Fixing The Shadows – Tutorial

In this months FTS I would like to talk about achieving more mood and drama in portraits by using low key light. Window light and top shade are great for achieving this look but the most important factor is where you position your subject and where you position yourself.

In these two pictures the light was from a single source, a window. Carful positioning is needed her to make sure the light is hitting the subject in just the right place.

A favourite shot of mine is from one of my workshops at Aspire. More of a profile shot, but the contrast between light and shadow is a look that I love. We are under a large canopy which is providing ‘top shade’ this is essential for getting the light to travel across the subject and not down.

The key factor for finding this kind of light is to think about the direction and quality of the light. A great place to start is to look for North facing windows, also open doorways and porches but then it’s a case of deciding where best to position your subject – a great technique for assessing the light is to use your hand.

Place your hand on the same plane as your subjects face and start to turn 360 degrees. As you move, the light will change until you find the right look for your portrait.
In this first image the light is a little bit flat – still good portrait light but it will give a much more evenly lit result

In this image we have gone too far and the subject would be in shadow – great for a silhouette but not the look we are trying to achieve.

PERFECTO! This is going to give us gorgeous low key, Rembrandt style lighting. You can tell by the contrast and the way the shadows form across the contours of the hand. place your subject here for a gorgeous portrait.

Shooting into the shadow side of the face not only adds drama to the image but also is very slimming and flattering to the subject.

The way the light is traveling across the subject also adds more contrast and brings out the detail in the wedding dress.

This lighting style works just as well for children as well as weddings.

If you have any questions then feel free to leave a comment – happy shooting!

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