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Lighting a portrait with clamshell lighting

From: Lighting for Photographers: Portraiture

Video: Lighting a portrait with clamshell lighting

Clamshell lighting is a classic two-light setup that makes the skin glow and flatters women of all ages. It's named clamshell because the lights are over and under the subject and equal in intensity. Paulina was our model for this setup. I knew the clamshell lighting would bring out the intensity of her eyes. Natalie Fobes: So go ahead and up there on that apple box. I am going to have you lean way forward, way forward. Go ahead and relax a little bit. Now Sam let's go and put--let's put this light down below and we'll bring in the other one on the boom.

Lighting a portrait with clamshell lighting

Clamshell lighting is a classic two-light setup that makes the skin glow and flatters women of all ages. It's named clamshell because the lights are over and under the subject and equal in intensity. Paulina was our model for this setup. I knew the clamshell lighting would bring out the intensity of her eyes. Natalie Fobes: So go ahead and up there on that apple box. I am going to have you lean way forward, way forward. Go ahead and relax a little bit. Now Sam let's go and put--let's put this light down below and we'll bring in the other one on the boom.

Sam: Okay, just right in front of her? Natalie Fobes: Yup, right in front of her. Sam: Like here? Natalie Fobes: Yeah, it's exactly right. I would like this aimed up just a little bit though. I want it to be aimed up toward her collarbone, neck area and you might have to bring it up just a little bit more. Before you turn it on, let's bring the other one in. Now this one aiming for about 45 degree angle down onto her face. Sam: Okay, directly above this one? Natalie Fobes: Directly above that one.

Yeah bring it in and you'll have to lower it down a bit so that it comes in just right here. Okay. Sam: How is that? Natalie Fobes: I think that's going to be okay, we'll do finesse it just a little bit when I see it. Now go ahead and let's turn on the lights, turn that one on first, see how beautiful that is, isn't it gorgeous? Sam: Oh it's already nice. Natalie Fobes: Yeah, it really is. Sam: Go ahead and do this one too? Natalie Fobes: Yeah, go ahead and do that one. Ah, wow! Okay, so I think we need to pull this one down a little bit more.

I am seeing the reflections in her eyes, and there the bottom one is a little bit too intense, or a little more intense. It's hitting her a little bit more flat on. Sam: Okay, some more? Natalie Fobes: And let's lean it down just a little bit, this way yeah. Sam: How's that Natalie? Natalie Fobes: I think that looks good, except now take a real close look at the reflections in her eyes. Sam: Okay. Natalie Fobes: See how the top one is off to the side and the bottom one is off this way? Sam: Oh yeah.

Natalie Fobes: Yeah that's going to drive me nuts, so let's even them up. Sam: So this one. Natalie Fobes: Bring that over this way. Sam: Okay. Natalie Fobes: Just a little bit, okay beautiful! Sam: Good? Natalie Fobes: It looks great. You are doing great Paulina, you look so--I can't wait to show you the photographs. Okay, so go ahead and hold this for a minute, I am going to check my light and this will give me my white balance. So I am getting 8.5 at 125th, so I am going to expose--I think I'll expose at 8 because I want to keep that glow in her face.

I want the true value of her skin to be a little higher than medium gray, and point the gray card right at me. There you go, perfect. All right, so go ahead and take that out. Okay now the fun begins. All right, so go ahead and lower your chin just a little bit, nice. That's very nice. Turn a little bit this way, beautiful. Now with your hands, have them perfect. I want to have that graceful look, all right.

Lower your chin a little bit, nice. And now breathe through your mouth, a little bit more. Okay and turn your head a little bit towards Sam. This time I am just going to get this and let's put your other hand up here on the other side and lower even more, even more, nice. Beautiful, very good! So go ahead and just relax for a minute, I am going to do a little bit of adaption here. Let's turn this off.

Sometimes I feel that the bottom light is too intense, and I am going to get the same effect by using my shower curtain reflector. Sam: Ah, nice. Natalie Fobes: Do you have a clamp? Sam: Ah yeah. Natalie Fobes: Let's just spread this out. This could be a white sheet of paper, it could be a cardboard, it could be a reflector. In this case it's just my shower curtain. But see we are still getting that nice reflection, it's just not as intense. Okay, so go ahead and drop your chin a little bit, okay.

And smooth that hair away from this, nice. Lower your chin, lower your chin, even more, there you go. I am coming in tight on your eye, nice, great! Okay. Sam: Natalie, does this sort of lighting work for men as well? Natalie Fobes: It works well. For men, this is the kind I'd use, I would not use the lower light and I actually would even take this out and let it just be the black reflecting back up.

Sam: Got you. Natalie Fobes: Because it gives a little bit more rugged feeling to a man. Sam: Right. Natalie Fobes: One thing I noticed with this, I want to have some depth to it, so let's put a background light in. Sam: Okay. Natalie Fobes: The light on you is perfect. It's just making you glow. The background light is just going to separate you just a little bit. Sam: This should be centered Natalie? Natalie Fobes: Yes, please center it and we are going to vignette you, so it will be darker on the edges. Can you push that in really tight? That way there will be a faster falloff, okay.

Sam: How's that? Natalie Fobes: That looks pretty good. Let me take a shot, nice. Okay, can you bring it in even closer and maybe tilt it down just a little bit? Because I'm seeing is the wash is too broad up at the top. So this time I want you to turn a little bit this way. Okay, that's nice.

Okay and now on the other, lean this way, lower your chin just a little bit, okay, great. Beautiful, great. Well, thank you so much, that was awesome. I love how this lighting brings out her eyes and makes her skin luminescent. When I replace the lower light with a reflector, it changed the look.

The backlight adds depth to the photograph and focuses attention on her face. It's now a critical part of the composition.

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Lighting for Photographers: Portraiture

13 video lessons · 18385 viewers

Natalie Fobes
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