Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Softly Does It

Using a softbox creates a lovely, flattering light.
In this post, we'll see how to create a flattering light and add a little 'pop' to the photo too. Direct frontal light, such as that produced by on-camera flash, creates very flat lighting that results in a dull photo. So, how can we improve on this flat lighting?
The simple answer is to use off-camera flash, and where you position it, and the type of light you use will have a big bearing on how the final image will look. Hard light sources create dark shadows and can look very dramatic, but in this post I wanted a clean, flattering light source.

The Lighting

Here's the lighting used for this image; we've moved it up a notch by using two lights...

Although it is quite a simple setup, there's a lot going on here, so let's take it step by step. Firstly, the distance between the main light source next to the camera and the subject is far less than the main light source to the background; that means less light on the background turning it from white to grey.

Next off, the main light source is a large softbox creating a lovely wraparound light, but because it is mainly aimed at the camera right side of the face, we can create some soft shadow areas to define the face. Some light will spill over to the camera left side of the face too, illuminating that side as well. In effect, one light is doing double duty as a main light (to the camera right side of the face) and fill light (to the camera left side of the face).

The camera is quite literally peeking under an edge of the softbox.

That one light alone makes for a flattering light and a great photo, but to step it up just a bit, we can add another flash light directly opposite the main light. This light has just one purpose and that is to backlight the hair; the rim lighting this creates provides seperation between the background and the subject. You must make sure that this light is not too 'hot' as it's easy to overpower it and completely blow the highlights in the hair out. In this photo, I used a narrow reflector fitted to the highlight, but usually a snoot is a better choice as it's more focussed (just make sure you don't point this light too far round and end up creating lens flare - unless that's the effect you want!).

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