Not only can light make your simple portrait pop, but so can shadows. Shadows help reveal the light and the shape of your subject’s face. How else are shadows helpful when taking a simple portrait? In this movie, author Levi Sim discusses the importance of incorporating shadows into the shot when you shoot a simple portrait.
- I'd like to show you some ideas for using shadows to make your picture look better. We've talked about light in the picture, but the light is revealed by the shadows. If a picture is evenly lit, if there's the same amount of light coming from all directions, and there are no shadows, then there's not really any form either. And we can use shadows to reveal the shape of someone's face and body. And we can also use those shadows to present them most flatteringly toward the camera. So let me show you a few ideas for how to use shadows to make someone look their best in front of the camera.
So right now we've got a light on set here to represent the sun shining through our diffuser, kind of giving us that soft side light that we've been talking about the whole class. And the trouble is, if I have Christie looking straight into the camera right now, there's only light shining on one side of her face, and it's quite dark on the other side. This would be a split lighting situation. And it can be dramatic and moody. And it's the right idea some of the time, but most of the time, if we're making a flattering portrait, we want to have a little light on both side of the face, and also light in both eyes.
So Christie, will you just turn your nose toward the light over there a little bit? There we go. And so now light's shining on both sides of her face, but I think it's a little too much. We're not seeing the definition that shadows can give us. So let me make an example picture right there. In fact, turn a little more that direction, Christie. There we go. (click) Okay, so that's really evenly lit on this entire side of her face. Instead, let's have you look right about there. That's great.
So we've got shadow down the side of her nose and shadow on her cheek and jawline. And we'll do an example here. (click) Good. Now between those two, we can see a distinct difference in the shaping of her face. These shadows really outline the shape of her nose and define her cheekbones, whereas over here, there's no shadows to show us the form of her cheeks and nose. And it's generally gonna be less flattering for a person.
The way that we angle a person towards the light, and position our cameras, really makes a difference in where those shadows fall. And so, you can see that I'm shooting from pretty close to parallel with Christie's face, and the light is coming from perpendicular this way. That allows the shadows to fall across her face. In fact, we call this short-lighting the face. Because if Christie looks straight at me, this is the full front view of her face. And then, if she turns to the right, or my right over here, Christie.
That's it. Now I've got two views of her face. I've got the short view, which is the side that's in the shadow right now. And then I've got the broad view, which is the broad side of her face that's toward me. So if Christie turns back the other direction, now we are lighting the short view of her face. In fact, turn back just a little bit, so we still have some shadow. There we go. So the broad side of her face that's toward me doesn't have the main light shining on it.
And the short view of her face, the ear that is toward the light, the side of her head with the ear that's toward the light, has all the light shining on it. And this ear, over here, is in the dark. And if the ear toward the camera is in the dark, then I know I'm using short lighting. And that short lighting is flattering on 99% of people on the whole planet. And so I'd recommend you learn how to use that. And you're gonna learn to make more flattering pictures, no matter who's in front of the camera, with short lighting.
We also call it loop lighting, or Rembrandt lighting, when there's this shadow coming off the side of the nose. And then if we raise the light up a little bit, we get a little bit more of the Rembrandt look, where there's a little more shadow coming under the eyebrow. When we're sculpting the shadows across somebody's face, there's a lot of distracting things here. I've got Christie's eye color, and the color of the light, and the color of her lips, and all these different colors in the picture that are making it harder to see the actual tones of the picture.
And so I usually like to switch to shooting in black and white. And that really lets me see where the light is falling and where the shadows are. And so, here, we've got the brightness is distinctly on this side of her face. And then the shadows are pretty strong over here. But I've still got that little patch of light under her eye. And that little patch of light helps me know that I've got the Rembrandt, or loop, lighting that I'm looking for. And it really looks pretty good this way.
In fact, let's shoot an example picture. (click) Yeah, so there we can see in black and white, and find just where the shadows and highlights lie. The more you practice lighting people and using shadows in your portraiture, you'll start to see what kind of a mood and the flavor of drama that you get from shadows. You should practice a lot because if you use deep shadows and really striking dramatic light in a business portrait, it might not be the right mood for that kind of a shot.
So practice with it, play with it, and you'll learn what kind of shadows work best for your work.
- Finding a good spot to make a portrait
- Making great light for a portrait in practically any situation
- What camera settings to use for portraits
- What accessories make portraiture better
- How to talk to help people feel comfortable in a portrait