Using butterfly lighting for portraits
Video: Using butterfly lighting for portraitsFor the rest of the course I'll be showing you some of the lighting I use for my portraiture. Sam will be helping me. He's not a seasoned assistant, but just wants to learn more about lighting. And because the lights in the studio are daylight balanced, I use daylight balanced bulbs in my light too. One word of caution, these lights get hot. Never handle a bulb with your bare fingers after it's been on. You'll get burned. And it's a good idea to wear gloves when you change bulbs too.
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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.
- Understanding lighting positions
- Deconstructing photos to study lighting
- Lighting a portrait for a Rembrandt pattern
- Backlighting in portraits
- Examining a four-light portrait scenario
- Lighting for different skin tones
Using butterfly lighting for portraits
For the rest of the course I'll be showing you some of the lighting I use for my portraiture. Sam will be helping me. He's not a seasoned assistant, but just wants to learn more about lighting. And because the lights in the studio are daylight balanced, I use daylight balanced bulbs in my light too. One word of caution, these lights get hot. Never handle a bulb with your bare fingers after it's been on. You'll get burned. And it's a good idea to wear gloves when you change bulbs too.
The oil from your fingers can cause some styles of bulbs to explode. When you think of Hollywood portraits, you think of the butterfly lighting. The lightest placed above this subject, pretty much on access with the camera. It sculpts the face and is named for the little shadow under the nose. Evey's face will be lovely with this light. Okay, you look great! So Sam, we're going to do a very classic lighting setup today, we're going to basically use one light and then the hair light later on.
This light was used by a guy named George Hurrell back in the '20s, and he photographed all the starlets and did amazing work. His style continues till today as a beautiful, beautiful style. Go ahead and let's pull this light over. Now it's on a boom. Do you know what a boom is? Sam: I've used one once before. Natalie Fobes: Okay, perfect! Sam: And then-- Natalie Fobes: Yeah, go ahead and raise it up. Now what we're looking for is a shadow under her nose that looks according to some people, looks like a butterfly. That's too high up, let's bring it back down, bring it back down, and pull it in real nice and tight.
Sam: Close in her, okay. Natalie Fobes: A little closer, but now let's pull it right on access to were I'm going to be shooting, and you can see how--that beautiful little light there, right underneath her nose. Sam: Oh yeah, okay. Natalie Fobes: Other characteristics of this style of lighting include the shading on either side of the face, and the cheekbones, right underneath her brows, and underneath her lip, and her chin. It's just a very glamorous looking light and it suits you so well.
Well, let me take a meter reading. See what kind of light we have. So I am at 4, F4.5, and so I'm going to expose about F4. The reason I do that is that I want to have her, the true value of her skin in the proper place, meaning that if I shot at F4.5, then she would be a medium gray. Sam: Oh, okay. Natalie Fobes: And you can see her skin is translucent. It's going to bring it up just a little bit and give it the glow that it naturally has.
Let's take a gray card. Have you ever worked with a gray card? Sam: Uh, no. Natalie Fobes: Okay. Gray card is simply a way for me to figure out what my white balance is truly in postproduction. Sam: Oh, okay. Natalie Fobes: Even though I have a good idea of what it is now, in postproduction, I may want to tweak it a little bit. So this will give me a constant that I can adjust from there. Hold it up, you take a shot and that's all I have to do. Go ahead and put it down there.
Sam: Sure! Natalie Fobes: All right, okay. So go ahead and lean forward just a little bit, very nice, and down. I want to make sure that I'm continuing to get those catch lights in her eyes. Because those catch lights will really tell us that she's alive. So go ahead and turn a little bit this way, give me a little bit of attitude, starlet. Beautiful! Beautiful! So I am really liking this, but I'm feeling we need to have a hair light to separate her from the background, so let's bring that other light in.
Sam: It just on--it's just on her head? Natalie Fobes: It's just going to be on her head and actually I am going to have it pointed off on this side. Sam: Okay. How high above her head should this be? Natalie Fobes: Right about there is fine. The great thing about using these continuous lights is that we can really see what we get. So bring it on in. So this exposure will tell me--I think it's going to be about even. Yup. It's 4.5 or so, and even though it's 4.5, it's the same intensity as this, as our key light.
Because her hair is so nice and shiny, it's reflecting right back. It's going to look much brighter. It's exactly what I want. So go ahead and lean forward, there you go. And lower you chin just a little bit, there you go, beautiful! Okay, look right on at me and open your eyes a little. There you go, got the catch light. Turn your nose right toward me, right toward me. There you go, beautiful. Okay, and now I want you to have one hand up.
There you go, perfect! Very nice, very nice! Now let's try one--couple like that. Here again I'm concentrating on classic poses, Myrna Loy I believe was one who had this pose. Nice, and eyes open and a little bit more there. Oh, beautiful, great! Okay that's fantastic. Natalie Fobes: Now I'll show you something else here. This is at hard light, a nice hard light. It would look great in black and white. Perfect! But let's soften up the shadows.
Can you see how that-- Sam: Oh yeah, it is not as severe-- Natalie Fobes: Not as severe. The edges are broader and it's still--it's still the butterfly light, but it is absolutely a gorgeous light. So if you could hold that for me. Sam: Yeah, sure. Natalie Fobes: Just right over her head, even a little bit. We need to get it up so I can peek in there. There you go. Let me take a couple there too. And lower your chin just a little bit Evey, there we go, nice, and tilt just a little.
Very nice, very nice! So that's butterfly lighting. Now there is another kind of lighting that is very similar to butterfly lighting, it's called loop lighting, and simply moving the light this way causes the shadow of her nose to go--to make a little loop. See that little loop right there? Sam: Oh right around--like right around here? Yeah. Natalie Fobes: And what this kind of lighting does is it--turn, go ahead and turn that light off, so you can see it a little bit easier.
What this kind of lighting does is that it puts more shadow on the side of her face here, more shading there, and it also creates more shading on her nose. It still has that beautiful shading here on her lips and things like that, but it adds just maybe a little bit more depth to this. Sam: So using the butterfly light comes from straight over the top, lots of shadows, but very symmetrical. Natalie Fobes: Right! Sam: By just by moving it a little bit, you get a different, a different style.
Natalie Fobes: A different style, yeah, and still does a very nice job of creating shape and depth to a person's face. It's a really beautiful light. Okay, well, I think we've got it. Thank you so much! By having her look up and away from the camera and by bringing in a bright hair light, I added to the vintage feel. The hard light and its sharp shadows are enhanced when I turn the photograph into black and white. These poses were inspired by portraits of Myrna Loy I saw years ago.
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