Learning Photographic Lighting

by Dan Eitreim

The true test of good photography lies in making your subjects look their best. This is done with using the correct lighting for their faces. Fortunately though, learning photo lighting is pretty easy.

Obviously you won't want to be spending all your free time in Photoshop, it would kill your profit margins.

Let's talk about lighting. To avoid spending all your time in Photoshop trying to correct mistakes, you'll need some techniques to control light. Here's a few ideas...

Rather than just shooting away, you will need to know the basic lighting and shadow patterns.

1. Closed loop
2. Open loop
3. Butterfly
4. Renaissance
5. Split light
6. Narrow light
7. Broad light

The good news is...all this information can be had for FREE! Simply spend a few hours at your local library in the photo section. Look up what each of these patterns are and take plenty of notes. You'll need each pattern in your
arsenal since each one is the best pattern for certain faces or artistic effects.

Let's do some experimenting! For this, leave your camera in the bag.

Grab a couple of kids - use your own or bribe the neighbor's kids - and have them sitting on a chair in a darkened room. Now, with a flashlight as your only source of light, learn where the light has to be positioned - in relation to the face - to create each of the patterns. Draw diagrams and make notes in a notebook you can stick in your camera bag and always have with you.

At this point we are concerned with the angle of the light.

Once you know the what angle the light needs to be in - in order to create each of the lighting/shadow patterns - then start playing with the intensity. Move the light closer and further away. What affect does that have on the length and intensity of the shadows?

Try diffusing the light by covering it with a piece of tracing paper or some other transparent material. See what that does to the shadows? It's the same as a cloud moving between your subject and the sun.

Next, have one of the kids hold the flashlight in place - we'll call this the main light - and add a second flashlight at camera position. We'll call this one the fill
light. Now create one of the patterns. i.e. the closed loop - which is the same as Renaissance by the way. What happened to the shadows when you added the second light?

What happens if you move it to a different position? What does it do to the shadows to move closer? Further away?

What about the background? Move your model closer and further away from the wall. What happens to the background with one light? How about two? Do the shadows change?

A couple hours with a cooperative model and a couple flash lights should answer all your lighting and shadow issues. Make notes.

Once we are comfortable with the patterns and how to create them, all we have to do is make them on location.

If your vision calls for using one light, use the sun. Position your subject so that the sun is at the right angle to create the pattern you are after. You may have to adjust the time of day you select in order to get the angles, intensity and color of light you are after.

If your vision calls for a single diffused light, put something between the sun and your subject. Remember our tracing paper experiment? You'll need some type of diffusion blocking the sunlight.

You could use a large piece of translucent nylon, a white sheet or you could buy a professional diffusion screen. If you are feeling really high tech, you could wait for a cloud to float by or use the shadow of the nearest tree.

If the look you want calls for two lights - a main and a fill - use the sun as your main and your on camera flash as the fill light. If diffusion is called for, use the above methods to diffuse the sun and you can diffuse the flash by
taping on a piece of tracing paper. Need more diffusion? Use two layers of paper. Translucent plastic diffusers are also available for most flashes.

Lighting can be quickly and easily learned and the results are worth the effort.

Feel free to reprint and publish this article at will as long as it remains unchanged and intact, including the author bio.

Dan Eitreim is a professional photographer in southern California with a customer base of over 6000 clients. He says ANYONE can learn to sell their OWN photography and be making money in as little as 2 weeks. For more information and a free ebook, go to: http://www.PartTimePhotography.com
or http://www.FreelancePromo.com

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