Photographing Challenging Features


Lesson Info

Demo and Shoot: Distance of Light

Let's just do distances of light, yeah, let's do distance and power light. Okay so, we're going to look at skin texture and you got good skin, so. Alright. [claps] [Audience Laughs] You do have good skin. Alright, so what we're going to do I'm going to have you bring it in and make it, can you actually just lower it a little bit? Alright like there I think. Alright. So the flattest light that I can give him, the least dimension is going to be the light centered here, and with a reflector underneath. But the light tends to be not so interesting. Thanks John. Okay, Great. So. Great, thank you. Almost had you in it. No you're good, almost. [Audience Laughs] Okay, so if you're looking at this, this is kind of the softest, or soft flat light, centered and low with fill. So if you look, you don't see any wrinkles or any pores. It is solid headshot light most people would look good in. So that's my point. But is it profound or are you gonna look, "Oh wow this girl is great at lighting." No,...

but does your client usually go, "Oh wow this girl is great at lighting." No like that's not... They're looking at what they look like. My point is don't dwell on it. It's okay to be boring but flattering. But you also don't always have to be boring but flattering. So I'm gonna have you drop the reflector underneath. Okay? I'm gonna... Great, and look straight into me. Perfect. Great. And now, John will you raise that light up for me. Alright, so let's take a look. Let's go real high, we'll just go reach real high. So if we take a look from first shot to second shot, without the fill. There's more definition in the shadows without the fill. But more importantly, his jaw looks a little bit more defined. This would be beneficial to him if he had a double chin, he doesn't, but if he did in this shot you see it. In the second it's in shadow. You don't see the double chin. So this is kind of what you're building. Alright so then we raise the light way up. Good, just like that. Great. Okay. Oh thanks. Alright so looking at this shot, this shot is much moodier, more dramatic, but when we move in here you start to see more definition to pores and wrinkles but you still got light in his eyes. So if you were going for a dark and mysterious and whatever then this light would be more appropriate, but it's probably not as, like this is, upbeat and like brighter and more welcoming. So what are you trying to say? How does it affect the skin? For the most part like I said, he has good skin, so you don't really see too much difference. Okay will you lower it back to like not super flat, the in between. We're gonna do the angle of light real quick. Could you like three more inches? Good, okay great thank you. Alright so lets take a look at the, that was the height and now we're going to look at distance, left and right. SO we're going to do this one. We got flat on. Okay so now can you bring it over like long loop? Yeah right there is great. Okay now let me... Can you, can we put the fill in on this side? I'm going to compare so you can see. Great, perfect. A little less, like just a little bit of fill. Yeah. By the way, here I said a little less fill. A little less fill in this instance meant he just backed up the reflector a little bit. The closer the reflector is to the face the more that it's going to fill in that shadow. Alright so what we've got in this one is the first shot, flat on towards camera. Again, he doesn't have a particularly round face but you're going to read, in your mind, his face from left to right. There's not really much dimension or shape to it. If we move the light off axis to the side, now you read his face from here to here. So you're cutting off a couple inches of width. But there's also more shape. There's a little bit more interest. But you might say it got more dramatic because you have more shadows. So you have the shadow but maybe you didn't want such a dramatic portrait. So we bring in fill. It still narrows how you see his face. It's still looking a little bit more narrow, it looks like it has more shape to it. But it's not as dark. So I think our job as photographers, it's a little dance. It's a little dance between the, okay we're sculpting the face, oh the skin alright hold on I got to change the modifier. Okay move it up, oh the shadows a little too dark, I got to fill it in a little bit. That's what you're doing, kind of doing that. Chances are you'll find set ups that you like and use them over and over again. So can you do short light for me? Alright so short light. This is what short light means. My camera angle is going to stay the same. Good. And the light actually goes to a back angle. So can you turn your body to your right just a little bit. Perfect, that's great. So now when we photograph him the shadow side of the face is now closest to camera. I like this one this is dark and dramatic. You look really serious. Right? [Laughing] He laughs, you're not a serious person. No I can tell that. But anyway, so notice now is we moved that light here. It's actually the same shape of light on his face. That highlight underneath the eyes about the same. When we turned him to the side, so much more of the shadows are coming towards camera. It looks dramatic, but now you're reading his face as even narrower. So this would be appropriate for someone for a rounder face or if you want something more dramatic. But if we look, see how you can see the shadow under his eye? Did you see that in any other shots? You don't, like you wouldn't have seen the bag under the eye until this. But that's because you see so much texture in short light. The further it is to like if you guys are the camera, the furthest light comes around the side, it's just casting the texture back towards all of you. So you're balancing it. So lets do one more of those with fill. And then I will move onto the next thing. Perfect. Great. Great. And so, if you don't want it quite as dramatic, adding a little bit of fill, fills in the shadows shows just a little bit more detail. Especially if you're a person who doesn't like when shadows just go to black. You want just a little bit of texture in there. So I'm going to pause just to make sure. Anybody questions on that so far? I did have a question with regard to, this is from CosMob. Would you do the low reflector specifically for a guy with a dark beard? So does hair color matter? Okay good question. Sometimes if you raise the light up for structure with a guy with a dark beard, then it just goes black. I don't know if I'm making this up but dudes with beards are usually proud of their beards, right? Yeah. [Laughing} So I would usually add a little bit of a fill reflector just to catch it if it's a dark beard, so it doesn't just fall to complete shadow. John's beard would still stand out. (John) Yeah [Laughing] It's the gray It's the gray. It's the silver. Yeah, silver. [Laughing] Okay good. And a question just to clarify, for this example, for what you're showing because we are going to talk about lens choice, are you using the 70-200 for a particular reason versus the 85 or 50 for this scenario? Okay great. So most of the time for photographing head shots, most of the time I'm using my 70-200. Because it gives me nicer compression and I know that if I am using a 50, and I decide I want to fill the frame with his face, if I'm even a little bit high it'll make his forehead look really big. Or, if somebody has a big chin and I'm even a little bit low it exaggerates it. So here's something that you want to keep in mind. Just a rule of lenses. Wider lenses exaggerate distance. And you could picture this. So if you've got... The example I always use, you've got a tree and I've got a mountain in the background. And when I got a wide angle that mountain looks really far away. But when I have a longer focal length, I can make it look like they're closer together. It compresses the distance. My point of this being is if somebodies got a larger nose, a larger chin or a larger forehead, and you use a slightly wider focal length lens, it exaggerates distance which means the nose will look further from the face, which means it looks bigger. Same thing, the chin distance it sticks out will be exaggerated. It exaggerates distance when it's wide. So the chin will look bigger. And the forehead will look closer to the camera. So anytime that there's any features that are more pronounced that I don't want them to be exaggerated, I use a longer focal length lense. So I'm usually using a 70-200 because then with somebody I can backup and use that if I want to compress. I find most of the time for my portraits I exist somewhere, for like a headshot, like somewhere around here. I'm usually in the 80-150 range. I don't usually go all the way to 200. But the 80-150 to figure out what's the right compression for somebody. Thank you. Okay. Alright so, help me with my checklist. So we did the heights, the angles, fill, symmetry... Qualities? Did I do that? Which means it's going to be a pain, sorry. That's okay. Gonna switch some things. Lets start with zoom reflector. Okay. Thank you John. Alright so next thing is the quality of light. Figuring out how you get hard or soft light sources, and then figuring out what's more flattering. So, we're switching, here you go, we're switching over to a hard light source. A zoom reflector. And it is, most of the time, don't do it. [Laughing] Just don't do it. Sorry. Now it's usually not going to be flattering on people, but if I were going to do it, it would be with a guy. If I'm going to go for like hard shadows like the short light that we did for him, I can really carve out his features. But, pumps up texture, pumps up highlights, shows wrinkles, blemishes, whatever. So you use it if you want to create some sort of mood. That would be why you would do it. For me as a fashion photographer, if you go right now to the beauty section of my website, so it's and you go to the beauty, the makeup section. A lot of those you'll look at them like you see all the texture of the skin, but it's good texture. I'm using really hard light sources on models and then retouch the crap out of it. [Laughing] But, they're professional models so I don't care if it looks terrible in camera, like that was the job. But if I use a really soft light source like that, you don't see all the texture because it's not giving you enough of that contrast on the edges to pop it out. So, for me, I know that's the trade off. So I just want you to know when I say like, "Ah this is mean." Yeah it's mean for most people. Unless you're doing something creative. Can you turn to, what do you want to turn to? Like five? I dropped it down a bit. So it's down to 4.0 right now. Okay well I'll just bump up my... We'll guess Yeah Alright. I'm totally guessing here. Hah [Laughing] Be impressed. Alright. [Laughing] So taking a look here, so again I told he has pretty decent skin. It doesn't look terrible on him at all actually. But what you'll notice is you see more of this texture shows than it would with say, a big soft light source. But over here the transition from highlight to shadow is more abrupt, but it creates for a more dramatic mood. How I would use this if I were doing a portrait would be for something where I maybe had it short lit, black and white, like that's the mood we're going for. That's when it would be appropriate for me. But I would definitely not do it for an average portrait. Okay so now, to take it to the opposite extreme right now, we have shadow because it's off to the side, shadow because it's raised up and hard light because we have a hard modifier. That is one extreme. We're going to take it the exact opposite extreme and then you know you can work everything in between. So John can we make that centered-ish and close because here it is, ready? Small, hard, silver, hard. Off to the side shadows, up, shadows, right? All that stuff. Now, we'll do the exact opposite. Okay? And I will have you bring it real close right there. Perfect, and I'll angle it out just a little. Great, perfect. Okay, great. It's at 7.6 Might have to move it up a little, it might not impress them on this one. I did [Laughing] Let's see. Now, okay. Much much softer. A little bit more flat. But John can you bring in that reflector on the side. And so if you don't want the shadows, we can flatten it out that way as well. And it's also relatively lower. Okay nice and close, like super-duper-duper close. Great, cool. And fill in the shadows. And so if you look here, almost no shadows, really long transition. This is like a nice easy like everyone looks decent, but not everything looks interesting. I haven't used flash and just outside. Is your flash doing something that we might need to know, on your camera? Versus the other lighting? So basically the flash is just firing the trigger I've got, is just firing this. Oh okay sorry I thought there was a light coming from it. Nope so that's a trigger firing this and that's all. So I think that actually is a great transition to another question. How would this translate on location? Like what's an equivalent? So an equivalent would be, this over here would be bare bulb speed light, okay? And I'll do natural light as well. But this would be your bare bulb speed light. Your bare bulb speed light is small compared to the size of the subject so it's hard. Don't photograph people with bare bulb. Just the bare, just don't do it. If you have to be portable, if you need to be moving around a lot and you need to be able to hold your speed light, there are several companies that make little adapters. I use the Rogue FlashBender. So basically it's this little white reflector thing that goes on the top of it. Attaches top, kind of like a little soft box. Because what that does is it makes it bigger. So larger compared to the size of the subject makes it softer. And then you can put a little diffusion thing on the front which also makes it diffuse. Also, from there, I would go to making it even bigger and softer with something called the Westcott Rapid Box. That's nice and portable, it's about this big, gives you really soft light. If I bring it in real close I can make that light look so soft and really beautiful. But if you want something a little bit bigger, like you need to move it back because you need to get a full length shot, I like the Westcott Apollo Orb. That's the next one up that I use. So to be my speed light solution, next part of this... And so by the way you can absolutely take this type of stuff on location but if you're using speed lights you're not going to be able to fill an entire giant umbrella with diffusion and get enough oomph from it. And it also doesn't fill the umbrella quite as much, just a side note. Okay so lighting 101. Right Kenna? Yes. Alright so the next part of this would be okay, natural light. So the first example would be your having the sun. Just hitting them. Super mean, super brutal. The next thing that you could do, lets pretend that is the sun. Can I stand you up for a second? Yeah Can you turn on the modeling light for me? Okay so, that's the sun. And it's mean and it's hard light. So is that... Okay I don't have one but I'll just say the concept and you'll say, "Yes I agree." That'll happen. The next thing that you could do is you could diffuse it. I don't have the diffuser because I didn't think about having to do that but you put the diffuser here which is, it's this material, that's what this is. Okay, it's this material but usually it's on a reflector. Or they actually have things called scrims or you could can just hold the diffusers. Just solutions like that. If you hold it here, what happens is the sun hits this, it becomes this size and then it's nice and close to him and soft. Or, can you turn around this way? The sun is behind him now, so now the light on his face is fine and this is actually a rim light. And I now catch this so I have the sun on his face. Do you see that? So I'm catching that light and the closer I bring it the softer it is. If I bring it far away it wouldn't be as soft. Silver is going to softer, I mean sorry, white is going to be softer than if I grab that silver over there. But the silver lets me back up and get a little bit of distance. But because that silver is big, at least it will be a little softer than a small little silver one. So yeah that's the equivalent of if you were doing this with natural light.

Photographers are tasked with flattering every subject that steps in front of their lens. Typically, those subjects are everyday people, not professional models. This can mean working with some challenging features along with varying degrees of confidence. Canon Explorer of Light and well-known fashion photographer Lindsay Adler walks through understanding the face and body as well as the photographic tools available to you make your clients best side shine. These features could range from a pronounced nose, large forehead, glasses, asymmetrical features, or defined wrinkles. In this course Lindsay will walk you through: 

  • How to analyze a face and draw attention to the strengths within it 
  • Posing and lighting techniques for challenging facial features 
  • Posing and lighting techniques for the skin and body 
  • Retouching tips for skin, glasses or discolored teeth 
This course will cover many challenging features and show you how posing, camera angles, lens choice and lighting can work together to help you have confidence in every shoot.



  • This class was amazing! It was great seeing a demo class with real people. As a wedding photographer that specializes in offbeat/non traditional couples, it is always good to see how I can enhance all my clients beautiful features, and make them feel their best and confident when I am taking their photos!
  • I was so excited to get the chance to learn from Lindsay live, and this course did not disappoint! The techniques she shared were insightful and straightforward. I felt like seeing them on different subjects throughout the day really helped to cement the concepts and grow my photography tools to bring out the best in those I'm photographing. I'm not a studio photographer, but the ideas apply in natural light as well.
  • More than great, you are awesome teacher, thanks a lot!