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Understanding light patterns

From: Up and Running with Lighting: Studio Lights and Flash

Video: Understanding light patterns

Photography is all about the light. But it's also about the shadows created by that light. We've covered how the direction of light can create dimension and form in an image, and how hard and soft light can dramatically change the look of your image. Now it's time to explore how a lighting pattern can help define the look you want to achieve in a photo. So what is a lighting pattern? Well, it's the relationship between the light source and your subject's face. And each relationship has a name.

Understanding light patterns

Photography is all about the light. But it's also about the shadows created by that light. We've covered how the direction of light can create dimension and form in an image, and how hard and soft light can dramatically change the look of your image. Now it's time to explore how a lighting pattern can help define the look you want to achieve in a photo. So what is a lighting pattern? Well, it's the relationship between the light source and your subject's face. And each relationship has a name.

This helps you control and define what you're seeing. And what you'd like to create. It's about where the highlights and the shadows are falling upon your subject. For example, here are some images I captured of Jenine using one constant light source. They are short, broad, split, and rembrant. Short lighting has a narrowing effect, and works well for slimming down a wide face. It also sets a dramatic mood, and it's often used on TV and movie sets for a theatrical effect.

Broad lighting de-emphasizes facial features, and tends to widen faces. Split lighting has a very dramatic effect. And you may recognize this lighting pattern from the direction of light movie. When I showed you how side lighting creates dimension and form in a photograph. Rembrandt lighting, named after the famous 17thh century Dutch painter. It's characterized by a small triangle of light that appears under the eye on the shadow side of the face and has a classic look and feel.

Now these are just a few of the lighting patterns you can use to enhance your images. Now let me show you one of my favorite lighting patterns, short light. I'll demonstrate the lighting placement with our model Mike. Okay, Mike. Here we go. >> Okay. >> We're off to take some more shots. This is going to be what's called short lights. And so I'm going to show everyone how that works. I've got my light over here. And short lighting as you saw in the example. Is where the part of the face that's towards camera is dark, and the part of the face that's away from camera is light.

So how do we get that? Well, if I have Mike sitting here and he's just looking straight ahead I could move the light around, and. Find, you know, where I want to place it. Okay. And then maybe I would come over here and take a picture from this side of the dark part of his face and I have the light over on that side of the face. That's all great, if the entire room was maybe one big backdrop. At your house, 'because it kind of is here. (LAUGH) But I could take it this way, take the shot. And that would be, really nice short lighting.

But here's an easier way to do it. Especially if you're in a tight space. So what I'll do is, I'll place the light over here just to the side of Mike. And, Mike, I'm going to have you just face your body right into the light. So now, if I'm standing here, and I want to take the shot of Mike against the backdrop, I have a silhouette of him. Which is fine. But now, I'm going to have Mike slowly turn his face towards me. Keep going. With chin down just little. Nice. And now, I have a nice short lighting effect on his face.

And you can even turn your body just a little bit more towards me, too. And now maybe turn your face a little bit more towards the light. Okay. And now back just a little bit. That's nice. Now, with the short lighting I'm also getting a little bit of a rembrandt light on his cheek and that rembrandt lighting which is that little triangle of light here in the dark shadow side. So you can see how one lighting pattern can kind of blend into the other depending on. Where your subject is facing. So it is about that relationship of how the light is falling upon your subject's face and those shadows.

So that's one easy way to get that short lighting effect. Thanks Mike. Great job. So if you'd like more indepth information about lighting patterns, check out the Natalie Fobes course. Lighting for Photographers: Portraiture. And now that you know more about lighting patterns, I'm sure that there's one that you're drawn to, so experiment and try to recreate it.

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