Foundations: Lighting

An amateur may not know quite why one portrait looks so much better than another one taken in slightly different lighting conditions. A subject will look at a shot of themselves and instantly assess: “Do I like how I look in this one?”, but not necessarily be able to understand what part light has played in their conclusion.

Masters of portrait photography, however, know that light is key to taking a shot from average to amazing. In fact, it’s the foremost consideration in portrait photography: its quantity determines the exposure settings, its quality determines how flattering it is and its direction determines the highlight and shadow areas on the subject’s face and body.

Every day, we encounter light of different colours and intensities, yet we rarely notice that it’s changed at all, thanks to the ability of our eyes to instantly adapt. The exact nature of the light matters to your camera, however, and if the settings don’t take them into account, at worst your photographs will just look wrong. At best, you’re unlikely to capture the best version of your subject, nor create an image with atmosphere.

This module will show you how to start noticing the changing light around you, and describes what to look for when lighting a portrait.

Foundations: Traditional Head Positions

Foundations: Traditional Head Positions

As with the traditional lighting patterns, these head positions hark back to a time when meeting specific technical expectations was ...
Foundations: White Balance, The Colour Of Light

Foundations: White Balance, The Colour Of Light

Our eyes automatically adjust to different lighting conditions as we move from place to place, and we don't tend to ...
Foundations: Working With Natural Light

Foundations: Working With Natural Light

Natural light is freely available, requires little or no kit, and comes in enough different forms to keep your portraits ...
Foundations: Learning To See The Light

Foundations: Learning To See The Light

Above all other elements - composition, camera settings and camera equipment included - lighting will determine whether a shot goes ...
Foundations: On-Camera Flash vs Flash Guns

Foundations: On-Camera Flash vs Flash Guns

On-camera flash Entry- and enthusiast-level DSLRs usually include an on-camera flash which pops up on demand or when using auto ...
Foundations: Using Studio Flash

Foundations: Using Studio Flash

Natural light is variable and impossible to control, whereas artificial light provides a consistent and adjustable light source. You don't ...