Continuing from our shoot in part 1 where we now have perfect color in camera, the next thing is to control the direction of light. Many photographers shoot portraits using Natural Light, and this approach can be absolutely beautiful. However the biggest trick and often failure (as with all lighting techniques) is to control the direction of light so eyes and skin pop. Many photographers miss this, and controlling direction of light is key to making images more professional.
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Many photographers come to my hands-on workshops wanting to learn this concept of direction on a deeper level. When I watch how they work, I notice that many images are created without light direction control at all. Photographers get caught up in the moment, and instead just shoot lots of images hoping something will turn out great.
Instead, we should shoot less, control more, and be more specific about what we shoot. This will result in more variety and creativity in less time, while also shooting images of far higher quality. The first step to controlling light is controlling the direction. The easiest way to do this working with natural light is to have a reflector under the eyes, popping light back into them so they’re not dull.
You can even see the difference in her eyes in these two behind-the-scenes shots.
It’s noticeable from the side, but now see how things look through my camera. First we have the original image with no reflector and no light direction. Yes it has great color, but the lighting is coming in from haphazard angles. The result is dull eyes and hot spots in the wrong places. We need to fix that so that the model’s eyes pop and her face is sculpted.
Holding this reflector under her face and aiming it just right, her face and eyes pop. Her skin looks great, her face is modeled and sculpted by the light, the dark areas on the skin under her eyes are gone, and their are catch lights in her eyes that make them glow. And none of these images have had any retouching either.
These are all straight images, no color or other adjustments. When we do the right things in camera, our images look better.
This ExpoImaging Rogue 2-in-1 Reflector is great because of it’s size and finish. Often reflectors are too shinny. Using them and folding them for years eventually makes them soft enough to use up close. This reflector however comes soft right out of the box. And the size is perfect for holding yourself too. Of course you can have someone hold it for you, but it helps I think to hold it yourself most of the time, because you can then adjust it as you look through the camera and study the reflection and pop in the client’s eyes.
Above we’ve used this reflector as our main light outdoors with natural light. Let’s use this reflector in the studio as a fill light now.
Stepping into the studio, we can really enhance our setup with a nice reflector fill. When we work outside, we start with ambient light around us and we adapt to that. When we’re in a studio we start from scratch and get to control all lighting and direction from the onset. But often we want to soften the shadow side of the face with a fill, or we may want even more light popping up into the eyes.
Above we have a studio image with no reflector fill, and below we add that. Both images are great, but the one below has more pop in the eyes and the overall lighting is softer too.
This is a great use of this soft reflector. I’m holding it as I look through the camera, directing the client. The advantage of holding it yourself is that you can see the nuances of it all as you interact with the client for a great expression.
Sometimes this is cumbersome for newer photographers. There’s often so many things to think about that holding and running two things at once (camera and reflector) while also trying to notice expression, hair, exposure, and lighting angles can be confusing. If that’s the case with you, start by using a reflector stand or have a helper hold the reflector for you. But make sure they keep it aimed exactly where you want it.
In the upcoming article and video we’ll take things even further by adding flash outdoors with speedlights while controlling quality of light.
Until next time, America.