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Lighting Solutions for Portrait Photography

Lesson 3 of 6

Positioning the Lights


Lighting Solutions for Portrait Photography

Lesson 3 of 6

Positioning the Lights


Lesson Info

Positioning the Lights

So now let's get into some lighting techniques and talk about all the mistakes that I see in lighting. And maybe we can fixem so far. Okay outzen eons and no one's doing this to me moral case story all right, so I think at this point we could pride shut the lights off. No one see me there. Enough they all this to me way got shut that wall off! Ok, cool, cool. So here's our light on let's turn it on. I don't need a lot of power but do we have a close up of her face? Because this is the number one number one problem in lighting is what we're going to see right now from this so if I got the light name that you guys but number one problem in lighting right now is photographers have their light down to low. This is the main light. The main light is supposed to be up high and a forty five degree angle so what's happening is that the shadow from her nose right here the edge of that shadow is going sideways now is the sun ever underneath the earth? No right. So the normal catch lights in a por...

trait, a painting, anything are where ten o'clock, eleven o'clock twelve o'clock one o'clock into never three or nine okay, so the important thing and lighting is the shadows read the shadows, so we don't even need this diffuser for this, like, just in case you were wondering what I'm using, this is a west got td six light that I'm using it's a constant light, it has special bulbs and here for the photo industry, even though they're fluorescent their daylight fluorescent bulbs do you think that I would stand in front of you right now and not have the best light ever invented ever made in the best light for portrait's period? You can't buy me, I own my own business, I'm not here to be bought, you can't buy me, I don't need it, I'm here to help you. I'm on your side. Do you think I care about these companies? I only care about them to help us get to where we're going. I'm here to help you. The reason why I like this light is it's odd doesn't even make sense I could turn on six bulbs and not get six shadows it's impossible. The only thing I figure is that fluorescent bulbs glow so they all blow into the biggest light source I've ever used it's this big step, a little flash tube, this big member softness control how big it is we do, we do need some diffusion but it's bigger diffusion than a little one you put on your flash when you turn all these I'm they all blow together in the most beautiful light I've ever seen and there's no there's, no diffusion even in front of the box ok, so the first thing we're going to do with this I just had to tell you what it is and what's cool about it it's gotta speed ring built into it and I can rotate it when we get into this you'll be sold that there's no way you would ever use any light and you know why I don't mind promoting this or even telling us that don't cost that much why would it come up here and say by this forty thousand dollars flash? As a matter of fact nobody will be using flash in the studio anymore I'm constant lights this is a constant light it's not going to flash there's no reason why you would ever need a flash just think if this right here was a baby take my baby you a studio you gonna traumatize the baby with flights going off? More important is my dog like my dog even more you put my dog there and stroke my dog okay, now I want to do a motor drive or you gonna go spend another big amount of money for a flash to super flash super fast constant lights is the best thing. You know why I can finally shoot it? Two point eight one point eight one point four studio strobes never saw the future. The future was now you got signal lenses that are one point for super sharp art siri's lenses that a blow away anything out there? Why would I go spend this beautiful, beautiful land and not be able to use it at one point for its crazy strobes will never go down that low in the future you'll be using big power packs outside overpowering the sun in a technique developed by pocket wizard on lee called hyper sink not high speed sync hyper sink study that one that's where strobes abused the studio you'll never use drugs again so I'm going to be constant lighting so let's get on the bandwagon let's find out where we're going and why we used constantly it's okay it's too easy. This is too easy think I want to work harder I'm getting older. I want to be smart. All right, how high up is this light? Have you ever seen a photographer with light up that high? Seriously common sense says forty five degree angle will be way up there. Why are all the lights down too low? You want me to show you why put it back down low because you're using six foot six foot soft box a six foot soft I go six foot soft bucks in my studio what would you ever do with a great big huge six foot soft box you just no shadows no nothing back to the five year old photographer again just taking pictures and anybody could do they don't even know the light's not a pie it out because they can't see the shadows they'd be like playing the piano don't even know what piano don't even know what know your plan you're not even playing a note remember there are notes to lighting his notes to music if you're a musician I'm on to keep or going like this up and down that's noise noise it's not a note you got to play the notes let's get this straight let's learn how to do this stuff right and that's make everybody look great this is awesome if you're really into photography I should be energizing you right now to get with this and learn this stuff because I'm telling you you're all going to be also ok so let's put the light back up there forget these mushy soft boxes this is for kids babies families older people don't use the big much stop box on portrait it's not necessarily so I like this one cause I could do tricks so that watch this one this's a technique I developed I take this diffuser to downplay the light I'll put this on the bottom of the bulbs that's the most difficult situation you ever going to photograph, scott, your shoulders? But I did this on purpose because I'm gonna show you a little bit how to tone those bare shoulders down. How, like this whole thing? Do you think I playing photo shop? Do you think I play in photo shop? What has photo shopped for enhancement? Not correction? Stine hands, I remember when I was fifteen years old, I was working in a ford photo studio and I got in the back room and these ladies were putting makeup on the photograph spoke for makeup by enhancing it. I'm like the public doesn't know this it's always been that way. It's been an enhancement, it's never been so much of a correction right now. I mean, my twenties in my thirties were a blur. I was doing too much stuff in florida shop house, the first digital studio in north america. I've been through this stuff I know all that stuff sitting there all day long, I'd get it right right now in the picture. I don't want to play a photo shop and you know what else you gotta figure right now, even my class late around cinema graphs when you go to make movie clips, the future is going to be moving photograph's living photos if you think there's going to be prints on although the biggest lie of the united states already closed down because nobody buys eight by ten's anymore the futures elektronik image ing we're going to be shooting movie clips so the shoot those movie clips you can't be fixing pictures up in photo shop you can in cinema grass because you only have to retouch more all right let's get this up there's our like got up high getting the shadows to aim towards the edge of the lip the other secret and lighting is you never aim your light at the subject like this you have my lights aimed right at her my first class and photography school I was sixteen years old for white egg try this put a white egg and a white piece of paper it's impossible the eagle never show you're gonna blow it out then the instructor came in turned the light feathered it by and the egg appeared everything worked out my favorite photograph ansel adams white birch trees the edge of the forest you think the sun's hitting the white birch trees here to get his own system and possible sons out here subjects in the shape so if I am the light past center it'll even the light on her if I was a photograph you guys in your group put your light over to the forty five degree angle so you have some shadows so it's not flat never in the light at the center, you aim it past center, you know, even the light all the way across. The only time a lights came straight his butterfly light. The rest are all feathered feather aimed off. All right, now, let's, get to the positions of the light. Okay, this is where it could get really, really tricky and really, really intricate. Yeah. Where you get into positions of the light. I want to hear more about use all constant lies. Tell us more about the lights you actually use. You mentioned a little bit about this one. What models? Air these and ok. Well, this is what's got okay. And west got got into this rate when the energy crisis was happening. So these companies made these light bulbs that are huge, and they're super bright and their daylight. I'm like I got lucky. Could you get hooked? My mouth, that lucky which I invented something. And then something happened. Big four. Where? Let now what's the thing to do so then at first I was like, nine could do that. No way. I ain't doing that. I like my strobes. Blob over law. Typical. Nobody wants change, so then I got a set of home, and I was forced to try him. And now, there's, no looking back, I would never go back so it's a light fixture, and you could put six bulbs in there and it's about I think they're fifty watt bulbs each, so but the fifty watts really quitting to it like a hundred watts. So it's, like six hundred watts, but super bright, superb. Absolutely beautiful, beautiful, like my whole life. See, when I was at a young age, I learned from one of the best lighting instructors in the world over this guy is just a young kid studying. And then after that, I got put on the lecture circuit. I don't want a lecture him and nobody. I just want to run my own business. Can you guys leave me alone? I want to do this, but then you got to give something back. I'm so fortunate for what I've learned for what? To help me in my daily work and to pass around out to you guys. See, the problem right now is you're not learning from guys that are eighty, ninety years old. Back then, you had to have a degree to be a photographer you're studying from people are twenty that's book smart there's, no you have to live it you've got to be you know you've got to be able to experience that you have had to been through this all I can't just say go do this you got to experience like wow how do I fix your hair I don't know we'll show you a little bit off you fix your hair opposer everything so that helped so back yeah I got a couple strip lights those are gonna later here in this what is this one td sixteen by west got okay okay so we talked about how high how far away now we're going to talk about how far in front to the model do we put the light is this light a foot in front of her two feet three feet four feet you know what I tried one time I was going to make a mat on the floor and put x marks on and be a millionaire overnight by telling you where to put your lights stand could I do that no it's impossible because ok you want me to say one inch nose put the light here a three foot knows pinocchio's nose put away up here okay so the idea with the light is to get the light in the other eye get the light to go over the nose put a shadow along the side of the nose in the crack spot but the shadow from the nose cannot go in the eyeball so I'm gonna bring this forward to we get to shadow from the nose are the eyeball look that's only she's got the cutest nose you ever come across but that's cheating so let's do this take your finger and put it right on top of your nose like your nose is bigger you could bring it down a little bit right there okay now watch how far forward if her nose was farther out how much fire forward the light would have to go to get the shadow from her nose out of her I do you see what I'm trying tell you you see that you see a close up of her north now put your finger down okay so this area the accuracy could be within a centimeter because right now there's no light there's no shadow in her eye I could move this like this much and be a mistake no what I always wondered how could a photographer with a speed like do this you don't even have a like to even see what you're doing how would you it's impossible it's impossible I could do it because I do this thirty years every day on the vic I could turn this light off put in the right spot without even looking I do this every day but people with speed lights do this they put away over here and they compromise because you don't have to you have to compromise you're going to tell me you're gonna put the light rate here and even right now if I move it within a centimeter you're going to know how to do that I've trained myself on howto looked over here to light stand and see the other eye how much I need to see like watch I shut this off how are you trained myself already know where to put this light by looking through the stand seeing her other eye turning this on perfect with accuracy off this much because they do it every day so your job is to pay attention when you're like that were to stand at or sit in their position and stare and see where that light iss I could do that to stand for me we got to ceo coming into men's you think this guy wants to hang around with me so I look straight at the camera I'll close this eye who cares this size going to always see the light and then I'm moving a little more perfect in the right position like sometimes if you do a portrait subject you to a portrait and you think you've got the lighting good look at it and see what's doing all right now let's get into correction of what does that help you guys figure it out how far forward you saw the shadow going around so now I like to think the soft box office here I talk too fast you could tell where our map, where I live bythe. Ok, so me and my wife were in new york, right? And we go the restaurant, and the waitress comes up and says, what would you like? And my wife goes, uh, and a lady was gone. I'm like this member, new york minute. You kind of, like know when they get here.

Class Description

Join award-winning photographer and 25-year studio owner, James Schmelzer, for Lighting Solutions for Portrait Photography. 

In this class, James will teach you how to light everyday people and not just perfect models. He will break down the specifics on where the lighting should be and why it needs to be there. He’ll explain how high, how far away, why you change the distance, how do you light groups, and what size light should you use? 

After the basics, you will learn the seven advanced lighting patterns and why you need to use them. You’ll learn how to analyze a face and decide where to place the light to minimize flaws and flatter your subject and which lens will achieve the style you are after.  


  1. Class Introduction
  2. The Distance of Light from the Subject

    Explore the different results you get when you adjust the distance between your backdrop, subject, and light source.

  3. Positioning the Lights
  4. Studying the Patterns of Light
  5. Using Reflectors & Fabrics in Light
  6. Lighting Real People & Situations



First off - the instructor's personality is not for everyone. I personally found him hilarious. He's your typical brash, cocky New Yorker AKA my kind of people. As for the class, its very instructive. He doesn't show off every single lighting style he mentions (loop, broad, short, butterfly, etc) in exquisite detail but that's because the purpose is to use whatever light makes your subject look the best. He goes through each one, but very quickly. His two main lighting examples are butterfly and rembrandt. The portraits he takes are very high school senior style, but the information he provides is incredibly useful for any other kind of lighting situation. There is a boat load of excellent information in this class; you just gotta know that what he's telling you is applicable across the board.

a Creativelive Student

Fantastic course! Loved the instructors sense of humor and direct, straight to the point approach!