Feathering Light


Film Photography with Strobe Lighting


Lesson Info

Feathering Light

When I started first learning about lighting and I was reading about it I would always hear photographers talk about how, okay well they're gonna have their light in this position and they're just gonna feather it a little, or they're gonna bring it up, and they're gonna feather it a little. And I never knew what that meant. It always confused me. (laughs) I was like, what are they talking about, feathering? So I wanna talk to you about feathering a little bit. I've got another great diagram. So feathering is a technique that I actually love and I've used for years with window light. I just didn't know that that's what it was that I was doing. And what we do when we feather our light is, let's see, I'll do it with Betty, and then I'll do it with some people. Is we're just kinda playing with these subtle qualities of light. I'm gonna get her here, I'm gonna move this light back. So, when you're feathering your light, Let's say you're here, at a 45 degree angle, what you're doing is you'...

re just kinda playing with shaping that light a little tiny bit, so that you go from maybe a 45 degree angle to just turning it out a little bit, turning it away. And the whole idea of feathering is that instead of your light coming out directly and hitting your doll, it's now coming our from the edges, and it's just kinda brushing across. It's playing with those qualities of light. And if you guys think about it, we do this with window light all the time. So if this is your window, and you have your subject here, sometimes you work with your subject like this with your window, at 90 degrees to the light, right? Sometimes you have your subject like this to the window, with like at a 45 degree. But sometimes you have your subject like this to the window. Right? How many people have done that? We've all done that. So that the light's coming in from the window, and that light from the window is just kinda brushing across your client. It's a little subtle, a little more subtle. And that's the sort of thing we're doing when we're feathering. And it can dramatically change the look of our image and the look of our backdrop. And you can feather this way, I'm so used to having stands on rollers (laughs) to hook them up. You can feather this way, but often times also, this is what we're doing when we're working with newborns, when we're newborn photographers and we have babies on a beanbag or something like that. So again, instead of having baby directly in front of the light in some fashion, we bring the baby down below. And again, we do that all the time with window light. You'll be working in a client's home, window light's coming in, you'll have baby on the bed below the light, that light kinda falls in, kinda feathers across them. But feathering your light is fun, because like I said, it's a great way to control your shadows, but also control the color of your backdrop. 90 degree light here, why don't we bring you up. So we have 90 degree light here, and we're gonna get this light coming here. You're beautiful, you're perfect. Here, and these shadows here. And it's pretty dramatic. And that's highlights here, shadows here. But, if we ... I'm actually gonna scoot you back, if that's okay. If we scoot her back a little bit, here, and we keep that light at 90 degrees, so you can even see it here with the model light. So now, light is coming across this way, it's still hitting her at that same angle, but it's a little more even across her face, so we don't have quite the same shadows, and we're not getting any of that light spilled onto the wall from the strobe. And so it would change the color of the wall, which you can see in this slide. So, baby's face is much more even, there's much more even tone, and the backdrop color has changed. And again, you can do it with a 45 degree. Same thing, so I have my light here, and it's very direct across her. We've got the lights here, or I can bring it, and we'll tilt a little, and you play around with those angles, and you get a slightly different look. And and so here, you can see ... Can you guys see that? I keep moving the light in front of the monitor. But so here, you can see again, so at this angle, that light was coming in here, and it was filling up behind, it was coming here, it was hitting the wall, and just tilting it, bringing it a little bit forward, changes the amount of light that I'm getting on that wall on the back of it, and kind of changes the tones and the textures across the face. I do this with babies all the time. It's just another way to get that really beautiful soft light that I like all the time. That I like in all my work. Especially if I'm working with more than one baby. Like twins, I wanna make sure everybody's evenly lit there, and I just bring that there, if they're down here on their little bed area, I just bring that light up a little bit more so they're more like this in relation to the light. And then I'm getting even light across both babies. You can still see the direction of the lights coming from here, but it's just even, and it's even all the way down. And I do it with little babies too, I want that real even, beautiful skin tone over the whole thing. So a question had come in from James Sincsin who says, "Do you have to remeter when you use feathering?" Oh, that's a really good question. I don't. I pretty much know that the light is going to be the same, but let's do it right now. Find out. All right, where's my trigger? This is why I wear that apron that I work in, 'cause I'm always like, "Where did I put everything? Where is it?" So, lets meter Amy. Let's pretend that we're metering for black and white, and I'm going to take a mid-tone reading. 'Cause now I'm curious. So right here, gonna go here. All right, so I got f11, at a 60th with ISO 400. Now I'm just going to twist that light a little, turn it out a little. Let's find out. I got f8. Yeah, so a stop difference. So yes, remeter. (laughs) Every time.

Class Description

To get the best portrait straight out of camera you need to control your light. Family and Newborn Photographer, Sandra Coan, walks through how easy it is to use lights with your film camera for the most control over how your image ultimately looks. In this course, Sandra will talk about how to approach your photo shoot by thinking about not only your subject but also the film and the light you want to create.

You’ll learn:

  • How to sync the flash with your film camera
  • How to meter for your subject and the light you’re adding to the image
  • How to choose the best film based off what you’d like the final image to look like

Throughout history, photographers have been using flash with film cameras. In this course, Sandra will cover everything to give you the knowledge to start taking portraits with your camera and strobes.


a Creativelive Student

Wow! with a lot of online stuff out there one can become rather overcome with too much information, however, the way Sandra presents her courses is just perfect! Her honest and simple and easy to understand approach was just what I needed. Not once did I think she was just going through the motions, she really loves what she does and it shows. To be able to rewatch and rewatch was also a key for me. Since I have dyslexia I have to take things one half step at a. time. After completion of the class I had a new found confidence when using strobes. A must have.

Micah Hewett Images

Out of all the classes I own on Creative Live, Strobe Lighting with Sandra is my FAVORITE! She is an incredibly kind and gifted teacher. She explains everything on a simple level and then gradually build to more complex issues. I am 100% happy with this course. Thank you Sandra!!

Gabby de Janasz

Sandra Coan is a lighting genius! I loved watching her high-energy and super informative class. I learned way more about studio lighting than I ever thought was possible. I'd definitely recommend this class to literally any person in photography, not just studio photographers. Thanks Sandra!!