3 Nov

Lighting in portraiture photography can be really important, especially when looking at marketing or formal portraits. On the other hand can “rough” and “dirty” lighting give another edge to the pictures in e.g. documentary photography or when taking photos in certain environments. Christer Strömholms pictures from Paris could be one of examples or Nan Goldin.

When looking at light you have to look at ambient light and photographic light. Ambient light can be natural light or artificial light, just the light that you find in a location that can be modified by e.g. a reflector.

Photographic light can be e.g. flash, fixed light with different accessories to modify the light like a snoot, umbrella, softbox and so on.

Looking at natural light you have to differentiate between shade and sun or an overcast day which has about the same quality as a picture in the shade. Taking pictures in direct sunlight can be good for giving you shadows, contrasty and rich colours. On the other hand it can be too hard, making your subject squint or leaving unflattering shadows in the face, setting the eyes in deep shade, and so on.

Shade or an heavily overcast day does not have those problems but it leaves often flat pictures “without texture” to the face, leaving no accents. The use of flash or a reflector can give back just a touch of light to modulate the picture and the person.

This exercise was to experiment with different light forms and produce four to six different pictures. I also added some of the not so flattering pictures to show what not to do.

Medium softbox on the wall behind Johan to free him from the background, flash with snoot on his face from the left.

Shot from below, natural light from the right. A little too bright, leaving Johan squiting but no other unpleasant effects.

One minute exposure time. Painting with a flash light and the spill light on the wall, due to standing right against it, is giving a surrealistic impression.

Standing in the shade on a bright day. Postprocessing just darkening the shades and blacks while retaining the highlights and whites. The head “standing out” light-wise is enough and does not need any other light modification.

Half in the shade, just coming out, leaving just a small patch of light in the face. Due to Johan looking towards the light it is OK I think to have just this light. Otherwise it would not have worked. I get a little the impression of “he is awaiting something”

Sitting on the porch of a church house. Light coming from the left, back. Johan does not have to squint as much and the white house on the right of him (outside of the picture) giving just enough light on the face to not make it too dark.

A spontaneous shot in Johans kitchen. Window on the left hand side behind him and a window to the right, white wall reflecting to the left side of his face (as seen from the camera). Nice even lighting with a little hairlight.

Just natural light coming through the springs and windows of a barn leaving kind of a spotlight-lighting and interesting shapes on the floor.

Standing in the shade, light only on the nose. Not flattering

The shots below are taken by Johan Niklasson in order to show the use of off camera flash in the shade to get a more interesting light.

First picture, sunlight from the right, unflattering shadows and me squinting

second picture, in the shade. Flat but definitely an advance against the first picture.

Third picture, this time with off camera flash to give a little accent


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