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In this course, photographer and teacher Natalie Fobes introduces the techniques behind lighting for portraiture. The course begins with a look at the role of light in setting the mood of a portrait, and then looks at the essential gear photographers need for continuous-light portraiture. (Much of the course is also applicable to strobe lighting.)
Next, Natalie details a variety of common one-light and two-light lighting techniques, explaining exposure, metering considerations, and light modifiers along the way.
The course concludes with several lighting tips, including minimizing physical challenges and do-it-yourself lighting gear instructions.
The lighting pattern known as Rembrandt is name for the master painter who used it in his portrait work. Its main characteristic is a triangle of light on one cheek. Beautiful for both men and women, you can adjust the ratio of key to fill to increase the drama. Natalie Fobes: So this is kind of where the loop is in this area and see how the shadows don't touch on the far side? Sam: Yeah it-it's just under the nose on the side of the nose. Natalie Fobes: So Matt, go a head and just turn your head a little bit this way. Opps, that's little bit too much. There we go.
So this is now Rembrandt lighting. Sam: I can see that the triangle in there and shadows come together. Natalie Fobes: The triangle is right there and go ahead and lower your chin just a little bit, and you still have that--the catch light in his eye which isn't always there on Rembrandt lighting, but it's certainly, you know part of what I try to achieve anyway. Sam: Right Natalie Fobes: Now I want to show you something here, about broad versus short or narrow lighting.
Broad lighting is when most of the face is in light facing the camera. I mean if you think of the face as in thirds, if two thirds of the face is in light and you're capturing that and that's basically broad lighting. Sam: And just 1/3 in shadow-- Natalie Fobes: And 1/3, in shadow. Sam: Okay. Natalie Fobes: Let me take a shot. It's-- it will be good to show you. So you can see how most of the face is in. Sam: Right and that's broad light. Natalie Fobes: That's the broad lighting. Sam: Okay.
Natalie Fobes: It's still a Rembrandt lighting setup but it's in a broad, a broad position. By simply moving this over here and getting it into that at Rembrandt lighting. Now I take the shot in 2/3rds. Sam: So 2/3rds is in shadow now-- Natalie Fobes: Of the light is in shadow. The shadow is on the camera side.
Now the reason that I would do a broad light-- I much prefer the short or narrow lighting. I think it has more characteristic in it. But the reason I would do a broad light is if someone had a very slender face. Sam: Okay Natalie Fobes: And I wanted to widen it a little bit. But I think that it just adds a little bit of breadth to it. You definitely--the more shadows you have in a photograph the more drama you have. And so I think with a Rembrandt lighting and this--then in this short setup, that you definitely have more drama going on.
Sam: Okay Natalie Fobes: I like drama in photos. Sam: Absolutely. Natalie Fobes: So yeah. Okay well let's go a head and setup the light. Can you adjust it while I take a look at it? Sam: Yeah sure. Natalie Fobes: Okay Matt, I want you to be leaning forward just a little bit. There you go. Sam: So do you need this to go up right now? Natalie Fobes: I think we--I think we need to feather it this way. Let's bring it this way just a little bit. You know once we have the key light set up then we are in good shape for the rest. Sam: I guess when you're working with--when you very specific about the shadow that you want.
Natalie Fobes: Yeah Sam: It's got to exactly in the right spot? Natalie Fobes: Yeah. I would also like you to turn it up, point it up just a little bit, and the reason for that is that his hands are the same value as his face. Sam: Okay Natalie Fobes: And the face is what should be seen first in a portrait. So in this situation we take a little bit of that off. I am going to even take more off by putting up the diffusing a little bit. Now that right--is very effective at taking down the light here.
Sam: Oh yeah and there is not nearly as much on his hands. Natalie Fobes: There is not nearly as much. I'm going to try this and see if I like it. I'm afraid there might be too little light down here, might be too abrupt, Sam: Okay. Natalie Fobes: And if that's the case we will have to adjust it. So Matt, go ahead and pull your curls back. Now you notice I'm also using a hard light on him, and hard light in most cases is fine with men. I like to have a little angularity to them, sharp edges on the shadows, but I also love to have the texture of his hair coming out.
So twist back a little bit more, little bit more. There you go, cool, excellent! So let me take a shot, let get our meter reading here. Came over at 5.6. I am going to pretty much put it that 5.6. Sam: Should we do a gray card as well? Natalie Fobes: Let's do a gray card. Let me get my exposure, okay. So I am looking at this, I think I'm a little bit heavy on the exposure, so I am going to bring it down, open it up, just half a stop or 3rd of a stop to 5.
All right, so let's go ahead and have some fun. How you're doing? Matt: Doing good. Natalie Fobes: Good, and you're looking good. So go ahead and tilt your head a little that way and swing around. There you go. I see your hand there, bring that back out just a little bit. So this is looking good, but I think we need a little bit of fill in here. Let's bring that light in. Sam: Just one here. Natalie Fobes: Relax for a minute, yeah. Sam: I see people use the umbrellas all the time but I have never actually used one.
Natalie Fobes: Yeah. Sam: Does it just shoot the light out more? Natalie Fobes: Well the umbrellas are great because the light is bouncing into this surface and then it's kind of softening it, Sam: Okay. Natalie Fobes: And it's also making it bigger. Natalie Fobes: Its making it a bigger light source and it's really nice for this kind of fill situation because it's going to give us a subtle fill. It's not going to overwhelm. The whole point of the fill is not to overwhelm the key light, because you still want to have the key light as the one that is giving the shape and form to the person.
But this fill light--go ahead and assume the position there Matt. Yeah and lower your chin just a little--there you go. Now see how it changes as we go closer? Sam: Oh yeah. Natalie Fobes: That's like a two to one, meaning a one-stop difference. Sam: Right. Natalie Fobes: And I bring it back here, it's somewhere around 3, 3 to 1. Sam: Okay. Natalie Fobes: So I think that--that's going to give us enough detail in the front, without overpowering that nice strong light we have coming in on the side.
Sam: Right. Natalie Fobes: Okay, raise it up just a little bit more. Now the fill light can go pretty much anywhere from where you're standing to over where I'm standing, and there are some photographers who like put it a little bit even more extreme. So my tendency is to get it pretty close to where I am. In case there are shadows, then I want those shadows to kind of just disappear. Sam: Right. Natalie Fobes: Very seldom do you get shadows with this kind of situation, but I think it looks more natural. All right, so lower your chin just a little bit more.
Swing around, there you go. Got that nice triangle going, straight back. Go ahead and lean forward even more. Now the nice thing too is I am getting a little bit of light on the background, so that'll give us just enough texture back there. But I am not liking how intense the falloff is here. Sam: Yeah. Natalie Fobes: The diffusion panel is about a one -stop difference, makes a one-stop difference, I like it on I like the hard light on his head, but right now we have lost too much of head. Sam: It's a really dramatic difference from the top of his head.
Natalie Fobes: Yeah it sure is. Now let's pull that totally off and then we will just put it back on at about the same height. Sam: Oh so it's not folded over then. It's only one line. Natalie Fobes: So it's not folded over because with that--when the diffusion panel is folded over then it will be actually two stops difference. Sam: Do you think that height is okay Natalie? Natalie Fobes: Yeah we'll take a look at it. I'd like it to just falloff right about--starting about here. And it looks like you're pretty well on it.
So you can see the difference in the shadow. Look at the shadow edge going down and now it's smoother, it's softer. Again the diffusion panel softens that light. Sam: Right and it already looks a little less dark. Natalie Fobes: It does, definitely. Now I think that's what a good idea. Okay straight back, lean forward, swing that leg in closer. There you go, nice, tilt your head, there you go, lower your chin, there you go. And you got that curl that's just coming right up but shading your eyes.
Yeah, okay. All right, very nice. Now go ahead and lean even further, further in. We will make sure that he is still getting the nice hot light on his face, which he is. Lower your chin, swing your nose towards Sam. Okay, very good. All right, now one last thing I think that this is going to be a great session, but I'd like to--so far we've done a great job.
But I'd like to include what I call an accent or kicker light. Sam: Okay. Natalie Fobes: So go ahead and go over on the other side there. Sam: Okay. Natalie Fobes: And catch that light, catch the key light. Sam: Where should I be aiming for the light to be? Natalie Fobes: You should be aiming right--I want to emphasize the texture in his curls in right here. And I wouldn't mind a small little detail across here. But take it over that way a little because I don't want it to be overwhelming. Okay now wrap it this way, that's good.
Think we might be kicking a little light back into the-- Sam: Backdrop? Natalie Fobes: Backdrop. That's cool too. Go ahead and lean forward Matt. And eyes, lower your chin even more, okay, nice. Okay, now let's kick it up a notch, let's get the kicker right in there. Really make it hard, hard, hard, oops! You lost it, here you go. Sam: There it is. Natalie Fobes: There it is. Nice. Let me back off and get another angle.
Okay, breathe through your mouth Matt. There you go. I am going to come in tight, okay. And twist your head a little bit more and lower your chin. Got it, okay. Now just for fun look out that way. And look up a little bit with your eyes. Okay breathe through your mouth. The reason I am saying breathe through your mouth is it looks more natural. Okay, all right.
And now just look at me with your eyes. Sweet. Okay, I think we have got it. Oh that was nice too, great. Well thank you so much. Matt: Thank you. Natalie Fobes: It was fun. Matt looks great with this lighting. It sculpts his face well. I like it more in the short position. The broad setup adds too much bulk in his face. I love the combination of hard and soft light that I achieved by pulling down the diffusion material.
The hard light brings out the texture of his hair and makes those stronger shadow edge transfers on his face. The diffused light from his chest down drops the exposure as well as softens the shadows.
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