Fashion Photography Lighting
Hi FashionPhotograhyBlog.com readers,
We have a contributed post by fashion photographer, Per Zennstrom on FPBlog today. Based in Berlin Per had worked for recognizable brands such as Absolut Vodka, Bentley, Bon Magazine, Dior, Elle, Guy Laroche, H&M, Marie Claire, Porsche, Rolling Stone, Schwarzkopf and Toni & Guy. Per shares his thoughts about lighting and how dramatic affects can be created through simple techniques and by understanding the basics of lighting. Let’s not keep you waiting! Here’s Per…
Fashion Photography Lighting – I’m going to stick my neck out a bit here – Drum roll… Fashion Photography Lighting is overrated!
This might sound like blasphemy, especially since this article is a basic introduction to fashion photography studio lighting, but bear with me just for a moment. In photography, circles we’re inundated with statements and ideas such as “a photographer is a painter using only light” or blatantly cheap flattery such as “your light is beautiful” (If you really want to get on a photographers good side just tell him/her that his/her light is beautiful).
I actually don’t buy any of this and I say it again, I believe lighting is overrated (especially if you come at it from a fashion photography perspective) and in this article I will tell you why.
If you’re a fashion photographer I believe speed and flexibility are much more important than lighting. What really matter is not the lighting but what is in front of the camera. Well, after this preamble let me jump straight into the basics of studio lighting because even after having said all that I believe you need to know the basics of lighting. Learn it and then unlearn it. Make lighting become part of your photographic reflexes.
There are only 3 things you need to understand to really get lighting. If you master this you can reverse engineer any images to understand how they were lit. Any changes to these three things will change the character of your lighting, so pay attention please:
– Relative size of Light source
– Ambient Light
– Color of Light source
And even if you do become a master of lighting there is something very important that I’d like to underline – If it looks good, just shoot!
That sounds pretty simple but you would not imagine how many photographers that drag on the session, endlessly making minuscule adjustments to the lighting that don’t actually make a difference and, in the process, losing what’s in front of the camera; the model. So again, if it looks good, just shoot it!
Relative Size Of Light Source
The relative size of the light source is the most important aspect of the character of the light. By character, I mean that we say “that’s a really hard light” or “that is very soft and flattering light” and “the relative size of the light source determines how the edge of the shadow will look”.
It is the relative size of the light source that will decide this. Look at the edge of the shadow; if the edge is sharp and hard we have what we call a hard light if the edge of the shadow is soft we have a soft light. It is the relative size of the light source that gives us a either hard or soft light. A big light source gives a soft light. A small relative light source gives a hard/sharp light.
Character of Light – Hard Light
A good example to use is the sun on a cloudless day. The size of the sun is enormous but because of the distance the sun appears very small in the sky, ergo a hard light!
Character of Light – Soft Light
Now think of the same scenario, but this time on an overcast day with clouds filling the entire sky. In this case, the relative size of the light source is very big; the overcast sky (which takes up 50% of your total field of vision). The light on a day like this is very soft and the edges of the shadows are super soft – in fact, there are no real shadows actually. An even softer light would be inside a white room with all white walls, ceilings and floor.
Ambient light is any light that you don’t actually control. You can also think of it as “junk light” – the unintended light which is left over or just bouncing around in the studio. Examples of ambient light are reflections off studio walls or floor or ceiling, or stray light creeping out from umbrellas or soft boxes. Ambient light is very important because it fills in the shadows and decreases the contrast of the image; it makes the shadows brighter.
Learn to control the ambient light. In a studio situation, this is typically done by using black & white polystyrene flats “killing” off reflections from walls and ceilings; usually with the intention to darken and deepen the shadows. “The ambient light determines the “fill” in the shadows… If the ambient light is strong enough = no shadows”.
Color of Light
This is easy, no need to really talk about it actually…
I also would like to give you a tip on an interesting studio lighting simulation software – set.a.light 3d by Elexxier. I used this software to build the 3D models to illustrate this video and article. If you’re interested in taking it for a test spin it’s free to use for 15 days – pretty good!
Thank you very much,
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