Lighting Foundations for Better Portraits

Photographers who understand light use it as a paintbrush to create a beautiful piece of art for their clients. Photographers tend to overcomplicate things, which can make the use of artificial light intimidating to some. This month, I talk about techniques that are not commonly used by wedding and portrait photographers who do most of their work outside the studio. I also get into the intricate details of light that can impact a portrait for better or worse.

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Strobe Is Available Light

It always makes me smile when photographers tell me they’re “available light” shooters. The first thing I do is grab the nearest strobe, hold it over my head in a Statue of Liberty pose and ask, “Do you see this strobe? Guess what? It’s an available light.” If photography is just your hobby and available-light shooting is what you’re comfortable with, that’s perfectly fine. But if you’re aspiring to be a pro, you’re doing yourself and your clients a disservice by not learning how to use flash.

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Understanding Catchlights

Catchlights are the lights reflected in a subject’s eyes. I normally use strobes to capture them. Catchlights add life and sparkle, while their absence can result in dull, lifeless images. There are no hard and fast rules, and sometimes you may want dead and lifeless. It’s all about knowing what you want, why you want it and how to create it. But portraits are almost always better with catchlights.

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Slash of Light: Creating Drama with Gobos

Lighting geeks like me love nothing more than watching the way sunlight behaves as it streams through a narrow opening, moves across the sky or scatters into beams of light as it breaks through clouds or strikes the leaves of a tree overhead. It results in unique shapes and patterns. These magic lighting moments give me pause and remind me how powerful light and shadow can be in creating mood and atmosphere.

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Unlimited Background Colors With Gels

You can never have enough background colors to choose from in the studio. The background color that performs perfectly for one outfit, complexion, hair color, makeup style or concept will likely fall flat for another. You can invest in an endless assortment of colored rolls of seamless paper, but at anywhere from $50 to $100 each, this rainbow requires a pot of gold. This month, I show you how to create virtually any color you want without the cost or clutter of seamless paper.

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Product Photography Lighting Basics

We’re all exposed to product photography every single day of our lives, so there will always be a strong demand for it. This month, I take a look at some of the basic concepts of product photography and how to approach lighting and other technical details. Adding product photography to your services can be extremely profitable. But these tips are helpful whether you want to start doing it professionally or just sell some stuff on eBay.

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Reception Lighting 201

It’s understandable why the majority of lighting questions I get from photographers have to do with receptions. Reception lighting is the bane of existence for many wedding photographers. You are shooting fast-moving subjects in low, unbalanced color light without the ability to control or adjust the subjects for better posing. For most receptions, you can follow a few simple formulas to ensure that lighting is consistent and beautiful. Here are our setups.

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