1. Before you can light a subject/scene with a flash or a light kit, you must be able to “see” the subject/scene in your mind from the direction of the light source. The angle of your camera is easy to see, since you simply look through the viewfinder and position the camera for the composition you want. When you learn how to combine both of these views into one, you’ll have more control of the picture you record. You’ll have the confidence to use the light source in various positions that will enhance the images you are creating.
2. Light strikes a subject from three basic angles that are important to understand, so you can then apply the three-point lighting concept to illuminate your subject “correctly” and/or artistically.
3. Amateur photographers are most likely to light their photos from the face-on angle, with an on-camera flash. This certainly makes it easy to identify the subject, but a frontal light source eliminates shadows. The person’s face and its features appear flat. Professional photographers know how to introduce shadows on the face with the proper lighting technique to give their portraits a more three-dimensional quality, which is typically more flattering and interesting.
In the three-pointing lighting concept, the face-on light source is known as the key light. Instead of pointing it directly at the subject, the professional places the key light at a 45-degree angle to and slightly above the subject to create more dimension and depth, with just enough shadows.
4. The second basic lighting angle is light from either side of the subject. It also creates pleasing shadows, and is known as the fill light. It “fills” any dark areas from the key light and softens any harsh shadows. The fill light is typically used at less power than the key light, acting as a fine-detail tool.
5. The third angle of light is from the back, or the back light. It is often placed high and behind the subject at an angle to light the hair or the side of the face. The back light source creates a different kind of dimensionality, a separation between the subject and the background. Because a back light illuminates a bit of the background, depth is revealed behind the subject.
6. Another lighting technique that can expand your shooting opportunities and enhance the images you create is the bare flash bulb, or tube. An advantage of using professional-grade lighting equipment is that the reflector can often be removed from larger flash heads. The bare bulb illuminates 360 degrees of the space around its position.
A two-bare-bulb setup is an excellent lighting solution for group photos. Each bulb is positioned above the heads of the group at a 45-degree angle, with one head set at a stop lower than the other.
The bare-bulb technique is also a great fill light. It illuminates both the space around it as well as bouncing light from the walls, ceiling and floor.
You can also use a bare-bulb when shooting in a small space or for close-up work, such as food and products.
7. Professionals also understand that a subject doesn’t necessarily have to be lit solely with flashes or other artificial light sources. Virtually every interior space has a certain amount of ambient light that can be mixed in the right proportion with the flash to create excellent and pleasing portraits.
You do this first by determining the correct exposure with just the ambient light. Once you know that value, you can use a flash as the primary light source and the ambient light as fill. The goal of mixing flash and ambient light correctly is to underexpose the ambient light exposure by two stops to reveal shadows. You then adjust the setting on your flash unit manually to find the point of balance that will illuminate your subject correctly.
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Photo by PhotographyTalk Member Mohamed Montasser