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Chapter 5: The use of light

More light sources do NOT automatically mean a better photo. That’s why you’re able to capture great pictures with only one flash head. It’s more of a matter with the general lighting and the right moment.

Main question of lighting: What’s the later use of this picture?

Application photo:
If you’d like to shoot a picture for an application, you should look for a even lighting in the face of the model, no shadows should cover parts of it. It depends on which kind of position / job you’re applying for, but you should watch out for pose, expression and clothing of the model – if you want to apply for a leadeing position in a company, you should put on a face with the necessary self-confidence.

Tip: Don’t forget the de-powdering.

Business/manager portrait:
Think about similar rules as with the application photo. Most of the time you might consider shooting „on location“, which integrates the work space / bureau / … and their lighting mood. Is your clothing accurate and does it fit perfectly? What are the key values of this picture? Charisma, expertise, vision and self-confidence are some examples that could get pointed out here.

Tip: Watch out for the clothes while shooting. Men should get some de-powdering as well.

Full-body portrait:
With a shot of the complete body you should always care for a clean lighting. A small light source might not be enough to illuminate the whole body. Deal with the surrounding light – integrate it, let it support you or let it vanish by using a flash. Flash heads that are pointed towards the ceiling create a general brightness.

Tip: The typical de-powdering and clothing-care. Also your model might need more body tension.

Beauty portrait:
The lighting guidance would like to point out the beauty and aesthetics. Lots of photographers like to use soft light, because it tends to have a flattering effect on the skin. A make-up artist is definetely necessary here! To compensate some small flaws or stains later is not a problem, but at least the skin of your model should look as smooth and clean as possible, This is important, because the used close-ups with their low distances will make every pore visible.

The photo lives of model and make-up. An impressive face with great mimic art play a decisive role here. When you ask lots of photographers about what “real beauty” is, they mostly tend to answer: It’s not the perfection, but the small flaws or asymmetry that make a good picture.

Tip: You don’t get very far here without professional make-up and hair styling!

Fashion photography:
The major point of these pictures is to represent the clothing with a strong and vivid expression. Clothes do not have a personality – but your model and your lighting have. Strong lights from the side and contours are used quite often, because it kind of sculptures the model, the clothing and its edges and curves. When Wenn this type of light falls onto the clothes, it supports the presentation of details and structure – elevations and depressions get brightened up or shaded. Photography is part of the sales arguments. It should wake some desires for the product and accessories and encourage people to buy them. The effect of the picture doesn’t only depend on the collection of the designer, but also on the model, its pose, the face expression and of course the lighting! Light can be used to mystify, brighten up, highlight or accentuate parts of the clothes. It creates impressions or underlines them. Some photographers produce real art, that captures the current affairs of the fasinating fashion world with their extraordinary big sets and extreme conditions.

Tips: Go through the checklist for a good shooting! Not everything is about the clothing, but it’s the biggest part of it. Expression, body tension and pose are important. Do not hesitate and give instructions to your model.

Nude portrait:
For this type of portrait ehre are some “special” rule apart from those of a portrait, because the featured person is only partial covered by clothing or fully uncovered. The are lots of sub-categories here: Classic sexual act, erotic, fetish, pinup, body painting, etc. Putting all of them into categories can be hard, because they often tend to be mixed up or cover more than one of these features.

Tips: Our focus lies on the body of the model, that’s why we should care about that whilst preparing the shoot:

  • Is there any disruptive body hair? If a shave is desired, you should ask your models for that and have the necessary equipment on set.
  • Body lotion, oil & co. should be on set as well. They can eliminate dry spots from the skin and make it look smoother and softer. Oils are used to give some glance to the skin. Both of thm are available with particles that can give some color to the skin as well.
  • Glycerin or a spray bottle with simple water is used to build drops or wetness on the skin.

The choice of props can have a great influence on the shoot:

  • Dessous or lingerie should be similar (cups and slip) and fit well. Are those too small, everything will look a bit jammed. If you want to achieve a more elegant look, you shouldn’t save money with buying lingerie.
  • Sexy accessoires like: stockings, high heels, corsets, jewelry, …
  • Cloths or towels can be used to cover parts of the model’s body.
  • Possibilities for sitting or lying down should be comfortable, but of course look good and fit to the style of the picture. Simple chairs don’t distract from the model itself, but an old armchair in an antique style has a different impact. The atmosphere on set is an important factor as well, which can be quite challenging with a nude shooting.
  • Have a coffee with your model and get to know it, provide a good atmosphere on set.
  • Talk about goals and expectations first.
  • If too many poeple are on set, your model migt feel uncomfortable. A separation of rooms or less people can improve that. The lighting might be very different from genre to genre, your creativity shouldn’t have any borders here.
  • Soft and natural light can create effects like innocence or fragility.
  • Hard light will define structure and details. It shouldn’t get pointed on spots like weak conjunctiva or skin impurities.
  • Daylight or light sets, that look like daylight, often get used for lingerie or intimate atmosphere, with the model lying on the bed or moving in the bed room.
  • You can creat a additional abstraction through strong lights and shadows when you plan to do some close-ups. New lines and shapes will be visible on the second look.
  • If you use a very bright lighting setup, it might look less mysterious or intimate.
  • Lots of photographers use lowkey-shots for art or close-ups. Great effects can result from a HighKey due to its characteristics of stressing colors and contours and letting the picture seem m”more graphic” and more reduced.

If you plan on doing a indicuidual, emotional or art-based work, lighting is even more important. Think about the described genres: Lighting supports the statement of a picture. You might also say: There are no rules for lighting, that are not allowed to be broken. It’s all about the creative and fitting use of light.

In general we’d like to tell you: Breaking the rules is allowed, there is no laws for the right use of lighting. Very photographer has lots of freedom to light his models. On the other hand, at least in the beginning, you should listen to the things experienced photographers say, because they had to go through the same stuff as you. There are some rules that can lead you to getting a feeling for the right lighting. If you know about the different setups for lighting, you can of course experiment around with them. If you understand the basics of photography, you can act by the rules or specifically break them.

<– The last chapter (4) was about all the things you need to consider before your camera goes ‘click’

This post is also available in: German

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