Thursday, December 9, 2010

Reflections Part 4 (Real-World Examples)

Finally, we're ready to take a look at some real-world portraits and examine reflection at work. Before jumping to today's portrait, I'd like reiterate a few things. First, skin will reflect light in both a diffuse and specular manner. The amount of diffuse skin reflection depends largely on skin tone, with darker skin reflecting less. The amount of direct reflection depends on the skin's surface sheen, and will be strongly influenced by the position and size of the source.

Above we have a rather typical business portrait in which areas of specular (direct) reflection have been circled. These shiny patches are actually reflections of the light source (direct reflections) superimposed on areas of diffuse reflection. If you look carefully, you can often make out the shape of the light source in such reflections. No place are they more distinct than in the direct reflections in the eyes (aka catchlights). Clearly, these specular patches vary in size. Notice that surfaces that curve gradually, the forehead for instance, will have larger, and generally less intense, highlights. Smaller areas with a very distinct curvature, such as the bulb of the nose, will have smaller and more intense areas of reflection. The position and size of reflections will vary depending of the size and position of your light sources. The circled areas in today's portrait are all reflections of the main light, but any light, including a fill light, can create specular highlights.

In the next post, we'll look at an unconventional portrait that digs deeper into the properties of reflection. In the meantime, if today's material was new for you, take a look at your pictures and those of other photographers and examine the highlights. You can learn a lot about how an image was created by doing so.

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