got. ๐Ÿ™‚

    And of course, this is all in context of getting flattering pictures. If you’re taking a picture of a villain, then, well, direct harsh light from below might actually be what you want. ๐Ÿ™‚

    How do you deal with the squinting eyes (that sometimes come from facing into the sun!)

    The harder someone laughs, the more their eyes will naturally squint. So, get everyone laughing really hard. ๐Ÿ™‚

    As for your other questions about the direction of light, are you familiar with the different emotions associated with the different angles of light? Here’s an article that actually uses some clean examples that I think explains the basics well enough: https://photovideocreative.com/en/light-direction-emotions-choice-light-position-photos/ I generally stick with backlighting or “loop lighting”, where the light source is slightly higher than eye level and about 45 degrees to the right or left of the camera.

    #33726

    Amaury Descours
    Participant

    Hi James, thanks for spotting my post on my blog PhotoVideoCreative.Com ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Indeed, front lighting is a very mundane light. Exploring other directions will definitely enhance most photos. Still, it is interesting to see that direct front light is quite successful with fashion photos. It creates a very clinical look with the model, which is very intriguing and eye-catching.

    #33835

    James Staddon
    Keymaster

    Yeah, great information there on your sight, @amaury_descours!

    @creative-click-photography, Amaury has a great article about how to make nice portraits without grimaces in direct sunlight…. https://photovideocreative.com/en/how-to-make-nice-photo-portrait-without-grimace-in-direct-sunlight/ I don’t think I’d ever thought of his idea!

    #34308

    Caitlin Compton
    Participant

    Thanks for your answers, @jamesstaddon! Ok, I had a feeling I got myself a bit confused there. ๐Ÿ™‚ I actually hadn’t really learnt about all the different types of light until recently when I did the ‘iPhone Photography Course For Parents’ by Shultz Photo School that came with the photography bundle. They had a whole bunch of videos dedicated to light, where I got my eyes opened to all that!

    So in those lighting situations (reflected or diffused), I like to position folks so that they are facing in a direction that the reflected or diffused light will fall on their face (instead of falling on their backs, putting their faces in shadow). Does that make sense?

    Surely does! ๐Ÿ™‚

    And of course, this is all in context of getting flattering pictures. If youโ€™re taking a picture of a villain, then, well, direct harsh light from below might actually be what you want. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Oh, LOL! ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ll keep that in mind for the next time I get a chance to photograph a villain. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    The harder someone laughs, the more their eyes will naturally squint. So, get everyone laughing really hard. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Might have to pull out some jokes, then. ๐Ÿ™‚

    As for your other questions about the direction of light, are you familiar with the different emotions associated with the different angles of light?

    Huh, hadn’t really thought about that before. Interesting.

    I generally stick with backlighting or โ€œloop lightingโ€, where the light source is slightly higher than eye level and about 45 degrees to the right or left of the camera.

    I haven’t heard of loop lighting. Could you expand on that a bit more? Not sure I quite understand.

    Amaury has a great article about how to make nice portraits without grimaces in direct sunlightโ€ฆ. https://photovideocreative.com/en/how-to-make-nice-photo-portrait-without-grimace-in-direct-sunlight/ I donโ€™t think Iโ€™d ever thought of his idea!

    Glad I’m not the only one with the problem! So, he’s basically just saying to use back-lighting, right?

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