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Science of Light

Lesson 4 from: Photographing Challenging Features

Lindsay Adler

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Lesson Info

4. Science of Light

Next Lesson: Direction of Light

Lesson Info

Science of Light

I do want to clarify for anyone watching, again, I'm not saying that you have to light with soft light. Just know, if you're looking at something, and we're talking about challenging features. More often than not, I lean toward softer for more challenging skin textures, for example. Or you know you have to retouch. I'm one of those people that I don't think having to retouch is wrong. It's just the issue, like showing them, and they're like, "Oh, my skin!" That's where I take issue with it, but man, if I want hard light and it's raking and I see all that texture? I'm fine knowing that that mood is what I wanted and I'll retouch it, but it's hard with the average person, especially if they're self-conscious about it. So these are just some solutions to make it look better in camera. So remember, larger the light sources relative to the subject, softer the light. Smaller the light sources, harder the light. Here's another example on location, so you don't just think I'm talking about in ...

the studio, 'cause if I want softer, I'd go from beauty dish to big umbrella. If I want softer, I go from that big umbrella far away to that big umbrella real close. But also on location, there's a situation you get into like this. So here she's lit by the sun, and it's just direct sunlight, and even though the sun is obviously, we know it's huge, because it's so far away, it's a pinpoint in the sky. 'Cause the relative distance, it's tiny. Which means if you look at that shadow on her cheek, it's super abrupt, like it's a very abrupt shadow. If she has wrinkles, they show. If she has a greasy forehead, it shows. If she has wrinkles, it shows, all of that. But I can pop up a diffuser, and what happens is if I take a diffuser, when the sun hits the diffuser, it becomes the size of the diffuser. It not only softens it, right? The highlight's not as bright, the shadow's not as dark, but that diffuser becomes a light source, so right now, it's close to her, so it's big, and it's diffused. If you look at these side-by-side, the light is completely different. This is going to be far more flattering on most people. So you can also do it with your speed lights, bringing something closer, reflector, white, and closer, or in this case, diffusing. Always to get softer light. Here's another example, okay, let's take a look. So we've got a four by six foot softbox. To a three foot softbox. Here's what you're looking at that you didn't see. Watch her forehead. See the texture on the forehead there, where the highlight is. You've got a lot more texture in the smaller light source, because it's harder. Or if you look at the shadow from her nose, it's softer with the larger light source. It's harder or more defined with the smaller light source. So I'm just saying, know these things. You're looking at your photo, going, "Oh, man, (tsks), I need to make the light softer," you've got a bunch of different tools to do it. Let's keep popping onto this. So this was also another way to make a light source look softer. When you pull it away, look how the light gets harder. When it's close, it's softer, less texture, the transition of the shadows are softer. You pull it away, everything gets more specular. That light, to me, is not as nice as the light when it's closer. So if you are new to studio lighting and you're just got your light nice to you 'cause why not, let's put it next to me, you don't know any different, probably your distance is going to make a difference. I will say, my first studio lighting, I had a seven foot, I think it was a seven foot octabox, but I had eight foot ceilings, so I just had a huge light that was in the room, and it looked decent on everybody, but it didn't look great on anyone. (laughs) 'Cause it's just a big soft light source, so no one looked terrible, but I had no control 'cause it just lived right next to me. (laughter) So eh, it wasn't terrible, but I wouldn't recommend it. Okay. So let's just talk a little bit more about texture and contrast. So I said anything silver will give you more texture. Anything white will you give you less. Anything direct gives you more texture. Anything diffused or bounced gives you less. So we got all that. It's the rough idea, so you can apply it to everything. Here's an example of this, looking at different modifiers. So the one on the left is the zoom reflector, like a little silver dish. Highlight on the forehead's really bright. See any texture on her face, and the shadow's really defined. And then we pop over to a white beauty dish like I had here, it gets a little bit softer. You go to a small softbox, it gets even a little bit softer, and you go to a big softbox and it gets much softer. I don't know if anyone has a preference, like maybe someone actually likes the light on the left. I mean, the light on the left could be if you're trying to emulate sunlight and do a fashion shoot like that, but for the average person, they're gonna like something more to the right. Something that direction. But here's where it comes into play for, I've been using younger women, which is what I said irritated me about every tutorial I ever saw when I was first starting, so let's take a look at an everyday person. In this case, first one, zoom reflector, beauty dish, softbox. Let's take a look at the close-up though. See how on the left-hand side, the wrinkles are more noticeable. The harder light defines wrinkles more than a softer light. And the light is in the exact same position for each one. All I did is change the modifiers. So you can see how that works. Same thing, let's talk about someone that has a little bit rougher texture skin. And it's not like she has terrible skin, but got a little blemishes, we have some pores. In this case, I'm using a zoom reflector, like that little silver dish thing, and then we switch to a softbox, so you notice it just a little bit less. Those pores aren't as defined. The blemishes aren't as defined. By the way, one of the things that happens is, the little silver zoom reflectors, like little light sources, or the direct sun, or anything like that, when you increase contrast, silver, small, hard, one of the things that happens is it increases saturation. Have you guys ever done that in Photoshop, where you select someone's face and you increase the contrast to give it pop, and now the color changed? Or like a part of the photo where you do the dress and you pop the color and now that part of the dress is more richly saturated? It happens in Photoshop, but it happens in real life too. It's just, those two are correlated. The same thing is if you're photographing a hot air balloon on an overcast day, the pictures just aren't as vibrant. But on that sunny day, those colors pop. Okay, so there's good and bad reasons that you might want sun or soft. Well in this case, when you are looking at this, when I pick a higher contrast, look how the blemish is redder. The saturation of the skin is redder when you have something that's higher contrast. So higher contrast is higher saturation. If somebody has rosacea to their skin, or they're just really blotchy, or they drink a lot (laughs) (laughter) Whatever, you don't know. Whatever it is, they've just got lots of red skin. In that case, you're gonna wanna go with something softer, because it's not going to emphasize that skin tone. Now of course, you can't get rid of that redness in camera. You can have makeup done for that individual, which is one of the things I do as a portrait photographer. You can't hire me without having your makeup done. And usually I don't let you have your own people, 'cause I did a portrait session recently where, "Oh, I'll have my people do it," and they showed up, I did the whole session, and they didn't like their hair and makeup. And so then what can you do? Anyway, so I have everybody get their hair and makeup done. The other thing is then you know in that instance that you do have to fix some of it in post if they don't want it to be there. I'm not saying you can't ever do anything in post. You gotta know when it's appropriate. Okay. By the way, I did an entire class on skin, which was Skin 101: Lighting, Retouching, and Understanding Skin. I did it a couple years ago, so if you want to know about white balance, flattering skin, angles of light, and modifiers, and retouching it, and how to photograph people of different skin tones, different people, different skin tones together in direct sunlight! For the most part, not that like, listen, if you're new to this, feel free to ask questions, but I'm gonna build this. My goal is actually, by the end of this class, for the most part, as I'm going through things, you'll be like, "Oh yeah, I already "know what she's going to say." That's a good thing because that means you see that these lessons are being applied. I actually have for each of these features a checklist. It's going to ask you, what do you for the lens, what do you do for the light, and after doing this, and then you'll hear it a bunch of times, you'll be like, "Oh yeah, okay, I got it now." Yes, Kenna? Just a question from Delta Dave. When it comes to photographing men, what do you recommend for makeup? We were just talking about makeup for women. Sure, for the most part, most men are like, "Oh, I don't want makeup done," like (laughs) they feel uncomfortable with it. At minimum, what I do if someone's greasy, there's something called HD powder, so HD, high definition. They use it on me, they use it on TV, and what it does is it just cuts down on shine and greasiness. So I definitely recommend that. If somebody has bad skin, you can offer makeup, but honestly most of the time for a guy, you're just doing it in post.

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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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