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Sculpting with Hard and Soft Light

Lesson 3 of 6

Creating Depth Through Direction

Erik Valind

Sculpting with Hard and Soft Light

Erik Valind

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Lesson Info

3. Creating Depth Through Direction

Lesson Info

Creating Depth Through Direction

So, frontal lighting is flat lighting. It's good for fill, but it doesn't do any favors to sculpt people out, and we're very familiar with flat lighting, I'll show you what that looks like now. It looks like a snapshot. All right, this isn't the best photo I've ever taken, this is with a flash, on camera, completely lighting the model from the front. And you can see here that there's almost no shadow detail. Front lighting is great because it illuminates everything. It's like if we wanna go ahead and photograph product photography, or flat lays, we wanna illuminate everything so we see the texture and we see the product. It's a good way to light the face so we see the face, but that's a way to approach a product, not a person. With a person we wanna sculpt them and make them look 3D. So we're not gonna do much flat lighting, but we will use flat frontal lighting as a fill. Say that like five times fast. All right, this direction of light now, the farther we move off-camera axis, the mo...

re contrast we get. So can I have my subject come up here, and then John or Ken can you pass me the ice light? It should be up there on the ledge. And the farther off-camera you place the light, the more contrast you create. This is what I'm talking about here. So while they're getting that set up, I wanna show you this angle of light that we've got on the screen. This is that flat three dimensional frontal lighting, thank you, that we were talkin' about, and now as I start to move the light around her watch the shadow and how much shadow comes up in the face. I've just move the light over 45 degrees, now she actually looks like a 3D person. Here she looks like a flat glamor shot. And then you can get even more contrast by moving around back to the rim. So this is rim lighting, where the light's basically behind her. So, let's go ahead and jump back here, and we'll talk about 3D lighting. The reason you want to get away from you having the flash right over your camera is 'cause we want that shadow detail, and I wanna show you just how subtly you move your lights. This isn't a big thing, it's not like oh crap, I need to move my light 10 feet over in that direction. This is flat lighting on my subject, okay? I'll try not to blind you, I'll turn it down a little bit there. And then, I just move it over a little bit and look at how we get shadow coming up on his cheek, okay? Same, he's got great nose, great cheekbones, watch this. I just move up a little bit, now I've defined him a little bit more. We don't wanna go high noon. That's not what we're looking for. We just want it a little bit. So when I'm talkin' about getting the light off camera, I'm not taking it very far, I'm just taking my speed light off my camera and literally moving it over a couple inches. Or on my light stand, over here like a foot or two. And ideally I started about 45 degrees and a little above the eye level, and that gives me a nice nose shadow, a nice cheek shadow, but I'm still getting the catch light in both the eyes. So you can go up with it, and get cool shadow, don't go down with it, we'll talk about uplighting a little bit later but this isn't a place to start with your main light. 3D lighting is all about just getting to the side, just enough to see shadow, or going up just enough to see shadow. So thank you very much. It doesn't have to be a lot, it doesn't have to go very far but it does make a huge difference with your light. And, it's all about illuminating and casting shadow, it's obvious now because we've talked about it a lot, but when we talk about lighting people, illumination is probably the last thing I think about. It's first because I just have to get my exposure right. But once my light isn't too bright or isn't too dim, I stop thinking about the light side, I only think about the shadow. 'Cause the shadow is what shapes people. So most people think, oh, light 'em here, light 'em here, light 'em here, and the shadow's an afterthought. The shadow's actually how we draw people. So the whole concept of this class is like the whole Michelangelo thing, where he saw an angel in the marble and just kind of chipped away at it until it came out, that's what we're doing, we have this beautiful subject, and we just wanna go ahead and peel away the layers and show the detail in the arm, the detail in the abs, the details in the cheeks. We're revealing our subject. Versus illuminating and casting a light on them, we have to dig them out with shadow. So here's an example of hard light, and digging them out. We've got some obliques here, we've got some ab definition, we've got great shadows in the cheeks, and that's using a hard light, that's a single beauty dish, kind of far away, we're getting cool definition there. And now, what happens if I look at this and I'm like, oh, it's too contrasty. I can see my subject but it's not very flattering. I want more of a three dimensional, I want a full experience here. Then I add a soft fill light, and it raises that up. So, now we're starting to talk about two lights. Sculpting with hard light, and filling with soft light. And now we get this three dimensional kind of hyper-real looking photography. And I do this all the time, here's a completely different shoot. See the abs on her? And the neck detail, and the great detail on the face? Look at how great those cheeks look. This was with one hard light, it was a small Broncolor Para 88, and then I have one fill light, it was a big five foot Octa like that. So I'm able to get all the depth and dimension, but I don't have to make it look gritty and too contrasty. I can still make it look pretty. So using hard light and soft light is how we define, and illuminate and fill, to control contrast. And finally we have to end the subject. We have to build some depth in there, we have to be like, where's the back side of this person? We can't see the back side of the person, 'cause we're using a 2D medium like photography, but wrapping light or rim lighting behind the person is what gives us depth. So here's our coarse graphic at the beginning, this is a competitive fitness trainer up in New York City, she had just won a contest up there, so she came in and she's like, "I am shredded, "photograph me like this." So I lit her from the front, to get detail in the abs and the legs and the face, but look how she just kind of fades away into the background, she just kind of disappears, right? That's where rim lighting comes in. This rim lighting or back lighting is what kinda rounds out our subject. We light them from front to back. I wanna illuminate, sculpt them, and then wrap it up. That's puttin' the icing on the cake or the bow on the package, that's how you finish it with your hair light or your rim light or your back light, and now we've illuminated our subject 360 degrees, and they look three dimensional. Even though we're viewing them on a two dimensional screen or on a printed piece of paper. And bless ya if you still print things, that's cool. (laughs) Most of the time we just see it on an iPhone.

Class Description

Would you like to expand your lighting repertoire beyond traditional portraits but don’t know where to start? Photographer and educator Erik Valind will teach you lighting techniques that you can use to sculpt curves and enhance features while photographing athletes.

In this intermediate class, Erik will show you how to:

  • Understand and use the tools necessary to shape light
  • Create dimensions and depth with light and angles
  • Use special effects to control contrast and atmosphere

You know how to shape light for portraiture work, but it’s time to expand your knowledge and learn to take images that don’t focus on the face. After this class, you’ll be able to control and shape light in ways you couldn’t have previously imagined.

Reviews

a Creativelive Student
 

He has good demeanor and there a few good tricks.

Travis Harvey
 

Good class, I like how he doesn't waste any time and moves through the course quickly, but covers the material needed.

a Creativelive Student
 

Erik is an incredible teacher. He is very humble and able to transmit all his knowledge in a very easy way, the course flow very well and is a combination of theory, practice and real studio issues. So happy by buying this class.