How important is good lighting in a portrait? Does it even matter? What does photography even mean?
The word photography derives from the Greek photos ("light") and graphe ("drawing"). The term was coined by Hercules Florence, a French painter and inventor, who used it in his diary to describe the process. So, it means "Light Drawing"!
Based on this description, photography is drawing with light. I have also heard it described as painting with light. So, how important do you think lighting is in a portrait now?
The light in a portrait adds dimension. It can give your image a 3D look, or even create a soft glow. Without it, the portrait would look flat, dull, and lifeless. In all good portraits, there are shadows and highlights in addition to dimension. If we were outside with the harsh sun overhead, where do you think the shadows would fall on a person's face? If you guessed under the eyes, you are correct. Think "racoon eyes"!
Most of our headshots are created in our Oswego, IL. studio. A studio environment gives us the ability to control the light exactly how we want it. There are no surprises and we know what to expect. An outside location or indoors at a client's place of employment does not provide that. Usually, indoors, the fluorescent lights give off a yellow cast and compete with our studio strobes. Outdoors, we need to find the light-that is, the best light for our subjects in order to create a flattering portrait.
Below are a few examples of different types of lighting used in the studio to create flattering portraits of our clients. The first, is flat lighting, but it is used in a way to create a softness for our subject. This type of lighting is great to minimize lines and give an overall pleasant look.
The second is your typical lighting set up, with one strobe and one reflector to create dimension. Highlight on the side of the face closest to the camera, and a shadow on the other side by the reflector.
The last one is a more dramatic set up. Here we used one strip bank modifier (long and narrow softbox) placed directly above to create a long, shallow strip of light on one side of their faces. There was no reflector or other fill light, so the other side of their faces is very dark. This type of lighting is great to create a very moody effect.
We think understanding lighting is pretty important in order to create a great portrait. And, we understand it. Whether you need a "typical" headshot, a more modern one with flat lighting, or a dramatic one, we can create what you need.