Portrait Photography Fundamentals

Lesson 40/61 - Low Light Techniques


Portrait Photography Fundamentals


Lesson Info

Low Light Techniques

We have low light situations here. So what do you do in low light? I'm just gonna give you the solutions, not really gonna get into the technical of why. But here's how you do it, here are the characteristics. You are shooting at 1.8, 2.8, right, 100 to 200 iso, I mean shutter speed, sometimes I go down to but and then what's your iso, it could be a broad range here depending if you're shooting just when you're shooting it but it could be 100 or it could be at 1600. So you don't know, you just have to figure it out yourself but you shoot the background first but I'll get into that. Okay, so once the sun falls below the horizon, I am all on video light because the sun is, the darkness. There's enough darkness at that point where your video light especially through an umbrella will show up. If it's bright sun out, seriously, if it's super bright sun out and I took my video light which you can see, if I shined it right into you, you'd go oh wow, that's strong, in bright light, it's not s...

trong at all. It's like did you turn it on, you could literally have it right here on full power and even barely, barely get a catch light, that's how strong the sun is. And so part of understanding light is you have to really understand that sun is super super strong. And then you gotta understand too that the flash is way stronger than the video light so because some people say well, why I can't I just use video light the entire way and not worry about it, it is not strong enough in bright light, literally you could put that video light on full power in the bright sun and you could barely see it if I was this okay, but so once the sun falls below the horizon it's game over, man, what is the, well this time, you can get some beautiful skies, not all the time. But in general, that's when you get the best skies. City lights come alive, right and that's how you get those bokeh balls back there, those big circles and things like that and you can use that to your advantage. Low light solutions, nose to the light, meter for the background, okay, so you see a, the sun just went below the horizon, you meter for however that sky looks good to you, right, there's no correct answer. Whatever you in your mind, wow, I love that sky that way. Then you just bring in the video light to light up your subject and you just control it by distance. I put it on full and I stick it on an umbrella and I just did what I did here on those examples. I just took it on full and just moved it farther away until what I needed, okay, you should have a fast portrait lens, 1.8 or faster, there's no excuse why you don't have one 'cause every camera manufacturer makes a low cost 50 millimeter, they call it the fantastic plastic lens. Canon has one for like 100 bucks. Nikon has one for like 100 bucks. Sony has one for 200 bucks, okay, whatever, okay. F4, if you're at F4, let's say, this is what I am I have a 16 to 35 lens and it's F4. And so sometimes I'm gonna shoot wide with the video light and the lowest I can go is F4. At this point, I'd already know I'm bumping my ISO up to 1600 or 3200 at that point, okay. If I'm using 1.8, I can pull that all the way down to sometimes or 400 or 800, usually at 1.8. Shutter speed, you gotta keep it, oh, I should've changed this, but remember you're using constant light so you can't freeze the subject with your flash. So it's gotta be whatever millimeter lens you're, if you're using a 50 millimeter lens, you gotta be at least 150th of a second, if you're using a 200 millimeter lens, then you gotta be at least one 200th of a second to keep the shake down 'cause you're using constant light. But you gotta know your limitations. Like for me because my camera has built in image stabilization on it so now matter what lens that I use, that I put it on, I've got image stabilization. I know when push came to shove I could probably go down to one quarter the millimeter of my lens. So if I was at 100 millimeters I know I could push it, I'll take a lot of photos to make sure one is sharp, I could go down to 1/25th of a second and get a shot still but everybody's physical skills are different. You have to figure out what you are, okay, alright. Flash works great for back light so if I wanna create backlight, flash is awesome for that because the flash. You need more light to create a rim light than you do to create light, a main light, rim light takes a lot of juice so that's why I love that situation where I can use my video light as my main and then if I just use one single flash, I have more than enough power to create something. I can make it look like there's sun behind me if you want to, go to Crazy Stupid Light, I show you how to do that. Okay, so when to use a video light, right? Okay so here's my flash chart here, Crazy Stupid Light. Then you use video light when you're in this area. So you'll see some areas here where you can't even use flash 'cause it's too powerful, what do you do in those situations, that's when video light takes over. So every bag should have a flash in it and a video light and you can shoot in all situation because nowadays, with technology, can't we set our iso to 1600? Of course we can, I've got one that goes to the half a million ISO so what's 1600 now, 3200, no problem now. So that's why constant light has become more and more, everybody's starting to turn toward constant light because of technology and you have to learn how to use it. And it's way easier to use, okay? Alright so let's keep moving on. So when I use, like I said when I'm using video light as the main and I'm using flash power, so when I use the video light to light up my person and I'm using flash to light up my background, my default is when I'm using both together, flash and video light, I just stick the flash at 1/64th power. And that usually gives me a nice highlight or rim light. As the main, you saw before, it just totally blew it out. But as a highlight, at 1/64th power or lighting up a background, 1/64th power works great, okay. So a small amount of light is needed when you're in a low light situation, you don't need a lot of light. So a flash is overkill a lot of times in my opinion. It's too hard to control, alright, so here you go. What it is, the sun's below the horizon, I got a beautiful metering for the background. I just take my video light, put it on full, put it through an umbrella, no body wants to hold it for me because we all wanna shoot the model so I got no assistant or anything and bam, there it is, okay. There's a shot, easy, it's not, it's just so easy. It's mind boggling, right, how you can get these shots. Same thing, meter for your background and then you just bring in the video light as needed. Meter for the background, just, you can see how I put that on top trying to get like a butterfly shadow there. Catch lights in her eyes so I can still get some shadow on her cheek there, beautiful, okay. Same thing, I meter for these bright lights. She's dark, bring my video light in to light her. Use your video light like a reflector, right? So what do you do with a reflector, oh, it's too bright. Move it back or fade it off or whatever. It's the same concept as using a reflector, okay. It's not difficult at all so here's a situation, right, we're shooting in LA China Town here. This is my mentoring group, we meet every month and decided to do this shoot, what do I got. Video light through an umbrella, okay, oh, wow. I love those lanterns in the background. I bet those will come in handy later. But on this one, I'm showing you a wide angle shot where I really love this, right? I know there's some post processing involved where I gotta take that and duplicate it there and take that and do, I mean, whatever but I say hey, this one has some good potential to it, right so what I do, expose for the background, put my video light in there, light her up. It's great, now I wanna use those lanterns in the background so I could use my 85 lens, right and I'm fairly back and that starts to blur that out and then because I have to go farther back because there's two of them but now if I use a single person I could get even closer and the closer you are to the subject, the more these bokeh lights are gonna get bigger and rounder and so then the next shot I got that with my 85 'cause I got really close. So the closer you get, the more the shallower depth of field that you have, okay, so that's what I was saying, that yeah, I'm still at an 85 millimeter but I'm like feet back, see how in focus that is still and then closer, blurrier.

Class Description

Want to be able to go into any situation with your camera and have the confidence to know you’ll get the shot? Award-Winning photographer Scott Robert Lim goes in-depth on the four foundational elements you must conquer if you want to develop your creativity and style.

Scott will give you the guidelines you need to master:

  • Lighting
  • Posing
  • Composition
  • Post-Processing

Once you master these fundamentals of portraits, you free up your mind to get creative and ultimately get the shot.


1Class Introduction 25 Shots That WOW 3Four Fundamentals of Photography 4Create a Visual Impact with Composition 5Importance of Foreground and Background 6Create Depth in Landscape Images 7Photos Don't Always Follow the Rules 8Composition Practice Exercise 9Composition Critique of Student Images 10Keys to Posing 11Shoot: Classic Elegance Female Pose 12Shoot: Modern Female Pose 13Shoot: Rollover Female Pose 14Female Hands & Arms Poses Overview 15Shoot: Hands and Arms Poses for Female 16Seven Posing Guidelines 17Headshots Poses with Male Model 18Shoot: Headshot for Male Model 19Shoot: Sitting Poses for Male Model 20Shoot: Leaning Poses for Male Model 21Shoot: Standing Poses for Male Model 22Keys to Couples Posing 23Shoot: Couples Posing 24Couples Transitional Posing Overview 25Shoot: Transitional Posing 26Keys to Group Posing 27Accordion Technique with Groups 28Shoot: Accordion Technique 29Shoot: Best Buds Pose 30Shoot: Talk with Your Hands Pose 31Shoot: Lock Arms and Hold Hands Pose 32Run at the Camera and Dance in Your Seat Poses 33Shoot: Pod Method Pose 34Posing Critique of Student Images 35Introduction to Lighting 36Soft vs Hard Light 37Difficult Lighting Situations 38Bright Light Techniques 39Overcast Light Techniques 40Low Light Techniques 41Lighting Techniques Q&A 42Drama Queen Lighting 43Laundry Basket Lighting 44Make it Rain Lighting 45Smart Phone Painting with Light 46Mini LED Bokeh Lighting 47Choose the Right Lighting System 48Hybrid Flash System 49Innovative Accessories 50Gear Overview 51Theatrical Post-Processing 52Ten Keys to Post-Processing 53Essential Skills to Post-Processing 54Headshot Post-Processing 55Bright Light Post-Processing 56Flat Light Post-Processing 57Low Light Post-Processing 58Introduction to Fine Art Post-Processing 59Light & Airy Fine Art Post-Processing 60Dark & Moody Fine Art Post-Processing 61Post-Processing Critique of Student Images


Vitor Rademaker

This course is amazing! Scott is extremely straightforward. He goes directly to practical problems, tips and etc. He explains every thing very clearly, and he is also very funny and charismatic, making you laugh as you learn. He shows that you don't need a lot of expensive gear to make very nice pictures. So I have saved some money as well, cause I was about to buy some gear that I wouldn't need right now. It is for sure one of the best photography courses I have ever attended to! I highly recommend! Thanks a lot Scott! You are the best!


I have purchased a number of classes, this being one of them. The quality of the information was good and the level at which Scott spoke was appropriate for me. Having a course sylibus would add greatly to the value, which usually is not part of the programs I've purchased including this one, unless I've missed it. I believe the speaker should be required to provide one. After watching the videos, much of material can be recaptured by seeing it in writing. I would like to hear back from Creativelive their thoughts. In sum, good topic, good speaker, good technical audio and video quality by Creativelive


Another fantastic class with Scott Robert Lim! The combination of his knowledge, willingness to share, passion & entertaining personality makes him a top choice for photography education. Learning not only the "what", but the "why" & "how" can transform one's entire approach towards MAKING pictures. A constant inspiration to get better & better through practice.