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Accents & Filler Light

Lesson 29 from: Powerful Portraits using Body Language and Lighting

Stacy Pearsall

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Lesson Info

29. Accents & Filler Light


Lesson Info

Accents & Filler Light

At the previous segment, we talked about the tenor and tone of light. And how that light and that mood of light can definitely amplify or raise and elevate somebody's personal traits. And that body language that we're reading and perceiving. as we meet that individual, we can match that tenor and tone. These were foundations for what I'm about to go over in this particular segment. Which we're going to talk about the amplifiers and also infinite possibilities. First of all, with every one of these amplifiers, it requires a foundation. That loop light, rembrandt, the paramount, the split, or any other, sort of, modification of those foundations. Let's talk a little bit about that. I like to call them my accents. These are the lights that I will basically add to my painting, like layers of paint, that help accentuate the individual's portrait. Here are just a few of those. Some of them are interchangeable. The hair light, rim light, edge and kicker. One might argue that these are all sor...

t of synonymous. I like to make a definition, or define the difference between them. Especially if I'm working with somebody in my studio, 'cause if I ask somebody, "Hey, could you move the hair light." They know that I'm talking about that light I have in the specific position that will accentuate that individual's hair. However if I say, "Can you move the rim light," and I have a rim light, and a hair light, and a kicker light going... At any rate, you can see that it can get confusing, which is why I've delineated the two here. I'm going to break these all down for you. You can see that there isn't any main light going, there isn't a paramount, there isn't a loop or rembrandt because I wanted you to see just what these accents accentuate. A hair light is pretty obvious. Wow, just like front light, it's pretty self-explanatory. However, rim, edge, and kicker are a little bit more, hmm, loose. The last photograph that I did in the previous segment would may be considered rim light. Sure it was rembrandt on the short side, but because I caught the edge of his head and the edge of his face, it was rimming his profile. Can you see it now? (audience agreeing) Okay great. Go back to the key note, please. Thank you. Moving on. There's a light that rims each side of an individual's face equidistant, and that's called or known as hatchet lighting. Hatchet sounds really aggressive to me, which is actually really great in a description of this type of light because it is just that. It's very rigid and it defines one's, not only cheekbones, but jawlines. Next, you can see the underside of the clamshell, which is very unflattering. Everybody when your kids and your hanging out with your friends that are having a sleepover, who gets the flashlight and tells the scary stories. The flashlight instantaneously goes up underneath. However, that light from underneath combined with a light over top is spectacular. So we're gonna talk about that. Lastly, fill. Fill light, self-explanatory. It's a light that is used to fill in those deep shadows. Perhaps we are shooting low key, which means it's heavy in shadow, but we don't want such deep shadows, we want to see just a little bit. We can push a little light into there or refract some light into there and fill those shadows so that we can see a little bit of those details. That's Lisa, isn't she gorgeous. Okay, Lisa has amazing hair. She has a new hairstyle every time I see her. I think the last time I saw her, she had a mohawk and I was like, "Oh my gosh I love you! "You make hair lights fun." (audience laughing) Hair lights should be positioned high behind your subject. High behind your subject and angled down. I tend to angle that light almost behind my subject. So I'm not necessarily pulling direct light. Remember there's... At the very center of that light's the most intense and then as it tapers it off, it gradates off and it's less intense. I like to use the less intense part so that it falls on the hair. And it should be directed to either down, directly behind or behind the ear. Hair lights are good for creating dimension, it defines hair texture, as in Lisa's case for instance. But it also creates separation. So, if your subject doesn't have any hair, calling you out, it's still fine, it's still called a hair light. Could be called a rim light as well, again those are interchangeable. But it creates separation. If you're doing something in the low key sphere, for instance, you're going to want to not have dark, on dark, on dark always. Sometimes you want to say, "Okay, well here's "the definition of the person's head." Pop a hair light on there just ever so gently, and now you can define between the background and the foreground. Perfect. Okay. So, here is an example of that sort of building block. This is that sort of high key background, where it's a white fully lit background, this is a subject without being lit. One thing that I... Another reason why I put this up here as an example was that I want to talk to you about proximity and bleeding. When you have light, not only does light move directionally, but it can also be bounced into another direction. If the subject is close to the background, the light has the opportunity to hit that background and then come back. In this case, while ever so slightly, you can see that happening here. Everybody with me? (audience agreeing) So we have to be really careful about how bright we have our lights, et cetera, and how close in proximity to that light source that's bouncing. In this instance I kept the white background and decided to do a... What kind of lighting is this? (audience mumbling) Loop, yes. And somebody said short. Yes. Great, so we're kind of going toward a combo of high key and a little slight drama by putting it on the short side. But then I'm like, alright, I'm gonna fully commit. This is one of those moments where I said, "This is not matching the person that I see in front of me." And where I shift, take that light out of the back, switch it to a hair light, to add that separation between my subject and the background. And then soften up the shadows a little bit by putting a little fill in there and keeping with a more of a loose loop to rembrandt style. Thoughts? Imagine though, I think, you can't really see his cool haircut too. You know what I mean, and that's part of his persona. Think about Anthony in the previous segment that we photographed and how hair was part of his, what he thought, personality. This too is a representation of him and having eliminated that part of who he is, I feel, didn't do any justice. Which is another reason why I switched it out. Okay, rim light. Rim light is when it's placed high behind your subject and angled back. However much you want spilling over is how much around the subject you're going to be. So, for instance, a rim light is going to be behind this shoulder and back. The more you have spilling over your subject's faces, the more that it is in line with the shoulder and forward. When we say spilling light, by that I mean the light that falls past what I like to call the ear point, and ends up falling on the face. It's not very flattering. In fact, go back to the drawing board and start over. Just take a half-step back... Sorry, so box for a minute, just had to get that out. Rim light can be very good for drama. It emphasizes shape. So this uniquely, he had his native american headdress and his flag, the flag of his people. And I thought he had a very, he had a very proud persona. He was originally... Sorry, backstory. He was originally from Canada, came to the U.S., joined the Army, got his citizenship, deployed to Afghanistan and now is a political science major at Syracuse University where he intends, upon graduation, to go into politics and help support his fellow Native Americans. With all of that and just his air and his grace, and of course dealing with that sort of human landscape that was presented in front of me, along with the body language, I decided to go with something more proud, stoic, tone and tenor, low key, short, and almost make him more statuesque because that's how I perceived him. So, rim light allows you, again, to emphasize shape. It also creates dimension. When we're dealing with photography, we're talking about a flat image, right. And if we would just throw light forward, it does not do any justice in terms of shape. Do you remember your elementary school art class, and the art teacher putting this sphere on a pedestal and putting a light up on it, and saying, "Okay, sketch this shape." There was the highlight closest to the light source and as it showed the shape of the sphere because the way the shadow moved around it. We want to think of our subjects in that way as well to create dimension and shape. So, starting when the first image, just sort of establishing the main light. This is an interesting pose, this is one he chose for himself. Again, empowering your subjects. I thought it was interesting. Haha. Um, anyway, I think the sword says a lot. I digress. (audience laughing) Um, yeah he wanted to be looking at it and it was funny 'cause as we were talking I was like, "Well tell me about your saber." What I loved, and sorry, and about body language and why I chose to go this route was that he was standing at attention, and then I said, "Well tell me about your saber," and he immediately went like this. And I was like, "Okay, let's embrace that." (laughing) But anyway, wonderful guy, interesting character and really fun to photograph. So I established lighting on the short side... But what I wanted to do was make sure I had it high enough so that it, sort of, filtered down and to make sure that it hit his arm down here as well. Then I turned that off to establish my accent light 'cause I wanted to make sure that I separated from my background and also to illuminate his shoulder boards, which demonstrated his rank. Lastly, putting them all together, light from the front and light from the back. So, rim light can be dramatic, create dimension, separate from the background, just like hair light. Again, people will think that those are synonymous, and they are, I just like to define the two. And hatchet lighting. A lot of people think of hatchet lighting because it's more of aggressive type of lighting that it's more masculine. As I said in the last segment, I don't believe in gender identifying light because I think it comes down to personalities. And women can be hard, men can be soft. If you haven't decided where you're at in that spectrum yet, there's a light for you too. What I'm saying is we should not be defined by styles of light. The light should match the mood of the individual you're meeting and you're interacting with. So in this case, I have an athlete and upon meeting her, she talked about her struggles in recovery from the military and how athletics, doing something like sprint triathlons for instance really brought her back. And it was inspiring for her. I could tell, and even during our photo sessions she got emotional and I let that, again, I let it happen. I'm really glad she trusted me enough to be so revealing. But there was some switch in her that I felt had resilience and an edge. And without that tenacity, she wouldn't be standing in front of me. I wanted to amplify that part of her personality. So that's why I decided to go with edging her on both sides, also known as hatcheting. The light, the main light, is where? Paramount. Paramount, oh. Awesome job. So I've got a paramount light, and I'm not gonna reveal it yet, but we're gonna talk about the other light that's in there that's also an accent in a minute. And then hatchet coming around the outside to give her a little bit of a hard edge. And then she's giving me... And we're talking about her athletics at this point, so I'm not asking her to give me... "Give me your aggressive look." Like this is us in a moment, capturing that conversation. Hatchet lighting is perceived to be empowering. It defines the jaw and separates, again, the background. This too is synonymous with rim light. It's just two rim lights used simultaneously. They are set up equidistant from your subject. So if I am setting up a rim light, I'm going to put it behind the shoulder facing back towards the subject. With hatchet lighting, it is essentially two rim lights equidistant from each other in the same position, in the same exposure, back towards your subject to create equal rimmed balance on the face. It's most successful when you're taking portraits straight forward, however, it can be utilized in a profile as well. So if you have a light coming equidistant on either side, you're now going to create a hair light and a rim light and get something very dramatic. Am I making sense? (audience agreeing) Cool. Establishing hatchet lighting. So in this case, I decided to go with almost a full frontal, just slightly out. So it's a modified paramount, turn that off. Aligned my hatchet lighting, my two rim light, equidistant from each other from behind so that it mirrors his face. Making sense? Pop that front light on. And what happened is, because that front light is not only falling on him, it's falling where? On the background. So you see the shift, from when I had the main light off, it's completely dark in the back, putting the main light back on now illuminates the background that much more. So, remember, the light doesn't stop because it hits the subject, it keeps traveling. Okay, and illuminates what's behind. I don't consider this high key, I consider this a modified low key in my opinion. It's not quite high or low. K. This is a fun one. The hatchet light example that I showed you a couple of slides ago is an example of clamshell, a modified clamshell as well. Which is really interesting. The one key thing to recognizing it, and I encourage you to do this. Grab a magazine and start looking through all those little fashion magazines, you can know that it is a clamshell style by looking at one's eyes. There's a main light from the top and there's an accent light from the bottom. Clamshell can be used as a light, also as a reflector. So you can take the main light, and again, light reflects, you have that main light it will hit that reflector, come back up and it'll illuminate pushing light, "filling light," into the shadows. So you're gonna set your light... If you want to start fundamentally figuring out how to, sort of, master the clamshell, start with paramount. You can do modifications of clamshell with any number of angles. And we're gonna go down that route in the next segment. First of all it does really fun and cool things with the eyes. Think about having a hard night, and perhaps you were up all night, taking photographs of babies. Yup, you don't look so spectacular the next day, I'm sure, without any sleep. So you got dark bags under your eyes. Clamshell that illumination will help eliminate some of those, sort of, unwanted shadows. However, I as a reporter journalist would probably embrace the dark eyes and maybe accentuate them, but for those of you who want to, maybe, eliminate that. It reduces wrinkles as well. And it's best for beauty style. And men are beautiful too. So this is not a gender identity thing. And by beauty I mean perhaps you are looking to do something in the wedding market. This is good for brides in veils and that kind of stuff too. How do you achieve clamshell? (chuckling) She'd be really mad at me right now knowing that I've showed this poor picture of her. She's so sweet though. Okay. She's a awesome former Army, now nurse, amazing woman. So I start by establishing the main light and, again, if you want to get a handle on clamshells start with paramount. I put a light from underneath and what I'm making particular points it's not to overemphasize the collar bone. The collar bone protrudes, right. And can sometimes add an unsightly shadow, so you might want to elevate that under light until that collar bone is not so in shadow. The other thing that can happen too is if there's hair, the hair can catch shadow and also be unsightly. However, if you have your lighting ratio which there's a class on that. If you have your lighting ratio correct, the light from above with fill the shadows that are cast from the under light and vice versa. To have a nice even clamshell. What do you think? (audience member mumbles) Cool. Fill light is light that is either directed or feathered towards the shadows to lighten an area or soften their appearance. When we talk about hard light, remember that is the definitive line, the light's really strong, can create a strong line and by pushing some fill in there you can soften it, so to speak. Fill light's good to use with a light, or with a white card, or, see white card, or more specular reflector. And I'm gonna demonstrate this shortly. It softens shadows and it also reduces the contrast. This is an example, short light, pushing a little bit of that rim and then reflecting light from the rim light back into the shadow so it's less aggressive.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with RSVP

Gear List

Bonus Materials with Purchase

The Foundations of Light (PDF)
The Accents of Light (PDF)

Ratings and Reviews

Julie V

I had the chance to sit in the audience and absolutely loved this class! First of all, Stacy is very funny and is really good at explaining and showing examples of the body language. I loved learning about how to read people faces and body to know more about them. And recommended the class to my husband who is a therapist for this reason. The other part of the class was so awakening, I never really thought about how having the wrong lighting for someone's personality would bring something off on the picture. Once again, Stacy was amazing at explaining why this lighting would work with one person and not another by showing us examples. If you want to bring your subject personality into life on photos, I highly recommend this class!

a Creativelive Student

This class is amazing! Stacy is an awesome person and listening to her teach and review the class concepts was so easy and fun and entertaining! It is jam packed with information on how to connect with talent and clients. Plus you get to see Stacy in action with subjects in the Demo and Shoot videos. I highly recommend this class! I learned so much and feel so much more comfortable and confident working with a variety of people now.

Jovi Jhash

wow, what an amazing class to learn from. you covered all from body language to storytelling and to reveal almost the true souls of the subjects through portraits. Amazing work and thank you so much, Stacy and creative live team. Stay blessed

Student Work