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Creative lighting is one of the most exciting things that make beauty and portrait photography awesome. There is so much you can change by simply adjusting the position of light and all that diversity is going to help you take the perfect shot.
Of course you have to know what you’re doing and it’s fair to say lighting is probably the trickiest part about learning photography. That’s probably what scares many photographers who only shoot natural. But that again, it’s their loss.
There are a lot of lighting setups you can try in your studio or even in your home, some more complicated than others. It’s always a good idea to adapt lighting to your model. We don’t all have the same skin tone and the shape of someone’s face is very closely tied to how the shadows will look. With that said, there are a few lighting setups that most of us have heard of. Rembrandt and butterfly lighting are two of the most popular, and luckily they’re pretty easy to create. They also work for most people.
What you really need to be careful with are the shadows. You can tone down a light if it’s too powerful but you can’t really save a photo that has shadows with no details in them. You want to bring the highlights and shadows to an intensity that is accessible to your camera’s dynamic range.
I always say you can take absolutely killer portraits with just one light source, usually a flash. But the honest truth is you’re much better off if you add a fill light. That’s because a fill light will bring back the details in the shadows and it will also balance the shot. A lot of photographers want drama in their portraits and shadows are the best way to get it. However it’s very easy to go overboard with shadows and that’s when a properly positioned fill light saves the day.
Here’s a great video tutorial with a few basic lighting setups from Adorama TV.