Great portraits don’t always require a big
studio and pro lighting. We show you how to create six stunning styles with
Portraiture is an accessible genre, which
needn’t cost a fortune to practice. In this hands-on shooting guide we’ll show
you six great ways to capture stunning portrait styles, all of which are
achievable with little time and money.
People are all around us every day of our
lives, so you don’t necessarily need to hire a model to get to grips with the
genre. Grab a willing friend or family member and hone your shooting skills
before you begin searching the model agencies.
You can also forget about expensive,
elaborate studio kit; it’s perfectly possible to take creative images without
the need to spend thousands. Even some simple net curtains can be put to good
use as a portrait accessory; the key is knowing what you want to achieve and
looking for ways to create it in-camera.
In order to demonstrate the scope and
flexibility of portrait photography, we will demonstrate three very different
environments – a small studio, outside in the middle of the day and inside in a
living room using just the available light.
Each location presents its own unique
challenges and benefits but all are equally ideal for portraits, and the
similarities are actually greater than the differences. In each situation you
will be working with the light to create your image. We’re on hand to show you
how to manipulate the light to create sex distinct portrait styles.
You will also need to know how to work with
your subject or model, to help them to relax and pose in a way that works with
the type of image you are trying to create. Let’s get shooting…
In the studio
Learn to create a high-key setup and
a moody low-key arrangement.
The high-key look typically involves bright
and bold images set against a white background. The subject is normally very
brightly lit by the key light – hence the term ‘high key’. This style gives the
photographer flexibility to break some of the rules of portraiture. The skin
tones may be a stop or more lighter than they should be and spill from the
background lights may be incorporated into the image.
To achieve the high-key look you will
normally need at least three lights. Two of these lights will be used to light
the background, one on each side. A third light is used as the key light that
illuminates the subject. Some photographers choose to also add a fourth light
to further eliminate shadows. This shot uses a three-light arrangement and
we’re using a standard zoom lens on your DSLR as this gives us plenty of
flexibility. A fast shutter speed of 1/200sec and an aperture of about f11 work
Getting the shot
If you position your subject very near the
background and background lights, you may find that a lot of light bounces back
onto the subject and creates a soft-looking image or flare spots. Avoid
overexposing the background and bring the subject nearer the key light. Try to
get your model to adopt bold, striking poses and experiment with interesting
compositions that look dramatic and dynamic.
key generally demands more lights but we also achieved the same effect using
just two studio lights.
Alternatively, try this…
If you only have access to two lights, you
can still produce effective high-key images. Light your background to produce
pure white and then place a reflector between the camera and the subject to
bounce some of the light back in lieu of a key light. Open up your camera’s
aperture to ensure correct exposure on the model – we’ve gone for f5.6 here.
The low-key look is a much more traditional
and classic approach to portraiture. Very often the images will look especially
effective when converted to black and white. Portraits taken using low-key
lighting tend to make use of moody expressions from the subject and frequently
have an air of mystery and intrigue about them.
You can produce low-key lighting effects
with just one light. One studio flash fitted with a softbox (or beauty dish) is
all you really need. The only potential problem is that in a small studio space
light may bounce back from walls, floors and ceilings and spoil your shadows.
Avoid this by using black ‘absorbers’ (you can use any black surface with a
matte finish, which will do the job of reducing reflections) and by shooting
with a fast shutter speed to reduce the influence ob ambient light as far as
possible. We’ve increased the shutter speed to 1/250sec here.
Getting the shot
You will need to position your subject
carefully in relation to the light in order to make the shadows as attractive
as possible. The modelling lamp in the flash heads will give you some idea, but
firing some test shots and watching the camera’s LCD allows you to see exactly
what’s going on. Aim for an elegant, sophisticated or moody pose. You also want
your model to be wearing black or very dark clothing which will enhance the
light source is sufficient for a low-key portrait
Pros and cons of studio lighting
Control all aspects of the light and
Images look polished and professional.
Not easy for everyone to access a studio
Equipment may not suit everyone’s budget.