Light and Skin


Photographing Challenging Features


Lesson Info

Light and Skin

Like I said everybody has got these little issues that they find with themselves. I'm trying to figure out how to compliment them. How to put them at ease. I know that I can do this with a lot of different things. Some of it has to do with their head position. Some of it has to do with a good or bad side. Some of it has to do with my own camera angle. But then we also are going to talk about light and skin. So some of the issues we'll talk about today would be skin related issues. And some of them are being features related issues. And some of them are body type related, I'm saying these loosely. So we're gonna talk with light and skin. There are many different ways to flatter the skin. But there are also ways to not flatter the skin. And so I'm gonna talk about your tools here. We're going to talk about both direction of light and quality of light. Those are the two main things you can control for lighting that determine how the subject's skin is going to look. So I'll give you kind o...

f your checklist. The first thing is going to be, your quality of light. Soft or hard light. For the most part, the really easy out, is soft light. Like it's just the, for the average person, photographing them with really soft light is going to be the most forgiving. And most people when they take selfies, and they find selfie like they like, usually it's soft window light or bounced light. They don't know that. I mean, they don't know it's soft light that they like. And, here's the reason. I'll show you, let me, let me bounce back real quick. I'm gonna show you the differences and tell you why. But let me explain, kind of, some of the modifiers here. Hard light is going to be light that has more contrast. Brighter highlights and darker shadows. More difference between the light and dark parts. In general, that shows issues. It exaggerates issues. Like wrinkles. And redness to the skin. And pimples. And anything like that. For the most part. Then there's something in the middle. Like the kind of in between. So that's big umbrellas, without diffusion. You've got beauty dishes. And on the right is the soft things. So that's going to be soft boxes and octo-boxes. Big umbrellas with diffusion. This is like roughly the range there. But for me personally, even though I know for most people the easiest is soft light, it's going to look best on most people, I like to not do the same thing all the time. And I don't like to have to light everyone the same. And sometimes I want mood. Like I would like to have a little bit of mood and a little bit of ambiance to my picture. And just always going with soft light won't achieve that. So I'm not just gonna say, hey, do soft light all the time. If you look at my photos, if you look at my portfolio, I use hard light a lot. I either use it carefully. Or I know that I will be retouching it. So we'll take a look at this. Okay. So here's what I'm talking about. Soft light versus hard light. The pictures I have in here, in this presentation, all of them that I'm showing you are 100% un-retouched. Just so you know. This, none of this, this is what it looked like in camera. So if you're looking at the picture on the right versus the left. I mean, there's clearly, you clearly know which one is going to be a bit more flattering to her. And I'll explain what this means. When we're looking at the edges of the shadows this is kind of where the secret lies. If you look at the hard light. In this case it's something called a zoom reflector is what we're lighting her with. Which is just a small little silver dish. When you look at this, you see how the edge of the shadow is hard. It's defined. You see the edge of it. It goes from shadow. To highlight abruptly. There's not like, there's like this much of a transition. But for the most part it's abrupt. But now watch that same no shadow. I'm gonna switch. When we use soft light. So this one was zoom reflector. Hard light. And now, soft light. With a three foot octo-box. Now, you see that little bit of the edge of the shadow. But for the most part it's kind of a transition. It's a gradient. All right. Right now I'm not really talking about features. But you have to imagine that on more of a, a granular level. We're gonna show you, I'm gonna show you what it looks like for pimples and blemishes, and issues like this. This girl is stunning and she looks good no matter how you photograph her with her skin. Differences between hard light and soft light. So hard light, you're using a zoom reflector or something like that. It's going to give you brighter highlights. Which means, somebody with greasy skin. The highlights get brighter and the shadows get darker. Which means that grease spot on their forehead is super greasy. It's just, it's gonna be super bright and specular. And you won't be able to, if somebody has a greasy forehead no matter how much makeup you're putting on and how much you, we're gonna talk about blotting papers and all that stuff, a hard light, it's gonna showcase it. So you gotta know, okay, okay, hard light's not gonna be for the greasy forehead. But also, more abrupt transitions from the high lights to the shadows. We saw that, right? You saw, high light to shadow was hard. Okay. Now imagine somebody has deep set wrinkles. The transition from the highlight on the top of the wrinkle to the shadow underneath, if it's more abrupt it's like your drawing it on. Like it's drawing on that wrinkle. So harder light's probably not going to be good for that as well. Furthermore, harder light emphases texture and dimension. Which means somebody with blemishes, it carves those out and emphases the dimension on those. So can you see why, it's, okay, if there's problems, the harder light's gonna be not as flattering most of the time? So the soft light smoother more even highlights. Gentle transitions. More forgiving on the skin. So if you look, there are many people if you look at Peter Hurley. A lot of his lighting is a little bit softer and really flat. Because he's trying to use similar lighting setups for everybody. Not that they're all the same. But similar. Because for the most part, when it's softer and flatter it's gonna be more forgiving on most people. Or if you look at Sue Bryce's light. Most of the time, it's very flat. It's very even. Very soft. Most of the time. 'Cause that's going to look the best on most people. But again I use everything. It's just knowing what tools are correct. So I'll explain this as well. So let's kind of pop forward. If you're trying to decide what's soft light versus hard light, outdoors indoors, if it's white, like a white reflector outdoors, is going to be softer than a silver reflector. So if you're shooting on location and you're trying to fill in the light on their face go with white over silver, especially if they've got a lot of texture. Usually like a high school senior kid, if they have good complexion, the silver's going to be fine. If they're breaking out, maybe the white, but you have to get a little bit closer. 'Cause if you've noticed the white reflector doesn't kick as much light in. Next thing that's going to be softer will be something with diffusion. So we've got a beauty dish here for example. It's one of the modifiers that I use all the time. If the light looks a little bit too hard on the face, maybe the forehead's a little bit greasy. And I'm like, ah man, I don't, I like my beauty dish. It's what I want to use. You put diffusion on it. Something called a sock. Which is what we have on the front of this umbrella here. You can put that diffusion on the beauty dish. And what it's going to do, it's going to soften those transitions. Makes the highlights not quite as bright. Fills in the shadows a little bit. So, diffusion. Something with diffusion is usually softer. So this umbrella, is going to be softer because of the diffusion that I have on it. Just so know, when I use umbrellas, I seldom use them just as umbrellas. I usually use diffusion because it's softer. Also, bounced light is softer than direct light. Umbrella is both bounced and it's diffused. So, this is going to be a soft light. And we're gonna talk about size of the light in a second. So, we'll get to that. So, the reason that many photographers will use something kind of like this, something kind of like it, a big light source with diffusion and it's bounced, is because that's getting you as soft as possible. It's getting you a really, really soft light source. Because on of the next rules we'll talk about is the larger the light source is, relative to the subject, the softer the light. In my learning to see the light class I talk about this. I also have a class called I think it was studio lighting 101. We talk, we kind of play this out. What I mean is, let's say this beauty dish. Okay. If I take this beauty dish, which is say the size of this, and I have it back here and I'm lighting somebody in my audience. Okay? At this distance relative to her this is not a very big modifier. I mean it's not small. But, it's far away. So it's like it's small. But as I get closer, and closer, and closer, relative to her it's bigger, and bigger, and bigger. And it's actually bigger than her head. But way back here, compared to her, it's a lot smaller than her head. It's like a smaller light source. So, if you want light to be softer, you bring it in closer. Which means for all of you, let's say that you are a photographer that shoots high school senior portraits on location and you use a single speed light with a soft box. There's a lot of photographers that shoot that. But you've got your little soft box so it's manageable on location. Trust me. I don't judge that 'cause big soft boxed on location are crazy to use. But, you know, you're trying to get a full-length shot, so you've got your little soft box here. Or back here. And you're shooting. Because it's farther away at that distance it's not as soft anymore. It's not that it's bad light. You just have to be aware of it. So if you're looking and it's, it's just, something's not right on the skin. Maybe the skin looks too hard. It's probably because relative to the subject it's smaller and it's further away. So the light probably will look nicer if you could bring it in closer. Or make it larger. Or get a bigger light source. So these are all things that you are considering. So, the closer the light is, or the larger the light is relative to subject, the softer that that light is. So you can either bring a small soft box closer. Or get a large soft box. Or a large light source.

Class Description

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.