Portraiture is probably one of the most common applications of photography, and the preferred choice of the novice. Everyone loves having their pictures taken (well most people at least), so it is always easy to find yourself a subject.
Read on to learn how you can improve at lighting for portrait photography.
1. Avoid Flat Lighting
On-camera flashes don’t do much for your portraits. The light they give out is hard and unappealing, leaving no shadows and therefore making your subject appear two dimensional. While the on-camera flash is acceptable to use when there is no other option, they do not do much justice to portrait photography. Try this simple experiment. Shoot two portraits – one with the camera flash on and one with the camera flash off, provided the existing ambient light is acceptable. The portrait without the flash would no doubt be much more appealing, even if it was illuminated with nothing more than a bedside lamp!
2. Get those Catch lights
One of the subtle touches to a portrait image, be it a painting or a photograph, it catches lights in the model’s eyes. This is something that does not cry out for attention at first glance, but somewhere in the viewer’s subconsciousness, the catch lights hold their attention. Observe any popular or award winning portrait image, and you will see that the catch lights are clearly evident. Get catch lights by positioning the light source and the model adequately.
3. Diffuse the Light
Diffused light is nothing but softened light. Softened light by the way, works well to make pleasing portraits. You could diffuse your light by placing something like a semi transparent paper in front of it, even if it is just a regular portable flash unit. But do remember to compensate exposure for the loss of intensity of light. if you do not have artificial light sources, lareg windows can produce very nice soft light for portraiture.
4. Shooting Candid
Shooting candid portraits is a great idea to make a photo book. You can also get into trouble if you try and shoot strangers without their permission, so try and keep this for family and friends only. While candid images may not seem too appealing at first, the nostalgia they can create after a few years have passed is incomparable. You cant really plan your lighting for candid portraiture, can you? Yes you can! Set up your lighting, be it as simple as a lamp light or a window light, and WAIT for the subject to present itself in the aesthetic position for you to fire away.
5. Use Slave Lights when you can
Slave lights, as the name suggests are additional lights other than the main or key light source. These could include back lights, hair lights etc. You can use as many slaves as you want to, as long as they are aesthetically placed. Starting with a hair light is a good idea.