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If you love taking great pictures and are looking for ways to add drama and interest to your images, then you will need to learn to use lighting to best effect. Here are a few easy lighting techniques to get you started.
- Split Lighting
Normally reserved for artworks and dramatic images, split lighting can also work well for portrait shots. As the name implies, split lighting is a technique which leaves one side of an image in deep shadow, while the contrasting side remains well lit.
Achieving a split lighting effect is as simple as setting up your source at 90 degrees left or right from the subject. A little tweaking and experimenting may be needed to achieve the exact effect you are after, with many photographers getting excellent results from using flags and reflectors to shape the light and soften the shadows.
- Loop Lighting
The loop lighting technique derives its name from the shadow that appears under, and slightly to the side of the subject’s nose as it loosely resembles a loop. The shadow can extend toward the side of the face and all the way to the corners of the mouth, or be somewhat contained and small. The shadow created by the nose must also not touch any of the shadow created by the cheeks.
The premise behind the loop lighting technique is to create a sense of depth through the shadows, without the image appearing flat.
To achieve the depth required the main source must be positioned between 30-45 degrees around the side of the subject and be slightly higher than eye level, so it is pointing down at the face in the direction the subject is facing. Many photographers will achieve softer shadows by using a reflector to direct some of the light towards the shadows created by the main source.
Subjects who possess an ovoid face can benefit from the loop lighting technique as it better defines the cheekbones, and creates the illusion of a longer slimmer face.
- Broad Lighting Versus Short Lighting
Adding shadows to your portraits helps add life to your images through depth and realism. When using a flash, always strive to bounce the light off walls, ceilings, and reflectors, and never aim it directly at the subject as this will cause flat lighting.
Flat lighting produces dull, lifeless images, and also makes the subject’s face appear wider and heavier. Flat lighting does have its uses if the aim is to tone down facial blemishes such as scars or acne, but otherwise, it is a condition which should be avoided.
To achieve the most flattering images, broad or short lighting should be used. In short lighting, the shadowed side of the face is closest to the camera. As long slender faces are currently considered more beautiful in most countries (a consideration which will no doubt change over time) short lighting is an excellent lighting strategy to make a subject’s face appear more slender and longer.
On the other hand, if your subject already possesses a narrow face, short lighting may only serve to exaggerate the trait to unflattering levels. In these cases, using a broad lighting scenario may be more conducive to shooting a more attractive portrait. Broad lighting is a reversal of short lighting, as the side which receives the most light is the one which faces the camera.
To discover what lighting will work best have your model sit in a dark room and use a flashlight to see what the light patterns do to the face. With a little experimentation, you will soon see that your portrait results will dramatically improve.