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Shoot: Determine Lighting

Lesson 27 from: Powerful Portraits using Body Language and Lighting

Stacy Pearsall

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Lesson Info

27. Shoot: Determine Lighting


Lesson Info

Shoot: Determine Lighting

So what I'm going to do now is going to walk through the series of lighting and you are going to be the subjects! I love this, I've been waiting for it all morning. I see you staring me down. Guess what? Mister I'm-Sitting-On-My-Hands-Again. (laughing) Yeah, come on up here. All righty. So, how'd you sleep? Reasonably well. Good to see you. So, the French president's in town. Yes. Macron, right, yeah? And you said you came here by way of France. I did, yes. Did you cue into that on the news or were you busy sleeping? Sleeping. (laughing) All right, so, tell me a little bit about you, if you were to light yourself. (chuckling) Obviously I would try to present myself in the best way possible. I'm not quite sure how that would be. Something a little soft, I think. You want soft? (laughing) That's what you see in the mirror? Okay, all right. I said I was trying to flatter myself. Oh, gosh. Let's ask the peanut gallery. Hey, y'all. You've spent the last day and a mor...

ning. How would you light him? Let's start from the very beginning. Let's start with tenor. Hard or soft? Hard. Ha ha, that's what I thought too. We're on the same page. Now, let's talk about the tone. High or low? Low. We are definitely on the same vibe. He's like, I don't see myself that way. (laughing) Don't worry. We're gonna make you look super good. Okay, so we're starting out with the tenor. We're going with a little bit more hard. We don't have to go with harsh. There's a difference, between hard and harsh, and remember, hard isn't unflattering. Sure. It's just gonna make your eyebrows look amazing. And then we're gonna go with tone. We're gonna go with a low-key tone. So, you, so what is it about his body language and presentation that made your mind go that route? There's microphones, I'd like to hear your opinions. My first thought was his eyebrows, that they would be really nice accentuated with a butterfly light or something. Okay. So it was more about his facial attributes than his personality, for you. How about a personal, anything in his personality that you think made your mind go that direction? You're like, I don't want to say this in public. The mic. He's a bit reserved. Reserved, exactly, okay. But I also think that you're the strong, silent type. I like to think so. Yeah, and... (laughing) I mean, I've had the luxury of observing you, and I think that you're very thoughtful. You're constantly thinking, but you're also not one to throw your hat in the conversation willingly. I think you are reserved, in that manner, but I also know that, that when you do speak, it's thoughtful and concise, I imagine, though I've never had a really lengthy conversation. I think you're probably right. I think, okay, good. So what we're going to do now is we're going to start by creating that low-key type of light. You said your instinct is to go more of a paramount direction. Does anybody else have any thoughts or considerations? Yes. I was thinking a Rembrandt. A Rembrandt? Would you go short or broad? Somebody said short. Okay, good. So you said Rembrandt, why? Because of the... What's that? Because of the nose. Because of, you have a shapely nose, she says. It's a very nice nose. And you said short, why? I love the angles on his face. Okay. I like the angles in his face. Okay, so, y'all. Let's, of course, some of these facial landscapes are important when we're considering light. These things have to factor in. But what we want to factor, the first and foremost, is personality. Two hands went up, I like this, share the microphone. No, I'm just kidding. I think he's got a cheeky side to him so maybe split lighting. Oh, I, okay! Because he's reserved, but, has a cheeky side. Okay, we're... I actually was gonna say split as well, so... Interesting, okay! So Mister Dual Personality. (laughing) All right. Let's do this. There's no wrong or right answer. Each and every one of us, when we meet individuals, we'll have an idea of who we think they are, what we're seeing, and what they're presenting in the body language and how we're interpreting that. So we're gonna try all of these thoughts and then we're gonna see what works best. If I can switch over to capture, on the screen... Are you ready? I think you are, too. You're gonna be so awesome. Right, I'm gonna swing this light out front. (imitates squeak) Prepare yourself, the nuclear light is coming on. (squeaking) There's hamsters in the back. They're working very hard right now. (giggling) All righty, so. Your body language is saying what right now? Slightly worried about what's gonna happen but I'm not... (hearty laughing) At least you know yourself, and don't do that, no. But, there's kind of two things really because I probably give up a different vibe from the actual sometimes, because I actually, I suppose I quite enjoy being the center of attention in some ways. Okay, I like that. Can we get a standard chair in and swap the stool out please? Go ahead and stand up for me. Switch. Is it heavy? No, it's not heavy. Oh my god, it's so heavy. (laughing) Oh, okay. I'm gonna give you this sitting apparatus. I want you to move it and sit it in whichever way you feel comfortable. You sure about that? (laughing) (laughing) I'm happy. You're good? Yeah. All right, then I'm good. All right, so what I'm also gonna do is I'm gonna give you this apple box and if you want to kick your feet up, you can do that. You can put the foot up, you can relax, you can, well, ready for childbirth. (laughing) Perfect. Maybe, what do you think about coming this way just a little bit and dropping that left foot down? Good. Okay, all right. So, when we drop our arm back a little bit, we're opening up our chest, but I think with you, what I want you to do is maybe, what do you think about bringing that forearm over? Yeah, let's try that for a minute. Good. So. What did you get into last night? Um, eating. Oh. (laughing) My favorite pastime. Did you cook said food? No. Went out to a bar in Ballard. Do you ever cook? Oh, yeah. Good. So right now, I am looking at the light, and how that direction is coming down onto his face. Now, as you know, if you bring your head, if you bring your chin up for me, that shadow diminishes, and the more he brings it toward me, now it's becoming front light. You know why it's front light? Because his face is facing this way, and the light is in the front of him. Now, if you bring your chin back this way, you can see that shadow of the nose now connect with the cheek shadow. Everybody with me? What light is this? Rembrandt. Awesome, stay right where you are. Don't move. Not an inch. Now, if it's Rembrandt, is it on the short or the broad side? Short. Short side. You guys are so smart. You're hired. Okay, I have my 85 mil on, so I might have to like maneuver myself or switch lenses. Bear with me here, yep. Pardon me. Such angels, oh, by the way, when I do shoot, I typically shoot with two cameras so I'm not wasting time, fiddling around, because I'd rather be engaged with my subject in what? Conversation. Yes, exactly. And the more that I'm fiddling around, changing out lenses and stuff like that, the less time I'm actually making good eye contact and body language and having that exchange, so, the unique thing is that I'm tethered, so to go back and forth between two cameras would be rather difficult, so now I'm doing it the old school way, like I did in college, when I couldn't afford two cameras. Okay. So you had a frozen dinner in the microwave and it was fantastic. No, bar in Ballard. Oh, you did say that. What's bard? Bar, a bar... Ballard? An area of... It's... (laughing) Is it the accent? Yes. Okay. (laughing) (motor whirring) (shutter clicking) (motor whirring) (shutter clicking) So right now, we're only using one light. That light now has just fallen into a loop since he changed the direction of his face, do you see that? But the shadow of his nose is now no longer connected properly to that cheek. If I were to have you bring your chin just a little back this way. Right a little bit more, oh, oh no, now we're getting into a serial killer, no, come back. (laughing) Aye-yi-yi, oh, ooh! Why'd you just drop your chin? Are you feeling embarrassed? A little bit? No, I do. So, when did you decide to go sans hair, or when did that happen? Probably about... Yeah, how old was I? Probably in my late 30s. (shutter clicking) And you're 35, so that was recent. So that's Rembrandt. Okay, so somebody also said we should try out what light? Split. Split light. (tongue clicking) What kind of talks are you having with these people when we're not in this classroom? Okay, in order to do split, oftentimes, you can do split short. You can do split direct, and by that I mean body language. So I'm gonna keep you in this particular position and split the light on you this way, but it's, you're gonna see the difference when then I'm, rotate his body direct to camera, and to see the difference, so you can stay exactly where you are. I'm gonna have to... Do you guys mind helping me out? Actually, you know what, I'll get my exercise. Stay right where you're at. I'll move it myself! (imitates scraping) I lost a shoe! (giggling) Oh, I'm so glad you can laugh at me. Because I laugh at myself all the time. Now, split lighting is, actually, you need to get to the sub-sect's, sub decks? Get to the sub deck's solder. You need to get to the subject's shoulder so that you're now creating, and you're just gonna keep looking toward that monitor for me, so that the light is split. Now, remember I talked earlier. Here's the light source, I'm sorry, I'm putting that right into your eyeballs. That source of light is coming directly out of here. The soft box has this black, for, like, man, it's a flag, essentially. It tells and channels those light rays where to go. However, once that light ray gets past that flagging, it will still continue to spray off. Remember when I showed you how the light gradiates out? It's still doing that. Now, here's direct, and now I'm just gonna feather that light off a little bit. You see the difference there? Ooh. Drama! (laughing) Now, I'm just gonna keep pushing it back until I have exactly what I want. I need this light to be a little lower and the light stand's not gonna let me accomplish that. This is a pretty tall C-stand. So if I bring the light here, I like to have, when I do split lighting, the light sort of in line with the ear. It's a good telling mark for me. I'm using the most intense part of the light and it's level, so it's, all the light's falling on his face equidistant. Watch the difference as I raise it up. You see, now it's kind of falling onto his brow, but how if I bring it here, it changes. Now, if I feather the light off a little bit, it becomes more dramatic. You see his eyes going into shade a little? Sketchy... (scattered laughing) If I can call upon somebody in the wings, oh, look at you, thank you so much! Could you hold that for just a second? It's heavy, ooh, just kidding. I love messing with them. Okay. So this is called split and short. It's actually giving the effect of, we're gonna get into this in the next segment, rimming, which is totally dramatic. (shutter clicking) You look really intense right now, I'm just saying. Now he's smiling. Split personality for sure. (giggling) (shutter clicking) Hmm, shifty character. (scattered laughing) (shutter clicking) That's it. That's the one. Okay. So that's short split, thank you, we'll just put that right back on the stand. You got it, he says. Okay. Now I'm going to have you rotate square. When I was a young person, this wouldn't be so complicated. And in fact, I'm gonna leave this apple box out of the way for the moment. Thank you so much for your help and support and... You got it. Did you break it? I don't think so. He broke it. Maybe. He broke it! You have to buy it. (giggling) What do you think? Of your picture? Oh. Yeah. Could lose a bit of weight, but... (laughing) Wow, focusing on the attributes. Okay. So again I'm gonna run into the same problem of having the height of this light, but let's just go with it, I'm gonna embrace it. (motor whirring) Because the problem I'm having right here is true split lighting shouldn't have any fall over the middle of the face. This to me is bothersome. The only reason that's happening, again, is because the light is elevated past the ear point. I might have to have you come back again, extra hands. Joe McNally calls this the voice activated light stand. Hi. (grunting) Okay, see that? Yeah. Okay. Sorry. You're gonna get your arm workout today. Can't wait. Is it exciting? Okay. And feathering off just a hair, that's it. Oh, that's intense. Okay! So you're about to see a big difference. I'm gonna flip to my portrait lens. (plastic rattling) I'm thinking I need to do another class all about lenses and portraits and how we pick those. But today, can everybody, well, except for you, sorry. You don't get to see. (laughing) Now, body language. Your shoulders are nice and relaxed, which seems to say that you're, I can see the tension in your brow. Keep it, that's fine because we're going with that dual person, oh, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa! (laughing) (shutter clicking) Okay, bring your chin down just a little bit. This way. That way. This way. No? No, no no, no. (laughing) (shutter clicking) I'm gonna have you bring the light forward just a hair. Toward me, and then, rotate it away from me. Keep going, right there, good. So what I just did, light has direction and intensity so right now I'm asking him to feather the light off on the face just a little bit so it's less harsh, but I'm also by doing so, redirecting the light so that it falls behind him and illuminates the paper that much more. See, you have to think beyond your subject and where the light falls beyond your subject as well. And that, too, creates... We have tenor and tone. I've gone from a very low key backdrop where it's only a little bit of light spilling to a lot more, just wait. Rotate your chin this way just a bit for me. Keep coming. Come back. Now I'm messing with you again, I'm sorry. Boy, you're intense, goodness. (scattered muttering) (laughter) You had bar food last night? Mm-hm. Are you married? Oh, you had to think about that. Sorry, I didn't... Did you not hear me? No. Oh, that's okay. (shutter clicking) (giggling) So, what I did here is, thank you, we can put that back on the light stand and bring the lights up. Don't move. What I did here, is actually the, the image that's coming across on this laptop, I think is more indicative of the capture that I'm doing on the camera, because it has a true low-key, you can see that there is much more of a definitive line between the light and shadow, and that's what direct, low-key is all about. See this? By changing the angle, let me get this pulled up here. (light stand squeaking) Squeak! By being in line and eye level, that's basically also a body language and how we translate that individual and that persona to the viewing person. That's scary. (laughing) That's how they think of you! (hearty laughing) Now, I elevated myself ever so slightly and I shot down on him. Now look at the tilt of his head. By shooting down on him, I am, like when we shoot children, making him seem just a little bit more approachable, a little bit more meek. Does this one seem less aggressive? Yeah. Exactly. Also, the tilt of his head is what, body language-wise? Listening, inviting, what was the other words here? Approachable. Approachable, good. Why is that again? The neck. The neck, oh my gosh, I love you guys, everyone gets air high fives. (sighing) You guys are amazing. So, if I want to say, okay, I think of you as being reserved, so I'm gonna go with a slightly lower key tonality for you, I'm going to say, I want to have definitive lines, I'll go with the harder light. Doesn't mean harsh, just means hard. But I also want to amplify the fact that this dual personality that we see within you, that's smiling one minute and then seemingly stern the next, is also very approachable. By changing my angle in which I'm photographing him, also changes how we perceive them. If I were to shoot low, I am going to be shooting up at him which then he will look elevated. And when somebody raises their size, body language-wise, what are they doing? They're increasing their stature. They are poofing their plumage. They are standing their ground. It's conceived to be more aggressive. So for power poses, that's why when you see super heroes being photographed, they're photographed from around chest level or lower, up. Standard corporate portraits, for instance, are always at eye level.

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