Lighting tips for portrait

I will help you understand and master the light for a photo portrait. I will explain what light patterns are best used depending on your subject and what you want to feel. Better understanding of light is an essential step that will make you a better photographer.

In this article, we will see together the four basic light patterns to illuminate a face. and I will give you some very valuable tips to make your portrait photos a success

The 4 light patterns

1.The Rembrandt

This plan takes its name from the triangle of light that forms under the eye of the model. Rembrandt often used this type of lighting in his paintings. To do this, the light source will be placed very close to the subject (less than 1 meter), 45 ° on one side and 45 ° in height. Orient the flash toward the model's face (the flash is pointing downward). One of the classic mistakes is not to put the flash high enough, which gives a side light: the shadows created are not natural. Set the flash using a flash meter for shooting at an aperture of f / 8.

2.The LOOP

How do we recognize the loop light pattern is that the shadow of the nose is slightly shifted unlike the butterfly or it is in the axis of the nose. On the other hand, this shade does not join that of the cheekbone. This type of lighting works on most people. So, if you do not know what to do, try the loop first. But you must be careful to have a soft shadow and that points down. If your light source is placed too low in relation to the subject, the shadow of the nose may go back to the eye and that is anything but aesthetic.

3.The Butterfly

This lighting plan takes its name from the shadow formed under the nose, which looks (by far) to a butterfly. This device is very close to the previous one (lightbox very close, in height and pointing downwards). However, it will be placed directly in front of the model.This style is also called Paramount because it was used a lot by Holliwood photographers (and Studio Paramount Movies) in the thirties. To avoid having the flash foot between the model and the lens, use a giraffe foot. So it is a scheme that can give a glamorous style a little retro. It is flattering for elderly subjects because it emphasizes less wrinkles than side lighting. By cons it is a diagram that highlights the cheekbones, which can be flattering for very defined faces, but little too amplify too much dark circles and dig too much cheeks, which can give a tired look ..


This lighting plan takes its name from the fact that we will light half of the face, while the other will remain in the dark. Once again, it is very close to the previous ones (close-up light box, up and down), but the light source will be placed this time completely on the side of the subject.It is rather a masculine scheme because it increases the dramatic and hard load of the photo ...

Golden Tips

- The portrait of ¾

Your goal is not to take a photo ID! The whole thing is to find the "good three-quarters" of the subject that roughly corresponds to his best profile. In fact, the ¾ makes your subject appear slimmer and showcases the oval of his face and the lines of his body. To make the look of your model more intense, make him tilt the chin down: this will give strength to your image because whoever looks at it will have the impression that the subject stares straight in the eyes.

- Do not neglect the background: it is essential

The background is what will give personality to your portraits because it allows to restore the atmosphere of the shooting. When it is put in scene and well integrated in the portrait, it allows to reveal more about the personality of the model. This is called the contextual plan, or the environmental plan. Anyone can make a portrait on a white background, but choosing different textures and different environments will give originality to your portrait. The motto: vary the places!

- Body Language has a major role !

When making portrait shots, have your model point his head at 45 ° to your case. This will allow you to get more captivating and energy-laden images. Familiarize yourself with body language to push poses further and get out of classic poses. The elbows also play a vital role in portrait photography. The position of the elbows as the direction in which they are pointed can exert a determining influence on the feeling of the spectator facing the photo.

Be Positive

The last piece of advice I give you is to be creative: if there is not enough light for a portrait, where you are misplaced in relation to that light, be creative. It is possible to create small paper or cardboard reflectors for internal flashes in order to send the light back to the ceiling even without a cobra flash. If a subject has a strong light in the background, why not photograph it against the light by intentionally under-exposing the image? You see, taking a nice portrait finally, it's not that complicated. You just have to understand the framing and the development, to look after the composition and to establish a climate of confidence with your model. Obviously ... we must also remain patient! It will take time to get satisfactory results.
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