Studio Portraits With Flare: Creating Lens Flare with Studio Strobes

Flare is perfect for adding drama and sizzle when creating images of actors, musicians and other entertainers. Think Dreamgirls, Beyoncé and countless other subjects where one or more lights behind the model creates a dramatic entertainment-oriented background effect. With a little know-how and a few lighting modifiers, flare in the studio can be harnessed as a worthy addition to your lighting repertoire. In this article, I look at creating flare using studio strobe.

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Balancing Ambient Light and Flash

We need all the tools, techniques and creativity we can muster to tackle whatever situations we encounter when we’re crafting killer images on location. Sometimes available light and a reflector, scrim or both get the job done. Other times, Mother Nature needs a helping hand from a flash. Balancing ambient and flash doesn’t mean each source contributes the same amount of light. In most cases, ambient light is the dominant source providing the majority of the illumination in a scene, while flash adds additional light where needed. You may need very little light from your flash to get the job done, while other more dramatic looks call for more flash and less ambient light. Having these creative options makes incorporating flash into your ambient shoots so compelling.

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Depth & Drama with Accent Lights

Creating lighting styles is a lot like cooking. You start with an idea of what you want and season to taste, adding what you need as you go. Each step taken on the path to achieving the look you’ve visualized is a series of building blocks with an eventual whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts. Readers of this column know I’m a big fan of working with one light, but there are times when additional lights are called for. This month, I turn up the heat and show you what’s possible with four lights.

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How Light Diffusion Can Affect Your Portrait’s Mood

Emotion in your portrait work comes from your subject almost entirely, for lots of obvious reasons. That said, other elements in your portraits can affect and enhance their overall mood—especially the lighting. Simple decisions about light diffusion can alter or augment the mood you are after. There are differing opinions on what light diffusion does to a portrait’s mood. It’s subjective. But there are some tried and true light diffusion techniques that work consistently to evoke or enhance specific moods in human subjects.

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Top 10 Lighting Mistakes

As a longtime photographer and mentor to other photographers, I’m uniquely qualified to speak about mistakes. I’ve made them all more than once and seen them all. That’s ok. We learn more from our mistakes than our successes, and if you’re not failing forward, you’re not trying hard enough. These top 10 lighting mistakes are all specific to flash. If you’re not using flash yet, read on for a few aha moments, and check out last month’s feature about why you need strobe in your life. Let’s get this party started.

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Lighting to Flatter the Female Form

Creating a light scheme that makes my subject look beautifully shaped right in camera allows me to save a lot of retouching time. This way I can also show a few photos directly on set during the shoot, let my client see the magic in the making and get her even more excited to proceed with the rest of the session. The confidence boost is incredibly helpful, empowering and attitude changing. Here are some of the light setups I use the most during photo shoots. I hope they help you create stunning maternity images.

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4 Cornerstones of a Well-Lit Portrait

Whether you’re as big a fan of classic commercial lighting as I am or prefer something different—perhaps the contrast of “dark and moody” or the flat “light and airy” look that’s trending on Instagram—I encourage you to closely study the four elements of a well-lit portrait. Understanding their rationale and the order in which they’re usually applied will help you become more efficient and better at controlling your own unique style.

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