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Seeing the Light

Lesson 14 from: Incredible Engagement Photography

Pye Jirsa

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Lesson Info

14. Seeing the Light

Summary (Generated from Transcript)

In this lesson, the instructor discusses the different key light patterns and their effects on engagement photography. He explains the concepts of flat lighting, paramount lighting, loop lighting, and more. He also covers secondary light patterns such as fill light, kicker light, hair light, backlight, and background light. Additionally, the instructor talks about the difference between diffused and specular light and emphasizes the importance of understanding lighting principles and knowing when and how to modify the light to achieve desired effects. The lesson concludes with the instructor highlighting the fact that excuses and lack of education are the only things that can hinder one's ability to create great images, and he encourages students to think creatively and use what they have to achieve their desired look.


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Posing Guidance for Him


Posing Guidance for Her


Foundational Posing


Posing Touch Points


Couples Body Language


Posing Three Point Check


Posing Tips with Demo


Lesson Info

Seeing the Light

I wanna talk about the five common key light patterns. This is important to understand because every one of these key patterns, these key light patterns, and by key light I just mean your main light. Your main light that's falling onto the person's face. Every one of these creates a different effect. And what this is is this is a very small or a hard light that's put on her, so you can see the edge of the shadow on everything. Okay. This is directly in front, so when your light comes directly over the camera pointing straight to your subject's face, that's flat lighting. If we were to shoot this way in this room, that would be flat lighting. Flat lighting is fantastic. People think that It's not very interesting, everybody does flat lighting. Well it's great, because it's beauty. You'll notice that most beauty, most cosmetic-type fashion, those kind of things, they use a lot of flat light. They'll kinda mix and balance between these two basically. Because the more flat the light comes ...

onto us, like if you imagine your skin as, if you were to map it out, what it would be is a bunch of smooth places with a bunch of little dots and crevices and lines and that kind of stuff in our faces, right? If light's coming straight into that, it's filling it all so it makes it look beautiful. We don't show off the lines, the wrinkles, the pores, we don't show those things, so it's a really great light. As soon as you start going more directionally, you can actually see it right here, look at this. We can't even see that dot on the corner of her face right here, it's barely visible. As soon as you bring that light and create a little bit of direction, this is just paramount lighting. Paramount, the studio, the movie studio, actually used this light to shoot their celebrities. It's actually a butterfly light but it got the nickname paramount lighting. This is just slightly top-down, so this is my subject, this is flat, this is paramount. Coming from top down. Still a great, beautiful, flattering light, but now we can start to see a little bit more direction. We see as little bit more chiseling out of the cheekbones and the features, which is great because it actually makes, like this is gonna make someone's face look a little bit larger than this one actually would, because we're bringing in shadow. Moving over to loop, now we're just bringing that same light, so if it was top down like this, we're just moving it to the right a little bit. We cast a shadow across, and as we go across this edge, what you see is, pushing towards this side, we get drama. The more you go to that side, the more drama you get. Coming back towards this side, the less drama you get. The less shadow, the less drama. So, is that a flattering photograph? Not really, right? This, despite it being direct, like it looks like direct flash. Despite that, I'll guarantee every single person, this person, every single one of us would rather have this over that. On the inside. So, know when to add drama. When we're creating engagement portraits, it's okay to have drama, you just need to make sure that you pose for it. You wanna make sure that the angles of the faces are posed in a flattering way to work with that existing light. So in any scene that you walk into, it doesn't matter whether you're talking about natural light, or whether you're talking about modified, artificial light. The same thing applies. And the crazy part about it is that inside of a room, from one side to the other, outside, anywhere you go, it's gonna vary greatly from point to point. For example, I know that this is the strongest light in the room right now. And I know that if I stand like this and face you directly on, Steve, that I'm split lit. I have lighting right up to my nose. I know that if I turn my cheek just a little bit to this side, that it changes and I should have a highlight right here on this side of my face. I know that if I turned away, I'm going to have these different changes. I know that if I move into this corner of the room, then I'm no longer illuminated by that light. And I know if I go to that side of the room and look directly over here, I have flat lighting on my face if someone were to shoot me going this way. If I were to go this, I'm gonna be backlit. So, these basic principles apply when you walk into a scene and look at it. So when you walk in, I want you to analyze those things, okay? And just to show you the effect, I wanna show you a beauty shot versus a dramatic shot. Look at how much less creepy he looks over here, this is Joe, he's one of my guys in our studio. Doesn't he look less creepy than he does there? It's the same expression, guys, just different lighting. He looks creepy both ways. Let's be honest. Practice your light. So the other thing I was gonna say is, and when you are practicing your light, I do have a PSA for you all. Whenever photographers are in front of the camera practicing lighting, you have a duty to keep it awkward, okay? When you get those images, I want you to post them online and then tag us, put in #slrlounge so we can have them as well. So look at this, look at this beautiful Rembrandt light on Leer's face right here. That's so gorgeous. And then this is a super-advanced, like hand-over-hand pose that really draws attention to my eyes. It kind of frames it right there. It's beyond this course, guys. And Matt Roberts on the right, I don't know what he's doing. He's having a moment. So we talked about this for a brief second, the three subject positions in relation to the light, right? I'm gonna talk this way, because I know the light's right here. So, if I bring my chin over to this right side, I would be short-lit. This means that from your angle, you see the short side of my face brighter than the other side. The shadows fall onto this side. Right, is that what you're seeing? If I switch to this angle, this is now broad-lit. The broad side of my face is lit, the short side is in shadow. And if I look, the only way to get flat is for me to look this way, basically. Those primary positions have a dramatic effect on the amount of shadow on the face, and guess what? The more flattering one is this guy. Short lighting is always gonna be more flattering, which is always why we have the light in every one of our shots, you're gonna see, there's a few rare examples of when we have to break the rule just for compositional purposes, but almost all the time we're gonna send the light into her face. We light into the girl's face, so that way the guy's in the shadow. And guys look good in drama. Guys with drama on their face look great. We send the light into her face and we always light short light. So that way it's very flattering and so forth for your female subjects. All right. Five common secondary light patterns, I always see secondary lights used in times when they don't necessarily need to be used. A fill light is just gonna open up the shadows. So all it's designed to do is just open up and reduce, or bring out the shadows a bit. If you're trying to go for direction, and you're trying to create depth, and kinda that look, if you're trying to create drama with an image and you add too powerful of a fill light, it kills it. You end up flattening out the whole thing. So when we add a fill, we make sure that it's subtle, that we still see shadow and so forth. But that's a fill. A kicker, rim and edge is that light that kicks and hits the edge, it creates dimension in the face. It's great for separation. A hair light. This always gets confused with a hair and a back light. A hair light is actually a light that hits your hair, like the top of your head. This is used to give shape and body to hair, especially when you're on set in the studio and stuff like that. If there's no light there, then it can kinda look like a lump of hair as opposed to individual strands and stuff. It really reveals everything. A backlight is what's placed actually behind you and going to the back and this is a great light that's used for separation. This is probably the most misused lights in my mind. I say this because I want everybody to understand the principles and then understand when to break them. For example, if your subject is already backlit, you don't need to add another backlight to it. If you're shooting against a background that is white, you don't add another backlight. Or likewise, if the background is really, necessarily, like I saw a recent headshot where it was a really tight shot on the person, and the backlight, all it did was just show all the fly-aways in the hair. Backlights are used to separate a person from a background. If you have good separation naturally, you don't need to have that backlight. Unless you're using it for effect or something. And then a background light is that light placed towards the background, which we're going to do actually in a little bit. Okay, this is the other last thing that I wanted to talk about was these things get confused a lot. Soft versus hard and diffused versus specular. These are actually completely different terms that are used. I guess a lot of times when we say a light is soft, we often times say it's a diffused light. It can be. But they're two different terms. Soft light refers to just the size. Soft and hard, this is just size. A large light, in relation to your face, is soft. A small light, in relation to your face, or to the subject, is hard. And all that means, is the shadow definition, if you look at this, the shadow definition of a hard light is very defined, this is very soft, right? But a diffused versus specular light, those are different things. Diffused means that you are using a matte-type quality device or modifier to change the light. Well, that's probably in between. But like a white scrim is diffused. The inside of a softbox, the white piece, Jerry do you wanna grab a piece of that cloth? This is diffused material. So the way that this works, is that the light that passes through this is already getting dispersed and it's already kind of opening up. So when it hits your face, you get a very soft, sorry, you get a very matte look. See, I already confused myself. You get a very matte look on the face which means that we don't have a lot of strong highlights. What ends up happening is if you send light directly to somebody, this is the example or a specular modifier. It's still a large modifier, is it not? Like if I bring this up to your body, this is a pretty big modifier in relation to his person. So it's still gonna have a shadow graduation that relates to the size. But it sends a harder light. So the light coming off this, because it's pushed straight and directly at the person, you get light that bounces back to the camera. Can you guess where that light bounces back? On a person's body? Look at the example image over there. Actually, do you wanna take care of this? So you get light bouncing back off of anything metallic, or off of skin areas that have oil on them, or that are facing directly to the camera. So if you have shiny skin, and you're using a silver, you're going to get highlights on the forehead and so forth. Now if it's built into the effect, if you're going for a swimsuit shot and you want it to look that way, that's great. But if it's not and you want this matte, soft look, then those are not the right modifiers to be using. So, I wanted to say that there's no right and wrong in lighting. I always tell people, like, there's not a single, maybe there is a single way. But in general, the only thing that might be off is your lighting might not match the look that you're going for. But it's not wrong. It's just not maybe the right light for the situation. Does that all make sense? So we can have a large specular modifier, we can also have a large matte modifier. We can also have a small specular modifier and a small diffused modifier. Cool? Okay, so Truth Tangent. What I wanna say right now is that excuses and education are the only two things that will ever stand between you and the images you want to create. Meaning, and this is why I want you guys to ask me whys. We're gonna use a certain set of gear here. But I want you guys to understand that you can use anything to get to the same kind of look. And if you have a question about it, ask us. You don't need an expensive camera. You don't need expensive lenses. You don't need expensive flashes, nothing. You can get there with virtually anything. The slight variations in quality might change. But we can still do it. And the only difference is, I've seen so many people that refuse to go out and shoot because they can't get a certain, oh, I don't have that beauty dish so I can't go and do that, or I don't have this, I really wanna do this but I can't because I don't have this. It's simply the education that is missing. And if there's one area that I have, I've kind of set a rule for myself that when it comes to budgets, I have a budget for almost everything, with the exception of education. If I want a book, if I want a course, if I want a class, if I want whatever I want in terms of education, I spend that. Because that has always been stuff that returns. My car, maybe not so much. So case in point. I want you guys to look at this photograph. This is natural light, and they love that bohemian look, but I also wanted to get a cool shot just for our purposes, a little bit more of a dramatic shot. I know a lot of people would be like, well, you know I don't have an ice light, or I don't have a GL-1 that's like 700 bucks, man. These things are expensive. Because they know that we shoot with those things. But it can be done without any of that. This is the shot, handheld, at one-quarter of a second. I call myself the Pyepod. Just a fyi. The Pyepod. So you put the elbows in, and you kinda get down like this, and I can hold pretty still. So this is a quarter of a second, handheld. And it's still enough to actually use. At like F1.4 and ISO 3200, okay? This is 1/20th of a second at the same settings, F1.4, ISO 3200. Lit with an iPhone. So, my lights were back in my car and we were losing light, and this was one of the last kind of shots that I wanted to get in that scene, and I was like, just grab my iPhone and light them up. And so, I show that because I want you all to take away the cannots and the excuses and everything and when you see these two shots, you might see them a little bit differently. As this is actually able to do, we're actually able to work with a small, that light source was small, it was specular, it's probably the worst light source you can find, right? In terms of color, in terms of everything. It is the worst light source yet, if we pose for it, notice how I lit into her face? Lit into her face, posed so that the shadow side is on the broad side of the face, he's posed for drama. This is a Rembrandt shot, this is a split-lit shot. Do the guys not look cool when they have drama? Looks pretty friggin cool, right? So all we did was we just worked our pose, aw yeah! Let's do this. I love it when you guys are just tryin to make me look dumb. That's all right. So, this is kind of what we're talking about in terms of what I want you guys take away from this course is that if you're in a situation where you don't have the gear that you wanna have, think of how you can use what you have already. And yeah, a crappy light like that isn't good if you're trying to shoot candid shots and their movement and stuff. But if I can pose them and I can use that light to my advantage, I'm okay with that. I'll do a whole series of shots with an iPhone light. Okay, I have a couple of other slides before we get into shooting. This is just to demonstrate the fact that you can have, I do a lot of commercial and fitness stuff. This is a diffused, a large diffused light, that's used for her because we wanted to have a softer look on a fitness portrait. The funny thing was, I actually never did commercial and fitness stuff. I took all my experience from weddings and I just applied it to it. So all this lighting knowledge you guys can apply to whatever area that you want. If you're shooting a girl and you're like, hey, you know what? I want her to have a slightly softer look. Even though this is an athletic kind of look, we want it to be a little bit softer and more feminine, versus this shot, which is the same size light source, basically, or sorry, it's a silver light source that's roughly the same size now. And you can see how much more specular. Do you see how much reflection we're pulling off the skin, like off of all the oil, off of the forehead, off of everywhere, off of the wall? So those are the two differences, I thought that image illustrated it the best in terms of like seeing a specular versus diffused light setup. Okay, we're getting there, we're getting there. All right, so seeing the light. I like to use my crazy hand. If you see me walking round doing this, it's what I'm doing. I call it my crazy hand because it makes me look crazy, does it not? Like, if you just saw a dude, like, yeah, we're getting this, like that makes you kinda look crazy. But it works. So put your hand in front of your face and just watch how the light changes shape as you move with it. It's the easiest gauge because then the reason, is that you have, there's actual bumps and stuff on your hand, right? It kinda simulates the ridges and everything on your face, and so you can see between the fingers where the light is going, and you can see how hard, and so forth. So I know exactly where I would go if I wanted to use this light, if I wanted to go flat I can go right here, if I wanted to go to this side, if I wanted to go into this corner, well, I'm gonna have to do a little bit of work over here, because I'm actually like backlit right here, and that light's not carrying over. So use your hand as you walk into the space. Find the directions of light that naturally exist. Then what we're gonna do is we're gonna place our subjects. Then we're gonna say is the light right for the look that we're going for? If it's not, we need to modify. So we'll add or modify the light, and then we're gonna look at our histogram, look at our highlight alert, look at everything, we're going to analyze and adjust and watch where the highlights and everything are falling onto the face.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Pre-Shoot Videos
Keynote 1
Keynote 2
Presets Installation Guide
Gear Guide
Favorite Software
Lightroom Presets

Ratings and Reviews

CPR Photography

I think Pye Jirsa is one of the best, if not the best, instructor for photography on Creative Live. He is very personable, smart and approachable. He has a perfect blend of personality (comments, laughs, tangents..) to the amount of instruction. He asks the questions for you, because he knows you are thinking those questions right then. He's very good about identifying settings, gear, etc.. and not leaving us in the dark about how he "got the shot". He goes into great detail. His instructions flow, but are linear, which is helpful. He's very organized, and you can tell that he really put a lot of work into his presentations (slides, video, test shoots, live teaching, graphics, etc..) I have been listening to him for like 10 hours straight, and still haven't gotten tired of him. He keeps things moving, He's very funny too. Nice job, I've learned so much. :)

a Creativelive Student

This course was AMAZING. I'd say int he past year or two I've fallen into a slump. Uninspired by my surroundings and uninspired by my clients. As a result, it showed through my work. My posing suffered as well and more than a handful of times some of my shoots became more than awkward. Then I bought this course and watched most of it in the course of a day. I walked away inspired, blown away, and renewed. The next day I walked into an engagement session confident. I gave my couples a quick overview on posing and then we just had fun in front of the camera. Immediately afterwards they texted me about how amazing their shoot was and how relaxed I made them feel about posing. The photos turned out fantastic to say the least. I've since shot several more engagement sessions and each one of them has been amazing. If anything, this course should inspire photographers to think outside the box and provide you with the necessary skills to take incredible engagement photos. Thank you Pye and Creative Live! I cannot speak more highly of this course. I should also state I purchased Pye's Natural Light course on SLR Lounge: this course is a wonderful addition to that. If you already own the natural light course and are hesitant about purchasing this one, don't. Buy it and reap the benefits!


This is by far one of the best courses I have taken. Pye makes learning fun and easy to understand. I feel like I have learned so much throughout the course, that I have truly advanced my photography skills. I am so excited to get out there and try so many of the techniques that he showed. I would love to take another course of his. The pricing for the course doesn't even compare to how wonderful the education truly is, I really got more than my money's worth on this one.

Student Work