Jim Doty - Photo Blog

Photography: Photos, News, and Tips
Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Laureesa. Photo copyright Jim Doty Jr.

Laureesa. Photo © Jim Doty, Jr.

A recent stroll through two large malls with three different portait studios turned into an unplanned and brief study of "mall lighting". I wandered into all three studios and looked at the photos and watched them take some photos. In almost all of the photos the lighting was the same. Two light sources were placed in front of the subject. Each light was softened with an umbrella or "dish" to create a very soft, even light across the face with minimal or no shadows. It is attractive lighting and not difficult to do. It makes for quick shoots and fast turn around times. After going through the third studio, most of the photos began to have a certain "sameness" to them.

Personally, I prefer more variety and at least a few photos with more drama and bold shadows. It takes longer to shoot this way, but it is how I like to work. I usually do sessions that last from 90 minutes to 2 hours (or more with some high energy people) with several different outfits and in several locations. The shoot goes by quickly and it is fun. When we are done, most people are surprised when they look at the clock.

There are several basic forms of classical studio lighting with lots of variations. When the face is turned at an angle to the camera, the side most visible is called the "broad" side and the side turned away from the camera is the "short" side. Short side lighting, or "short lighting" is when the main (brighter) light is on the short side of the face, and the fill (dimmer) light is on the broad side of the face. Done correctly, it can be very attractive.

Careful attention needs to be given to the location of the lights and where the shadows fall. When positioning the main light, the shadow from the nose usually should fall in the valley between the nose and the cheek bone. In the photo above, The main light is "camera left" and to the right of Laureesa's face. It is high enough to create a nice shadow underneath her left cheek and give some nice contours to her face, but not so high that there isn't a catch light in her eyes.

The fill light is "camera right" and the light level is just high enough to fill in the shadows but dark enough to give the photo some drama. The fill light is to Laureesa's left and a little behind her left shoulder so it doesn't create a second catchlight in her eyes.

Both the main and fill lights were bounced into umbrellas to soften the light.

Data: Canon 5D. Canon EF 24-105mm lens set at 65mm. Aperture: f/8. Shutter: 1/100 second. ISO: 100. A pair of "ALIEN BEES" studio flash units (model B800) with umbrellas.


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