As Froggie’s assistant I am able to learn new photography techniques in exchange for helping with his projects. Recently, he taught me the basics of portrait photography using one flash, a white umbrella, a light stand, remote triggers, and, of course, guinea pigs subjects. He also taught me how to use white posterboard to reflect light if need-be.Below I’ll outline the three types of lighting systems used for various effects as shot with my Nikon D3200 and with the help of my boyfriend and parents.
NOTE: I’m not great at editing in Lightroom yet, so the photos are for educational purposes only. Although I WILL say Froggie edited pictures of my mom and dad and I was totally blown away by how cool they came out. That’s a lesson for another day.
EXTRA NOTE FROM FROGGIE: I handicapped Erin a little due to the fact that I only had a small umbrella to give her. While the umbrella softened the light, it was too small to perfectly demonstrate these lighting styles. Small light sources do not always provide the “wrap around” lighting effect that is desired for these styles. So instead of small shadows in key places, sometimes it throws one whole side of the face in shadow. Despite the tiny umbrella, I think she did a wonderful job for her first time. And I think you can see with a little editing (above) the pictures had all the data needed to end up with a professional end result.
Yes, it looks like a mugshot although I’m fairly certain this is Eli’s “enthusiastic” face. With this dramatic lighting, part of the face is obscured to a degree in shadow (an effect called chiaroscuro and I can thank my college Art History class for that fancy term). Google Image Search revealed a variety of different ways to achieve this effect, but I think the basic technique is the same; the flash should be positioned away from the subject at a 45 degree angle and be high enough that it is pointing down (also at around 45 degrees) towards the subject’s eye. The closer the flash to the subject, of course, the more illuminated they will be.
Eli’s picture is perhaps a bit underexposed - I was hoping for just a triangle of shadow on the opposite side of his nose from the flash. Overall I’m happy with how the shot turned out.
My dad doesn’t look too ethereal here. If anything, he looks like he belongs in the gritty reboot of the term ethereal (I don’t know what that means). I had everything right; the setting the light up higher and closer to my subject, compensated for flash since it would be too bright…What was I missing?
After messaging Froggie, I realized two things: a) my dad is just too much of a badass to be ethereal and b) I should probably set my camera from f/8 to f/1.8.
Take 2 with my mom:
Theeeere we go. The light is a little more flowy and illuminates the face, producing a more dream-like effect.
With this more feminine lighting style, the flash should be placed as close to the subject as possible, with the flash at a 45 degree angle pointed downward at the subject. Holding a white piece of poster board or some other reflector, the light bounces back up towards the subject’s face and envelops them in light.
In theory at least.
I’m not sure why there’s that shadow on her cheek - perhaps I was underexposed, but I feel like other parts of the image would have been blown out if I had the flash set higher. This is definitely a technique I’ll have to practice. Also, I should probably find the answer as to why she’s making a super mom-face at me in the picture.
All in all, it took only a few minutes to set up and break down. With a little bit of hard work maybe I’ll graduate to two flashes! As I told Froggie, I don’t know if I’ll be doing a lot of studio stuff in my own photography but I’m glad I’m able to learn it. These techniques can only help me be a stronger photographer and set me on my way to be the most well rounded I can be.