Photography Lesson #6: Studio Lighting
Posted by Ryan at August 3rd, 2010
Lighting…. This is something that can take weeks, months or even years to perfect. I honestly don’t have all the knowledge in the world about it but ask any photographer, if you look like you know what your doing that is half the battle. Taking the correct exposure with that lighting is the other.
To get a better understanding of lighting, you need to know the types of lighting that work well in studio settings. Now you’re starting to think…. “I don’t have hundreds or thousands of dollars to invest into the studio lights.” Well you can start with the two light sources the man upstairs gave us. Light from the sun (direct) and any light reflected off of everything else (bounce or aka fill light). This is where things get interesting. If light didn’t reflect, we would not be able to see anything and photography would not exist!
Now I am going to give you the magic rule that I was taught. “3 Lights = Professional lighting.” You can light any object or person professionally by having 3 lights present. One bounce, two main. Two bounce, one main… etc. Catch the trend here? The direct lighting can be anything that is emitting light. A lamp, flashlight or the big ball of burning gas in the sky we call the sun works very well. The positioning of those lights is what makes the subject stand out. Knowing the basics will help you to jump-start your photography. So I am going to talk about short lighting, broad lighting, split lighting, rembrandt lighting and butterfly lighting. I’ve included examples to show what I mean.
SHORT LIGHTING is where one side of the subject is directly lit. The other side is bounced. This creates a skating light across the face with a subtle bounce on the other side to show the shape of the face. Adds a dramatic feel to the picture too. TIP: Best when shooting larger people, the skating light visually thins the person out. (Not saying this subject is fat, but you can see I used the sun through the blinds to create this effect.)
BROAD LIGHTING, this is the exact opposite of short. This is adding as much light to the front of the subject as possible. Not really suitable for portrait work, tends to make people look chubby or heavier than they really are. It creates a softer feel, it all just depends on what you are trying to achieve with your works. Also placing the bounce cards behind your subject, at a 45 degree angle out of frame, to make sure light surrounds them. (Tends to create a white wash and dreamy effect illustrated here)
SPLIT LIGHTING, it looks like its name. You are splitting the subject in half with the lights. Your direct light should make a drastic line down your subject, “Splitting” them in half. This one you don’t need the 3 lights, just one direct. TIP: Works amazing with older people and black and white photos. (See the detail in the hand and skull? Very dramatic!)
REMBRANDT LIGHTING is the classic artistic lighting of portrait work. The direct light is placed at a high 45 degree angle directly in front of the subject. The bounce cards are used to illuminate the shadows (these can be placed anywhere around the subject). The trick here is to not get rid of the shadows, but to highlight them… if that makes any sense at all. This created a diffused look to the subject lighting, accenting the shadows.
BUTTERFLY LIGHTING is the flooding of light. Used a lot with extreme close-ups. This washes out a lot of detail but creates a 12 o’clock shadow on the chin and nose. By placing the lights at a higher 45 degree angle with bounce cards under gives this flooding of light. Normally called “under, over lighting.” TIP: great for glamor shots, people with beautiful color eyes and strong facial features (oval or square chin).
Here’s the last tip: If you see a photograph that you like and want to copy. Look at the highlights in the eyes or the shiny surfaces. This will tell you where they have the lighting on the subject. Eyes never lie! Mastering the basics is what you need to do next. You can’t build a house without a foundation, right? So play around, experiment with the styles. Remember, they aren’t rules. They are just guidelines, you’re the artist! Play! Keep shooting all… Enjoy!