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Direction of Light

Lesson 9 from: Skin 101: Lighting, Retouching and Understanding Skin

Lindsay Adler

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Lesson Info

9. Direction of Light

See how a light source and its position dramatically changes the appearance of a person's skin.
Next Lesson: Makeup: Basics

Lesson Info

Direction of Light

so we just talked about quality is it soft light is a hard light is in between is it very contrast e is it very diffused very diffuse is going to be much more forgiving not as bright highlights and shadows where contrast you're going to see texture more you're going to see wrinkles moore but it does help you shape features carved out cheek bones and jaw line you've got that balance in there okay direction of light has to do with where the light is placed in relationship to the subject in direction of light is what shapes the face I usually think of like quality like kind of sets the mood defines the overall kind of textures to the skin where direction in direction is definitely going to shape the face and it's how you control or create shadows so again it comes down to a balance flat light flat light means if I am the camera and you are my subject it's going to be pretty much centered and above my camera like even to you it's not high it's not lo it's not left it's not right it's latte...

kind of in between on access with the camera flat light is much better for not showing texture flat light is what helps best if you don't want to see a lot of wrinkles or a lot of blemishes but flat light doesn't nothing to shape the face the face is very one dimensional and that is tends to be a bad thing so you're trying again to find the balance if I bring the late up too high or too far to the side it's going to create texture is going to show me texture however if I have it too centered it's boring and flat so what do you looking for in your photograph and have a couple good examples we can take a look at here so the balance between letting the flat of the skin lighting the flat of the bone structure structure and later the mood of the image these air the main things you're looking at which light looks best on that person's skin but is that really showing their cheek bones and jaw line based on where I put that light is that is that what I want and if I'm going for dramatic is that setting the mood if I'm going for soft you're constantly balancing these three things for skin and that's why I always come back tio sometimes the mood I want to achieve it's not going to be flattering on the skin and I'm going to have to retouch for the mood that I'm looking for or other times I want to get it just perfect and flattened glowing in camera and so I would maybe go flatter so I have some good examples of that okay s so flat light we're gonna talk tomorrow about kind of oily skin she has a little bit of oily skin here we'll talk about that tomorrow but what I want you to look at here is kind of this blemish and mold and more importantly all of her pores so this latest flat it is a little bit above camera but it is straight ahead straight ahead to her not off to the side not super high but when I pulled that light way off to the right hand side you see how you see a lot more pores so they're kind of filled in when it's flat in other words the light comes off to the side it's raking across and that's what you start seeing poors shadows make poor show up more shadows make blemishes show more shadows make everything show up more I don't see a lot of blemishes don't see a lot of pores and I see a lot more there just because I moved the the light off to the right to give kind of a rembrandt look so then maybe what it comes down to is like okay well I really want that rembrandt look but it's not so flattering on her skin to maybe do the rembrandt but with a softer light source maybe I'm going ok I have to rake across the skin because I want that shadow but instead of a silver dish maybe maybe let's try it with a soft box and see if it gets a little softer so we go back to the previous one going back to your light modifier choice and I get even more detail on the skin even more texture when I take that light and actually put it behind her this is something called short light and you can think of it this way if the shadow side of the faces towards the camera it's short like so here the lightest from behind the shadows towards the camera and you see even more texture so let's go through it one more time flat kind of rembrandt and in short light so the direction and this is not these aren't particularly blemishes this is just her skin pores and it makes it that much difference all right also take a look at what he did to her forehead it brought out I mean that would be that's a pain to retouch for sure so these are things I'm taking a look at and trying to balance that whole mood versus light modifier versus how much retouching I'm going to do and that's part of how I make judgments okay take a look at this gentleman again usually when people are thinking of direction of light there thinking ok flat to the camera the further I take the laid off to either side the more shadow I get the more texture I get and also the more dimension so anything that creates shadow creates more dimension but it creates more texture but a lot of people forget up and down raising the light higher also creates more shadows and also creates more dimension so when I'm photographing beauty beauty models I raised the light up pretty high because it carves out there cheekbones and it carves out there jawline it's really flattering to the bone structure I would not do the same for an individual with a lot of wrinkles because all of a sudden I'm anymore dimension to their face and more dimension to their wrinkles so they're going to look more three dimensional along with his face so if you look at this here as I raised the light up everything becomes more defined on him and same thing here so as they write raised the light up the light creating is raking down the face instead of from the side like before and the shadows underneath become more defined well what happens if you want more dimension but you don't like that look there are some things you khun d'oh this is just kind of understanding the direction of light so remember it's both side to side and up and down and watch the side to side so in this case had the beatus centered off to the right a little bit off to the right a lot and watch the wrinkles on his forehead they become more defined as the light breaks across so all of it is something to consider it's all the balancing act so kind of keep these things in mind and kind of repeat them okay if I want less texture I want a softer light source and I wanted to be flatter if I want more texture or more definition I want a crisper light source and I need it to be further off access from the camera and then there's everything in between and that's what your job photographer is to figure out what the in between is so less lectured lightest center light is low light a softer less contrast larger light source more texture off access for left right hire low a contrast the modifier or small light sources okay so just for example of when I'm shooting beauty photography these are just a couple images that I've shot before I will choose my modifier based on what's most important so over here on the right hand side I was using a beauty dish b this is a little bit more crisp and it was pretty high up and the reason I wanted it so high up was were these like amazing cheekbones if I had my late really low you wouldn't be able to see it the lights flat it wouldn't be carving out those cheekbones however by raising that later really high I could see every port and all of any of the imperfections in her skin but I knew I'd rather have the shape to her face and retouch more whereas over here I was looking for really really glowing light really even when I wanted a soft look so I used a soft box and you can see it in her eye and I used it flat towards camera because I didn't need a lot of drama or a lot of shape all right so I'm going to demonstrate that for the next fifteen minutes and I would be happy to take questions I think a couple questions now so I can make sure I condemn o them you have a question about the modifiers is it the shape of it like versus the square soft boxes versus after donald is that creating what was their preference for you or so okay so an ox like a knocked the box it gives you little bit less control over the shadows because it's round and wraps around a little bit more where's when I have a rectangle what I can do is I could have it vertically and it won't wrap around the face I could have a little more control over the shadows or if I wanted to wrap more I turn it horizontally so if you look at like a lot of vanity fair and a lot of those things so use octave boxes and they have kind of a glowing light versus if you're looking for rembrandt or something more crisp and they're going to go with a rectangle um I should both bringing forward a little okay I think over there yeah absolutely so a couple people would ask if you could just suggest if you were starting out if you wanted to start out with a beauty dish that kind of medium contrast what would you recommend okay so for any portrait photographer start off with the soft box for sure that's like if you're photographing non models definitely a soft box is the way to go I depends on how many people you're photographing I recommend maybe a three by four to start off um my first modifier because I learned someone told me bigger is more flattering on the skin and diffuses more flattering on the skin so I had a like six foot dr bach and my studio was ten feet what s so it was a little bit problematic eso instead I think of three by four foot is really manageable if you need softer light you could bring it closer if you need to cover a group of people you can back it off a little bit the next if you wanted a little bit more chris my personal suggestion would be a bt dish I used twenty inch white bead ish there are different sizes you can get something called a mola and there the version of a bt dish go into it more but you can get bigger different sizes too late more people I don't usually do that I would say however if you can get your hands on the zeppelin or the parabolic umbrella it's very versatile because of how it's built it has you could shoot it just as a silver like nothing in it just as a silver umbrella it has an inter diffusion and an outer diffusion so it gives you like even more crisp version of a soft box so it's similar to a beauty dish but I think the light glows even more that has even sharper edges so like I told you that's my current obsession and shooting at a time one more question for you move on d photo would like to know how to achieve a sort of high contrast skin without going too much in the rembrandt like no shadows is that it was not possible time okay so there's a there's a couple things so one way to make your photos pop it doesn't have to be the angles like to the side it could just be your modifier so you could choose a silver beauty dish or a silver dish like we have here and it will make papa make it pop because it'll have crisper shadows so just have a little bit more to it than a soft box when you bring the light off to the side for remembrance that's more of making it dramatic versus giving you crispness so there's a little bit difference between quality of light and direction of light and both can help you be more dramatic and it's all that in between that we're worried about all right so you guys can kind of see this andi no we've got we've got phil on this side but I kind of want to see okay um all right so you guys can't quite see this but maybe the camera can get this so if I'm looking at her skin I haven't shot anything and this is just the silver dish right now as I'm looking at her don't be offended this is I'm sorry and gay okay I can't do wanna break in here it's ok I can definitely see a lot of texture on her skin significant on her forehead actually stand to the side of the camera could get that I can see texture on her forehead here and on her cheek because it's a high contrast modifier the highlights get brighter and the shadows get darker so what that's going to do with she has young beautiful skin and I can still see a lot of contrast the reason I might use this modifier however would be maybe I'm going for like a film you are look and so then what I might do is I might use this off to the side and rembrandt pulled to the side it would give me that was really chris shadows this light will have more contrast and it will be more chris but I would know then because I pulled it off to the side I'm having more texture and because it's a contrast the modifier I have more texture which means more retouching so it's kind of a juggling act there and so I know ahead of time all these decisions that I'm making so I'm gonna look great hand I'm going to bring this to loop just a little bit and right there ish okay so I wanted you to be able to see is going to be the shadow from her nose and I want you to watch the contrast on her forehead and cheek all right let's give this a try doing okay because it's a quick pop and get a test okay oh really bad white balance so hold on I will grab a color checker but I'm going to switch to my preset carrying me breaking up a little to one more okay so you can see what it's doing to that texture on her skin on her forehead and on her cheek okay perfect thank you so that's what a silver dish is going to do also if we're able to zoom in okay I'm getting up in your face okay okay ready sorry they're letting up a little bit more definitely be able to see a little bit more texture but you were able to see a lot more a mixing my going to mixing modifier and direction if I start to pull the light off to the side so let me grab one more shot good shot of this cheap here okay can you pull this late way off to the side like rembrandt ish okay right there great so lights coming around from the side and they just bringing up a little for your nice really close and creepy shots like just like parts of your eyeball or maybe it's artistic so when you can see a lot of texture and her pores as it wraps around but if I want to film noir look right at me looked dramatic e really know what that mean yeah but you have a dramatic look I could sit up and watch so if I come over here and I don't know how easy even switch it so I switched it to black and white for example I could go for the film you are the really high contrast what closed down just a little bit more but this would be kind of the easiest look to start getting the film noir look I want by the way if any of you love someone you are look you want the harshest modifier possible and you might consider something called a for now um it's a light modifier that lets you actually focus the beam of light it is even more crispiness it is even more contrast but it is it's beautiful on gives you kind of a glow that's what they use for movie lighting but in general although I can get drama here not all some on the skin particularly on the forehead and on the cheek so I'm going to switch to a little bit more forgiving modifier can we have the bt dish please thank you oh excellent what's really funny because when I teach posing classes the models are always like oh I've learned something new and then they saw me before when I was posing for a picture do I plug posing wanna one like that okay so this is a beauty dish the twenty inch pro photo calls it a soft light reflector it's a beauty dish by all intents and purposes and if you look look the light bounces into the reflector back into the dish but I want you to take a look at a couple cautions for this beauty dish taken balance that alright alright couple cautions for this and I think the camera should be able to see this you guys may not be able to is depending on how you have the beauty dish angle you can actually get really bad light because what you want for how beauty dish works is you want this center reflector to be lined up with the subject's face so let's say that you have a subject bouncing around moving around dancing well if they get out of alignment with that center reflector and they move over they catch the edge of the dish which is what we have right here so if the camera can see I'm actually catching like a raw end of the light and then the like it's a little dollar and then it's got the glow in the middle so when the beauty dish is lined up with her face that is the quality of what you want that's the ideal the next thing for a beauty dish is because it is still relatively small if you want that soft light source it's got to be close if I start backing the beauty dish up it gets more contrast e and rougher and rougher and rougher to the skin texture as I back up so I'm usually working with my beauty dish at about two and a half to four feet like pretty close I would honestly same majority of the time I'm like here ish that some kind of distance like this so this is what this is what I would recommend for a beauty dish same thing you want your soft box to be softer you bring it closer but you beat it is to be a softer you bring in a little bit closer there's also the um that thing diffuser suck suck I thought that was a strange name okay the next thing is let's say you like I do want a little bit more shape to the face and a little bit more action of light and a little bit more contrast to the jaw line and the cheekbones but I look at the skin and I'm like it's still a little harsh maybe you have a subject and I frequently have this with athletes that have a little bit more oily skin and you're photographing them under this light and those highlights or too bright so to get softer light you diffuse so you can add a sock on top and it was put out some of the contrast so that's a good way to be flexible it will not be a soft as a soft books but it might cut down on the brightness of the highlight it basically brings in the contrast just a little bit to be honest I don't usually use a sock if I want soft I go for a knock box or soft bunks or that I do a beauty dish so I just kind of make more of addition decision that way so I'm going tio take a photo of her okay well I like tio I should grab a meter in the next section but okay um for beauty photography if I'm shooting this for purely for beauty I can put the light very centered very centered means flat light means no contrast no ethnic no direction means like nice and center there's not gonna be a lot of raking light or a lot of texture so I've got it centered which is why I use a boomer or some kind of armed to get it out senator over my subject so that's great the further up I raised the light if she had wrinkles that would be bad because it would start carving out her wrinkles she doesn't so instead I can raise the light and it starts carving out her cheekbone and jaw line so I'm going increase some of that texture because I'm raising the light up a little bit but I've tried to minimize it by flattening it so I'm like balancing all of these things so when a race is just a little bit perfect great and I can reflect her that way in in a second all right quick shot here well okay so the next picture shows up what he failed to see is the highlights on her forehead are still there but they're not as bright and there's not as much texture there's still a little bit texture and if you look a problem that I know I'm having right now and I actually will ask my subjects this it's pointed here is actually getting a little bit of a hot spot on her head so I sometimes say to my subjects is that senator thing lined up with your head I don't care let's find the help me out just a little bit lower thank you so that's going to be better that's more lined up so I shouldn't have quite the hot spot on her forehead thank you very much done so now you take one more shot like this so I raise this up and one of the things that I like one of the reasons I raised it up is a higher light and I'm coming in the way no cameras going to see me okay sir ah higher light it carves out the cheekbones a little bit and also the shadow under her lips makes her lips look fuller if I have the light really really low I won't have much texture which is really good for the skin but then I have no shape to our face so if I raise it up a little bit now she starts to have some nice dimension shadows under her jaw fuller lips so it's that balance can I have the reflector so I do want that shape but I don't think I want as much texture and one way to reduce texture is also to fill in those shadow areas you see texture when you see the contrast between a bright highlight and a dark shadow so if I fill in some of that darkness of the shadow see it less so this would be just a very base beauty image and so you're going notice less texture a little bit more glow and if I used to see like less texture under her chin in her cheek under her jaw line but she still has a nice dimensions still looks very glowing if I used silver it increases the contrast even more all actually demo in tomorrow so we're going to come back to that tomorrow but silver is when you start seeing more contrast the white is going to be much more forgiving ok so we saw what it looks like with a beauty dish can I have a soft box for the last one and this will be the last one for now like I said I wanted to kind of touch on essentials tomorrow is all the details for specific skin types in the way a question while we switch over to the last one so basically a lot of people seem to be asking questions about doing the same thing from multiple people and how you would change when you have the beauty dish with the multiple the modifier on it how how would you do that for a group of people and still get the same soft kind of model light so all right so there's a couple things you khun dio I like tio use I'll use a soft box okay and I might use a grid in the soft box you can actually have looks like like a tic tack toe kind of pattern that you put in the soft box it gives you a little bit more contrast in a little bit more focused so light so give me a little bit more christmas to the end honestly in my space I would probably use thie parabolic umbrella because I can make it look it's bigger than the one I have is however big this is aunt I can defuse it in the front so it feels like a soft box but also has more christmas and it has more spread because it is much wider than the beauty dish I think it's like I'm going to make this up to forty into I don't I don't know I have it in the gear list but it's a wider parabolic umbrella which means it covers more people but it still has some christmas I can also take off the front diffusion if I don't think it's crisp enough so that would be my recommendation if you want the model look you could also go ahead and buy the moola brand which it's like a beauty dish it's a little bit more focused light but they have bigger than twenty inches they have much bigger to cover more people I don't usually use that one just cause it's kind of bulky difficult to you thank you all right hi move over just a little bit so the last one going to take a look at those being attention to those same highlights in the same texture to her skin and take one more picture and like if you can bring up the images comparison after this okay thank you yes so significantly remove the light off a little bit to this side but it's going to be obviously the most forgiving on the skin so the highlights aren't as bright the shadows on his dark it doesn't have quite the same pop as the other images the shadows arness chris there's not as much shape but it's also more forgiving so you're doing a constant balancing act where do I put the light form or shape less shape more texture less texture softer light a little bit flattered but more forgiving crisp light a little bit more pop harsher on the skin

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Makeup Contour Reference
Retouching Checklist
Frequency Separation
Retouching Files
Keynote 1
Keynote 2
Gear Guide
Skin Retouching Action File

Ratings and Reviews

Aliah Husain

Lindsay is an INCREDIBLE photographer and teacher, and also seems like a wonderful person! This class is great for beginners and more advanced photographers, as well. She goes into tons of detail on all the technical stuff like lighting and editing, and it is fascinating to see her interact with and shoot her models, work with her equipment, and photoshop like a pro. Huge amounts of information for what you pay for. If you are looking to improve your skills in photographing and retouching people, purchase this class!!

Kirsi Todd

Lindsay is probably my favourite instructor (and that is saying a lot, as there are many incredible instructors). She is so clear in her teaching and she also seems like such a nice and humble person despite her incredible success. This course is one of the best courses I have ever seen. Thank you Lindsay and Creative Live!

Andrew Lederman

Great course. Lindsay Adler is one of the best instructors for any creative live classes that I have seen. Simple and easy to understand, clear workflow, very friendly and non condescending like some other instructors. Could you put a link (maybe I just didn't see it) to where to download the actions used in this tutorial?

Student Work