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Monday, February 21, 2011

A Great Lighting Reference + Lotsa Guessing Work


I bought this book at a local photography bookstore today. When I saw this book I told myself that this guide book saves me lotsa time by trying to visualize what lighting setups I should use for my portrat shoots. The book can do alot more than that. More after the jump.


It's a good reference guide to lighting setups for portrait photographers. It clearly illustrates the effects of lighting on people with different skin tones. It also shows how the same portrait can vary depending on the color of the background which allows you to quickly find a setup to suit your model and the effect you need/want.

In my case of preparing for portrait shoots, mostly on outdoor locations, I would sketch a few drafts of lighting disgrams on a notebook based on the selected location, the environment and the natural lighting condition. With this guide book, I can easily find out the lighting setups I want and I can improvise from there. With the lighting diagrams ready, I can set up quickly on the actual day of the shoot which helps to save time and being more productive.

In addition, whenever I come across some interesting portraits on magazines, I would guess the lighting setups by studying the pictures. With this guide book, I can quickly flick through the pages to find which lighting setup is closely simulated, even though more lightings could be used in those magazine pictures. Personally i find it very helpful in my guessing.

OK here's a simple guessing exercise for you readers. Below is a movie poster, UNKNOWN starring Liam Neeson. I first saw this artwork at a local theater and it got my attention.


Let's take a closer look at his portrait.


Can you guess the lighting setup? A simple way to know where the main light is placed, is by looking into the subject's eyes. As you can see, there's a catchlight in Neeson's left eye and over his left shoulder there's highlight. To clearly illustrate my guess, the lighting setup could be like this.


Disclaimer: All lighting, camera, lens, grip, f-stop, shutter speed, etc. information may not hold up in a court of law.

Well this is my guess. Only when I do a test shoot would I be able to find out if this lighting setup works or not. There's a lot of guess work in guessing, you know.

So if you are new and starting out on off-camera or strobist-style portrait shooting, it would be good to get yourself a copy of this definitive guide book, especially when you do not know where to begin or where to place the main light. At least this book helps you to jump-start and the rest is up to you to improvise and play around with the lighting and unleash yr creativity.


Though armed with the knowledge of theories, and planning are important, you will learn and improve more when you hands-on, shoot more and learn your your own mistakes. As Joey Lawrence pointed out, "...it’s experimenting that is going to help you develop your craft and develop your own personal style." How true it is. Take it as a good advise.