Simple Lessons for Quick Learning and Easy Reference
Author: Jeff Smith
Publisher: Amherst Media
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There are many aspects to professional photography: composition, camera angles, exposure, color balance, posing, and lighting— just to name a few. However, while each of these aspects of photography is important in the creation of a professional portrait, lighting presents a special challenge that is part art and part science. When the two come together effectively, the results are stunning; when any one aspect of the recipe falls short, the result is a poor exposure or a downright unflattering look. On the artistic side of the scale, lighting is one of the primary tools for setting the mood of the portrait. It can communicate a sense of bright, airy ease or sharp, dramatic tension—or anything in between. Determining what look is right for the client (and for their intended use of the resulting portraits) is a key decision. From there, the photographer can begin to use light to sculpt the subject’s features, minimizing problem areas or accentuating the subject’s best features through the selection of light modifiers and the positioning of the lights themselves. Moving to the technical side, outdoor lighting present particular challenges—but also some significant advantages. Outdoors, photographers shoot at least partially with natural light. While this is (most of the day) an abundant light source, it is largely out of the control of the photographer. The light can change from moment to moment as clouds pass between the earth and sun. It also changes continually throughout the day as the sun moves across the sky. Since he can’t completely control the light, the photographer must be prepared to adapt his subject’s pose and position to create flattering results with the light as-is. Alternately, the photographer can “tweak” the lighting by augmenting the sunlight with flash or reflectors—or even softening it, using scrim or other diffusers. (Of course, this leaves another major concern: the background. Even if the light on the subject can be perfected, rarely can the photographer also control the light on an area as large as the background—making it a major concern in the process of posing and lighting.) So, given all this, why would any photographer choose to make portraits outside? One advantage is that the lighting and scenes are free—making outdoor photography a great starting point for those entering the field. Even established studios, however, have found that clients simply like the natural, timeless look of outdoor portraits. This makes them strong sellers. Additionally, most portrait subjects are more at ease in natural light than when seated in front of bright, noisy studio-flash units—and relaxed subjects translate into better expressions, and better overall portraits. In this book, Smith takes you through the process or lighting outdoor portraits from start to finish, covering both the artistic and technical aspects of achieving success. Short one- or two-page lessons are amply illustrated to guide the reader through each phase. In many cases, before and after images—or image sequences showing variations and alternative approaches—are presented to facilitate learning. Readers are encouraged to have this book with them during practice sessions and work on replicating or refining the provided examples, creating a self-study course in the art of lighting for outdoor portrait photography.