Setting the scene for an unforgettable photo

Posted by on Mar 5, 2016 in Technical | No Comments
Setting the scene for an unforgettable photo

A perfect photo requires the creation of a suitable décor. It seems a simple and logical implication, but in fact, you will need to fulfil particular steps, in order to obtain the light effect that you have dreamt. Intuition might help you find solutions for the moment, such in the case of a white wall or ceiling, brightening your model and the objects around, but in the same time intuition can lead you to bizarre effects, for instance an intense light that will apparently burn the face of the person to be immortalized.

You can’t ever be wrong, if you apply one of the oldest lighting techniques in photography, the so-called Three Point method. Concisely, if you will use correctly the light provided by three different light sources, your model will be globally illuminated, leaving you no reason to correct the photo. Mainly, the arrangement of lights starts with the key light, the strongest one, shining directly upon your subject. It can be the sunlight itself, if you shoot outdoor or a particular lamp for indoors décors. Secondly, the key light will be completed by a fill light, illuminating the shadows around your model from a side angle similar to the key light. In order to obtain the complete effect of the twin lights, it’s necessary to place the fill light at a lower position, balancing the key light. In some cases, the classical lamp used as fill light is replaced by a reflector, effectively redirecting the key light effect towards another subject from your scene, maybe a jewel used by your model. Finally, the last element of your light triangle is the back light, creating a discreet contour of your model or separating him/her from the objects around.

The common triad of lights can be enhanced with a background light, creating a four-point pattern. In this case, the last type of light is placed closer to the ground, in order to illuminate objects from your scenery, creating another perspective of your shooting. It is mostly implied in the creation of movies or advertising pictures, where every detail speaks the story of the brand, as consequence it has to be revealed.

Shooting outdoors can create a natural touch upon your photos, but without a reflector, you will find it difficult to balance the light your model is exposed. This photo accessory easily reflects light into those areas where the face of your model might be affected by harsh shadows. Generally enhanced with silver or gold tones, reflectors are able to create either a brighter or a softer light, by placing them close to your model, as a back light or as a side angle light. The umbrella reflectors, widely used, provide a reliable illumination, since they include a matte white interior, as well as a black pellicle, for a proper diffusion of unwanted shadows.

The logics of a reflector is quite simple: the gold pellicle creates warm tones, the white one gathers the existing light into a neutral color effect, the silver pellicle brightens the skin and the accessories around the model, while the last one, the black pellicle, absorb the stray light, delivering a translucent effect. All in all, reflectors despite their sizes, are a cheap (even handmade at home), yet versatile solution to most common photography problems concerning natural light.