Four-Point Lighting


Authentic Family Posing


Lesson Info

Four-Point Lighting

Let's start out one at a time. Let's talk about lighting. From a lighting perspective, this image was lit in my studio. Cute, fun, definitely her spontaneous expression, but it's structured in a way that you can't really get to this emotion unless it's lit in a way that will really help you feel it and really help you respond to it. This is four-point lighting, is what I like to refer to it as and I used to always say, hey keep things simple. Do a three-point lighting in everything you do and that doesn't mean that you have three lights, that means consider these three different types of lighting every time you're photographing a portrait. Forever it was main, fill, and rim or hair light. But I realized that on every shoot I do I care about catch light too, so I've started to incorporate that and say, I just really like four points. The main light is basically, the main light is anything that is the main light that is lighting your subject. In a studio it's probably a large soft box, a...

t least in my studio it's gonna be a large soft box. We use constant lights in the studio, have a large soft box on top and most of the time I'm bringing that in and that's the main light. That's what you see here. The fill light can be a number of things. In the studio it's more often then not is an additional soft box, just brought in at a different angle. The point of the fill light is to simply fill in the shadows that are nearly always created by the main light. The fill light is the one light that I see most photographers miss. When I do portfolio reviews and image critiques and I sit down and check out work, I'm like, oh gosh, there's so much about this that's right but their eyes aren't really lit up. Not that they have to be lit up in every portrait, but I want to be able to see them. I want to be able to connect with them and usually that's through the eyes, right. Then the other part of that is these shadows, these distracting shadows that go across a person's face. I'm not talking about like, I'm doing purposeful lighting where it's very dramatic and moody and there's lots of shadow, that's not what I'm referring to. I'm referring to a regular, family portrait or even an individual portrait where everything is there, but their face is just kind of flatly lit and I can't really connect with them because it's just too missing. That fill light is what brings it in. So a fill light for me is either a smaller soft box at a different angle, probably, I would say 75% of the time it's a reflector. I have reflectors in all sorts of sizes, but I think they start at $20, up to $50 or $70, they're not expensive, reflectors. That one piece of lighting equipment is used on everything I do. It's just simple, it's lightweight, you can bring it everywhere and it always changes the shot. I always find that when I just introduce a reflector, angle it correctly because a lot of people use a reflector but just direct it against the light and leave it. You've got to really play with how you use a reflector. If I use a reflector on a shot it will make a big difference. Other forms of fill lights of course are flash, having a fill flash, or having strobes. I use strobes quite a bit and I'm gonna show you some video footage of exactly what I mean by that. Everything I'm talking about here, I'm gonna be showing you clips we filmed just exactly for this. Lastly, is the hair or the rim light. The reason, in the studio it's pretty simple. You want some light that's gonna separate somebody from the backdrop. She's got dark hair, she's against a dark back drop, if I don't have some sort of hair or rim light she's gonna be a floating head. I'm gonna be photographing a head and that's all I'm gonna have. I wanna be able to photograph all of her and show those highlights in the hair. On location however, I don't have to pull in a hair light or something like that for a family or rim light, I just have to make sure that they are in a situation where they're lit from behind in some way and they're not just merging into the back drop. This is a family that we just filmed the other day, just to be able to show here on this program. I'm talking about this minimum four-point lighting. Let's look through it. Obviously we have them lit from a main light. In this video the light is dropping. When we're out shooting, we shot this in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and the light was going fast and we were being eaten by mosquitoes, but that's not really relevant to this point. They had this main light coming in and we have a fill light and sometimes you can use a main light that if it's positioned correctly and it's broad enough and it's flattering enough it can also be the fill light. You guys have had that experience where you don't necessarily have to bring in additional light because you're so broadly lighting them and there aren't additional shadows created that you've got to combat. Oh and there's a catch light of course. I'm making sure that all their eyes are lit up. Then lastly is the hair or the rim light. That comes about by simply making sure I position them in a way that they're separated enough from the back drop and there's a light back there still, naturally, that we're okay. That is what I'll do, I'll just double check it all. There is a big difference with this and having that one strobe that I was using that's not positioned correctly. It's this. The only difference between these two portraits. they're processed the same. They're shot around the same time. You'll see the footage when we do it. Is we're having them move and interact and I'm trying to keep the energy up and at some point they're lit perfectly and at some point they're not. The big difference is this image on the left, they're still all completely gorgeous and sweet and loving and a great family, mom and her two daughters. This image on the left, the main light is positioned in a way that we have really harsh shadows, you see that. The fill light is not there. We have very dim light, in terms of the girls' eyes. Even more so, we have no light in the mom's eyes. Again, this is something I see very often with family portraits, either the eyes are not well light, they're not lit at all, or some people have eyes that are lit up and some don't. The interesting thing about that dynamic, when you see some people's eyes lit up and some that are not lit up, you get this impression that some have more of this personality or soulfulness and some don't. Like that's what that conveys. We don't necessarily register it that way, but that is what you're communicating because of how you've lit that portrait. It's the same thing with clothing. I'm not gonna dig too much into clothing here. Certainly, if you're trying to show this cohesive family unit and how they belong to each other and everybody is wearing this lovely combination of pastel colors and somebody else comes in with black and white polka dots, it's gonna be very odd, yes. So that person just doesn't belong, they don't fit in, something about them is different. Specifically, between these two images, the lighting is obviously very clearly different, but I want to show you what we're doing in terms of the expressiveness because the expressiveness is also different, right. The pose is relatively the same, there is an adjustment made between them where is on one image the mother over here is angled at a way that doesn't flatter her as well. On the other image that has been shifted and it's usually a combination of me directing my clients, but me also moving myself. We're gonna show a little video clip about that in just a minute and you'll see exactly what I'm talking about.

Class Description

It can be difficult to get authentic expressions while shooting group shots, but the best family portraits have personality. Learn how to help your subjects open up in Authentic Family Posing with Tamara Lackey.

In this fun and upbeat class, you’ll learn group posing tips that produce flattering shots without sacrificing genuine expression. Tamara will take you step-by-step through the dos and don’ts of group posing and offer lots of helpful tips on keeping the whole group happy while doing it.


a Creativelive Student

I agree with the others that the info was great and useful, but I would have loved to have seen more. While the price of $29 might make one "assume" it's just a little tidbit, I was hoping for more! I love Tamara! I have some of her other classes and it wasn't a waste of money, just would have liked to have seen more ... like even more of the videos of actual shoots. That's so helpful for me ... to see what happens with real live people at real live photo sessions.