As you guys know I have been more and more experimenting with lighting and portraits.  Usually using myself as the test subject to see how the lighting affects and changes through the process.  As of right now I have a two speed light set (SB700s).   So all lighting I am doing is simple and easy to set-up, which is what I want.  With engagement and wedding portraits you want to be as quick but as accurate as possible.  So that is why testing out different lighting scenarios is important.  I wanted to show two completely different lighting styles in two different locations to show a dramatic and a simple portrait.

I will start with the simple portrait.   (Now I have added some photoshop fun to it, but the gist of the post is lighting)

The key for this is I am evenly lit.  In fact this was taken with my old D3000 since you can see my D700 is in my hands.  It also was lit with just one speedlight.  There is a big window right across from where I am standing so the speedlight was actually doing just a little work to light the shadows and keep it even.  It was set to -1.0 and was in a 24″ softbox right above the camera.  To help highlight the underneath especially on my back arm I had a reflector mounted directly below the frame to bounce some of that light back up into me.   This is a perfectly simple way to light someone in a controlled environment.  Use a light above and a reflector below to keep the light soft and light there features well.   Push in the light and reflector as close as possible to keep it soft and to minimize drop-off.   The settings on my camera were 1/80 sec at ISO 100, f1.8 @ 50mm.

Now for something drastically different and streaming away from the soft light we all love.  Sometimes you want dark shadows to set a mood.  So I wanted to try something and had to find a dark spot in the city.  So a nice underground alley near the river worked perfect:

This metallic and reflective background made a perfect spot for lighting.  This was lit with two speedlights, one key light for myself, and one lowlight to add some ‘cool’ to the backdrop.  My main light was up above camera left just out of frame pointed down at me.  It had a full cut CTO and I set the camera to Tungsten to control the color of the shot.  Now the shot had too much warmth to it since I was in a Chicago alley in February, so I took my second light and left it bare and pointed it up at the backdrop camera right.  The key light was at 0.0 and the low light was at -1.0.   The camera was dialed in at 1/6 sec (rear curtain to drag the shutter) at ISO-200, f2.8 @ 19mm.  I had the camera dialed down -2.0 to really darken the image since there were a decent amount of tungsten lights overhead. 

I have become so interested in using speedlights and the unlimited amount of things you can do with them to create a portrait.  These two ways that I just highlighted are just something to get you thinking and a way to keep myself pushing what I can get out of these little lights.

4 thoughts on “Two Contrasting Portrait Lighting Styles

  1. Interesting article, for sure. I have yet to really try any flash or lighting set-ups. I want to get into portrait work, but just haven’t found my entry. Your work is inspiring though. Do you recommend shoe-mounted flash?

  2. In my mind it really depends on what type of shooting you are going to do. The reason I went with speedlights at least to start is they are easy to go on location with (weddings/engagements) and with Nikon, you can trigger them without Radio triggers or add ons. Not sure on Pentax? I would like to get some studio lights to play with since they have so much more power, but it is a high initial purchase cost to “do it right.” Plus I just love how easy it is to set-up the speedlights from my camera, just set them to remote and zoom, then I can control power right from the camera.

  3. Sweet shot. I have some speedlights and remotes, but I don’t use them too often because I don’t usually have any good subjects. I like how you overcome this difficulty.

  4. I guess it is a good way, I need to convince my wife to come out and be my model, she is a lot better looking than me, plus she smiles more, lol! I figure it is easier to try out lighting on myself then having someone stand there waiting for me so when I do have sessions, I have some different lighting than the simple overhead fashion beauty lighting that gets old after a while.

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