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Basics of lighting ratios


From:

Up and Running with Lighting: Studio Lights and Flash

with Erin Manning

Video: Basics of lighting ratios

The term lighting ratios may sound somewhat technical, but it doesn't have to be. It's really just about how the light falls upon your subject, and how you control it. In this movie, I'm not going to get scientific and precise, measuring the light with a professional light meter. We're just going to eyeball it. Now, the definition of a lighting ratio is the difference in intensity between the shadows and highlights in your image, and it's expressed numerically as a ratio. For example, one to one, two to one, three to one.
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Watch the Online Video Course Up and Running with Lighting: Studio Lights and Flash
51m 57s Beginner Nov 01, 2013

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Join photographer and The Whole Picture host Erin Manning as she demonstrates the essential techniques beginning photographers need to know to start working with studio lighting. Erin introduces the two types of artificial light (speedlights and studio strobes), shows how to assemble a continuous lighting setup, and then explains key concepts such as lighting ratios. She also offers tips for getting better results from an on-camera flash, and taking your photos to the next level with an external speedlight.

Subject:
Photography
Author:
Erin Manning

Basics of lighting ratios

The term lighting ratios may sound somewhat technical, but it doesn't have to be. It's really just about how the light falls upon your subject, and how you control it. In this movie, I'm not going to get scientific and precise, measuring the light with a professional light meter. We're just going to eyeball it. Now, the definition of a lighting ratio is the difference in intensity between the shadows and highlights in your image, and it's expressed numerically as a ratio. For example, one to one, two to one, three to one.

Now, if your eyes are glazing over at this point, stay with me. It will make more sense when I show you. Now here's a picture I took of my friend Josh with a one to one lighting ratio. That means that I had two lights illuminating Josh, placed at equal distance from his face and at equal intensity or brightness. You can see that both sides of his face are lit without much shadow at all. Now this one to one ratio does help diminish any imperfections and looks happy and cheery. But it's also lacking in dimension and looks a bit flat.

Here's another image of Josh using a two to one lighting ratio. This means that the light on one side of his face is approximately twice as bright as the other side. It's not exact. Remember, we're eyeballing it. The other side of his face has some shadows, which creates nice dimension in the photo. Now with the three to one lighting ratio, you can see even more shadow. I'll show you how to easily create these lighting ratios using two lights, with my model Jonathan.

Hey Jonathan, thanks again for helping out. >> You're welcome. >> Okay, so now what we're going to do is create a one to one lighting ratio using these two lights. And I'm just going to place, one constant light, oh, at about a 45 degree angle, and then grab the other light. And also place that at about a 45 degree angle. Now, I'm positioning these lights so they're both equal distance away from him.

So, each light is putting out the same amount of light. All right, so look at his face now and you can see. That it's evenly lit. I'm going to go ahead and take a shot. Looking fabulous, okay. And I'll take another one. Looks pretty good. Then again, you know, he looks great in the picture but it's a little, the lighting's a little bit flat. But if you want a happy, cheery shot without any imperfections or lines or anything, this is the lighting scenario you want to use. One to one. Equal distance away, equal brightness.

Now I want to talk to you a little bit about the lights that you use together. Up till now, we've only used one light. Now we have two lights. So whenever you have two lights, or more, in a studio lighting situation, one light is your main light. So that light is the one that's closest and brightest to your subject. That's the main light. The other light that you want to use in a situation like this would be considered a fill light, and the fill light is often times, most of the time, except when you're in a one to one lighting ratio, the fill light is not as bright.

So what I'm going to do in this situation is create kind of a two to one. Lighting ratio by pulling back what I'm going to call this my fill light, now. Because it's going to be weaker light on one side of his fate, his face. I'm going to pull this back, it's about oh, say, twice as far away. And you could call this a two to one lighting ration. The light on one side of his face is twice as bright as the light on the other side of his face. And I'll take a shot of that. (NOISE) Looking good. Okay.

This looks really nice. Now I've got some nice shadow, and dimension, and form on his face. And if I wanted to create, a lighting ratio, say three to one, or four to one, I would keep pulling this fill light back farther and farther away. Thanks. Okay, so now you can see how using a lighting ratio in your image helps you further define the look you want to achieve, and it doesn't have to be very technical.

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