Every great portrait begins with great light. It is the first thing to think about when creating images. What type of light will create the mood or scene you are looking for? Background, clothing, posing – everything else is secondary to the right lighting for your vision. This image was created as pregnancy portrait. I wanted to create a painterly image with sculpting light to emphasize the form of these bodies.
I created this image with only one light and a reflector. I used a small soft box on the left, as I wanted the image to read from left to right – the way we naturally read. As a side note, lighting this way makes images more comfortable to look at; if the main light was on the right it would create a feeling of uneasiness and express a very different idea.
The light is positioned close to the subjects and is pointing straight at them from the left, 90 degrees from the camera angle. If you imagine the soft box as a window, the couple is standing near the front of the window (closer to the camera) in order to create more contrast in the image. If the couple were further back in relation to the soft box, the image would have be flatter and the light would have less contrast.
The reflector is critical to define form and create depth. I used a large silver reflector positioned behind the subjects on the right side just out of camera view pointed at a 45 degree angle, bouncing the light back onto the right edge of the subjects, defining that edge and preventing them from blending into the background.
Lighting isn’t everything but it’s almost everything. Posing is also critical. The hands and body position needed to be relaxed and artistic in this image to match the vision I had. Clothing and background selection complete the vision. I used a soft background and wrapped the couple in fabrics to give it a timeless feel.
Producing images according to your vision will have clients raving about your work. This image used sculpting light to fulfill my vision of a classic painting. The framed print could be displayed in my client’s home for generations.
You can find inspiration anywhere but I like to fill my mind with the work of the Old Masters, especially Vermeer, Raphael, and Rembrandt. Visit art galleries and spend time studying the classic paintings. Look at the lighting they used and see how they posed their subjects. There are great lessons in these classic portraits.
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