Monday, December 13, 2010

Reflections Part 5 (Another Example)

Above is the image from the previous post, but without the circled highlights and with an inset image that uses the same lighting but with the subject positioned for short lighting. What is most notable about these images is that they employ a very common lighting setup, with the main light positioned about 45 degrees off of the camera-subject axis and somewhat above the face. You'll find some variation of this type of lighting in many high-volume portrait studios around the world. Fill lighting of some form is usually combined with the main light to control shadow detail. While the character of the highlights will vary from one implementation to another, the positions will remain largely the same. You can expect to have a highlight on the forehead, the tip of the nose, on one or both cheeks, and, depending on facial structure, a few other spots. You can create hard, distinct highlights by using small sources pointed squarely at the subject, or much softer areas of glow when using very large sources in combination with appropriate makeup. In an upcoming post, we'll look further into how to control these highlights. For now, we'll leave the ubiquitous and take a look at something completely different.

Taking Advantage of Direct Reflection

The above image was created with an unconventional lighting consisting of a large Fresnel light immediately in front of and above the subject. That light was pointed almost straight downward, and feathered ever so slightly back toward the camera, resulting in a beam of light that just grazed the front of the face. A silver reflector was placed just in front of the subject and slightly below his hands. Additionally, kicker (accent) lights were placed behind the subject at approximately + and - 150 degrees off the camera-subject axis.

Minimizing Direct Reflection

This image helps demonstrate some interesting properties of direct reflection. First, the direct reflections of the business portrait are gone, replaced here by a line of specular reflection along the bridge of the nose, and a distinctive highlight on the lip. The near absence of specular highlights occurred because the direct reflections of the Fresnel source were projected downward off the face and not back toward the lens. Only the aforementioned nose and lip highlights can be seen by the lens. The reflector acted similarly, projecting light obliquely up across the face. The result is just a hint of glow across the face. Here, the goal was to minimize visible direct reflections on the face, but the kicker lights performed in quite the opposite manner.

Maximizing Direct Reflection

Unlike the frontal lighting, where direct reflections were mostly directed away from the view of the lens, the kicker lights were positioned to take full advantage of direct reflection. The specular highlights along the sides of the head are largely direct reflections of the kicker lights, and, as direct reflection is more "efficient" than diffuse reflection, these highlights are quite bright. In fact, the main light metered more than one stop brighter than the kickers, yet the lighting along the sides of the head appears brighter. Keep this in mind when placing accent lights. They can look brighter than you expect.

Next Post

In the next post we'll look at lighting darker skin tones.

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