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Direction of Light

Lesson 5 from: Photographing Challenging Features

Lindsay Adler

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Lesson Info

5. Direction of Light

Next Lesson: Fill Light

Lesson Info

Direction of Light

So let's talk about direction of light. So far my answer is, if you're looking at the quality of the skin, whether it's greasy, or there's blemishes or redness, usually just go softer, but you gotta know how to go softer on location and softer in the studio. Could be with modifiers, distance of light, balance light, all of that stuff. But then the next part of it is actually the direction of your light. That makes a difference. And I'm going to use Sue as an example again. If you've looked at some of her tutorials. Most of her light is super, super flat. For the most part, not all of it, but, pretty flat to the subject. Because flat light is often more flattering for most people. I will tell you the instances when it's not, and it's when you want to cast certain things into shadow, or maybe make certain things look narrower. So there are exceptions, but let's talk about that. So usually what you hear is there's flat light, flatter light, flat, or something that is more raking or dimens...

ional. So flat would be lower and more centered. When it goes up higher you're getting more dimension. Or, when it goes off to the side of the face you get more dimension, or higher off to the side, combinations of all of that. But the more centered it is, the flatter it is, the less you see texture, the less you see dimension. That's not always good, but we'll see some examples. So, height of the light. Flat light no dimension, raking you get more. So flat light will have less texture. You gotta kind of find a balance. For example, here's a good example of when you might want not flat light. Let's say that your subject, I've photographed several people like this. Subject's a guy, and often for guys you want a more defined jawline. And if you photograph them with a really flat light it does not define the jaw. It kind of washes everything out. Because the higher I raise up that light the more it casts shadows underneath and the more it defines it, but you gotta find a balance because at some point you raise it up so high that it's gonna be shadows in the eyes so you gotta kind of figure out what you want. But another, we're going for the more challenging features thing here, would be maybe somebody with a larger double chin, because when the light's flat, it's all lit. But if you raise it up just a little bit it might cast just a little bit in shadow and then you notice it a little bit less. So that might be a benefit. Or, another example would be if you photographed somebody with a really round face, a really round face. If you photograph them with the light centered and low, everything is evenly illuminated, so their head will look like a big circle. It's just flat and lit, side to side, everything is illuminated. But, if you start to move that light off to the side a little bit, put's a little bit of shadow here. So let's say that this part of the round face is in shadow. How your brain reads it is you actually only read them as being as wide from here to here. You can actually cut a third of the width of how you perceive their face, or at minimum it's just not as round because you're seeing it uneven. That light nice and center it's just flat and round. So there are reasons that you might want to move the light off the side, so it's finding balance. The balance you're trying to find is the light that flatters the skin, maybe that's soft and it's centered. But then lighting to flatter the bone structure, okay they have a round head, so I don't really want it to be super centered, maybe I want it off a little bit to the side. Or the mood of the image. I don't want it to be soft and dreamy, I want it to be dark and dramatic. As a photographer these are the three things that you're balancing, over and over again, you're saying, "What do I want the skin to look like," "what do I want the mood to be," "how do I want it to shape their face?" And then sometimes you have to make sacrifices one over the other because maybe the light that I want to flatter the bone structure, I gotta raise it up. So let's say we've got a guy with, an older gentleman with a lot of wrinkles, but we want something dark, dramatic and debonair. This is what we're going for. If I use a large light source, really low and centered, I get rid of all of his wrinkles, but it's really flat and soft, it's not fitting the mood that I want. Okay so if we pick another modifier, maybe the beauty dish. And this time we move it off to the side and raise it up, moving it off to the side and raising it up, it gives me more shadow, which is the mood, getting a little bit of that drama I wanted. And I raise it up a little bit, it's giving me that jawline that I want. I want it to be masculine and debonair so I raise that up for the jawline. But when I move it off to the side, get a smaller light source and raise it up, all those wrinkles are showing. So my point is I'm sure I'll get many questions as well, "What if with this person you also have glasses" "and they have a large forehead," You're piecing it together, everybody's different, then you gotta figure out what mood you want. So just know this is what your brain is balancing. Lighting for the skin, lighting for the bone structure, lighting for the mood. Okay? All right, dimension. The more centered it is, the flatter it is, the more you raise it off to the side, more dramatic. Flat reduces texture, you hear all these things. So less texture, centered, low, soft light. These are all the things you're talking about, gonna check these things off. So, let's take a look here. In this example we're going to go with the height of the light. And the first one the light is pretty, pretty low, it gets a little bit higher and a little bit higher. Notice the first one you see this, right? You see the area of loose skin underneath the chin, because it's lower. With posing what we'll talk about, one of the things you do you hear over and over again, chin out and down to stretch it. Some people you do it, still there, it's still there. But when I raise the light up, it hides it and it puts it in shadow. But, on the far right, those wrinkles are super defined. Because as we raise the light up, they got darker and darker and darker. So you find your balance of what you find to be appropriate. Let's just take a look for example what it did to his eyes, look at the bags under the eyes. See how much more definition there is to the one on the right? Because as we raised the light up it casts shadows underneath them. But, if you look back at his jawline, the jaw is more defined, and underneath the chin is darker. So it's like what it did underneath the eye is what it did underneath the chin. But you gotta figure out which one you wanted. In this case just so you know, what I'd probably do for him I'd probably instead of having a beauty dish I would go to a three foot octobox, so a little bit softer so it'd be a little bit more forgiving on those wrinkles. I'd bring it a little bit closer but I would raise it up a little bit higher so it would not have light underneath the chin but it would be so cruel to the wrinkles. So it's not like set solutions, but you're problem solving. All right, so let's take a look. So watch one more time. Raising the light up, raising the light up, so that's kind of what's happening. All right, so. So far we've talked about the qualities of light, soft versus hard, direct versus diffused, all of those things, and now we've talked a little bit in this case about the direction of the light, particularly the height. Good things and bad things about raising the light up or down. Now we gotta talk about the light side to side, okay? Again, the more centered it is, for the most part if somebody has wrinkles or blemishes, centered is usually more forgiving. But, it often makes the face look wider. So, we're gonna take a look, and it all depends on what the person's face looks like. So in this case we're back with the beauty dish, just so I can compare, on the left it's not completely centered, this is something called loop lighting, again my studio class and Seeing The Light class, I covered positions of the light, so I got your Paramount, your loop, your Rembrandt and your split. So in this case each time I'm moving it over, the shadows of the nose get a little bit longer. The shadow from the side of the face grows in. So if you actually look at this. This shadow and this shadow. So the one on the left side of the face and the nose. Each one gets longer. This one grows and this one grows, until on the right hand side here, they meet. How your brain is reading this, is right here, your brain is reading the width of his face from where this shadow is to the other side of his face. And then in the next one, it shrinks. And in the next one, it shrinks. So somebody with a really wide face, maybe you choose something with the light a little off to the side. But we'll talk about short light in a second. But what you will see in this example is we're gonna look at the wrinkles on his forehead again. As I move the light off to the side, on the right is where you see more of those wrinkles because it is raking from the side. The same thing would be true of blemishes. As you move it off to the side, the more definition it gets. So for example here's what's a little bit more flat, move it off to the side, move it off to the side, so that's in your checklist of all the things that you're balancing. The further it is off-axis with the face, the more that it might define wrinkles that are vertical or the one that I see most often with the average person is this. I don't know what you call this, but you know what I'm talking about, this right here? Is when you move the light off to the side, that becomes more noticeable. Or, the big smile lines. The more you move it off to the side, that becomes more noticeable. But, rounder face more you move it off to the side it starts to narrow. All considerations you have. Let's just take a look at the same girl with the blemishes on her skin. Take a look at the blemish in particular, which is a weird thing. I feel like nobody is ever in front of an audience saying, "Stare at this person's pimple." I don't, maybe dermatologists or something. Okay, but watch when I move the light off to the side. See how it has more dimension? It's got a little bit more shape to it, and then look at all the pores. When you move it off to the side, when you move it off to the side, the pores have more shape, and more depth, so it's the same thing. When there's problem areas, usually you want to go a little bit flatter. But depends on what those problem areas are. All right. Now, we're gonna talk about something called short light, that's kind of what we're bouncing into right now, because short light is, well, it's the nextslide so let's do this. Short light is this. Short light is when, you guys are the camera out there, all right? Short light is when the shadows on the face are coming toward the camera. Which means the light is usually someplace over here, someplace beyond the 90 degree axis. Somewhere over here. So what you'll see in this example, is here's on the left, that's broad light. On the right is something called short light. So notice, the shadows are coming toward you all because the light is behind. In this one the light is in front and the shadows go away from camera. Away from camera doesn't mean you can't see them. You can still see it, it's just not predominant. And how I'm looking at in this case is both of these were something called Rembrandt light, and so if you look there's different placement of light. They're doing technically the same thing, it's just is the face lit more or less. If you look at this. Technically, her face to you and to the camera appears wider in which one? The left one. The left one. More of her face is lit. So when somebody is lit broad light, the light in this case, in this case, the light is from the front, or more front-angle. It illuminates more of the face, there's less shadow and the face will look wider. However, if I take the exact same thing, let me move the light over here to a short light position, you see less of her face illuminated. So I can do this, you ready? This is how much you see her face lit here. Versus. It's another third narrower. It's about here, to here. So my point is. Gotta figure that part out too. This picture though, on the right hand side the short light, this isn't easy, which one is more dramatic? The picture on the right is more dramatic because there's more shadows. Rule of thumb, the more shadows there are, the more dramatic it is. What happens if you don't want a dramatic picture? Then you don't go with short light. Or, in this case you can still, and this is a thing that I learned way back in the beginning of my photography, someone's got a really round face. You can short light them so the face looks narrower, but if you don't want it to be so dramatic you fill in those shadows. You can take a reflector to fill it in, another light source so it's just not so dark. So you're balancing your mood and you're balancing the direction of the light and you're figuring out the quality of the light, and one of the other points that I was making in this previous slide. Short light shows a lot of texture. That's her forehead in short light, because it's raking back towards you, so all of the shadows are coming towards camera which means you should see all of the shadows which means you see every shadow from every texture and the wrinkles and the blemishes.

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Ratings and Reviews

Sharma Shari

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!

a Creativelive Student

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.

maria manolaros

Great class! Impressive amount of tips on posing, lighting and photoshop techniques , a real good no nonsense approach by superb teacher. Numerous amounts of thumbs ups

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