Photography News issue 27

Photography News Issue 27 absolutephoto.com

Technique 24

Portrait shooting Light fantastic Studio-style portrait lighting is easy to get into and the benefit in your pictures will be immediately obvious. Just follow our guide and you’ll be shooting better portraits in a flash…

Words by Kingsley Singleton Pictures by Sarah Plater, Paul Wilkinson and Gill McGowan

Good portraits rely on good lighting, and most of the time that comes from working with flash. Yes, it’s certainly possible to take great people pictures using available light, but that method always has its restrictions. For better or (frequently) worse, natural light is inconsistent, fleeting and often low in intensity. It’s also hard to modify; you might have to move the subject from where you want them, because you certainly can’t move the sun, or use large, unwieldy diffusers and reflectors. And if the light is low you walk the tightrope of using slower shutter speeds than you’d like, or raising the ISO and losing quality. Whichever issue you’re constantly challenged and forced to adapt or compromise. All that means, although many people would assume the opposite, that it’s actually flash that’s easy and natural light that’s difficult. But pushing yourself into realising that can be difficult. So, to convince you it’s time to give flash a go – or to work on honing the skills you already have – this month we caught up with two studio and flash lighting experts, Sarah Plater and Paul Wilkinson, co-authors of Mastering Portrait Photography . So what, for them, is the big draw of using flash for portraits? For Sarah, it’s the consistency of flash that appeals; “Being able to set up predictable, controllable studio light anywhere I go means that I can shoot all year round and get consistent results. If I was solely reliant on natural light, I’d be limited to slow shutter speeds, and forever trying to push subjects closer to windows!” But isn’t it more effort, in terms of the amount of gear, than using natural light? On this Sarah is unequivocal. “No way – my kit packs down and fits into my Smart car, which makes it easy for me to transport to clients’ homes, where they feel most relaxed.” “Photography is all about light. How it falls on the subject, how it shapes and defines… and studio lighting provides almost infinite possibilities to change this – even with one or two lights,” enthuses Paul. “You can easily get silhouettes to profiles; hard, contrasty light, to soft gradings; high-key to low-key; rim lighting, cheek lighting; dramatic to gentle. There is so much you can do in the studio, it’s always exciting!” But even Paul had to learn how to do it, because his background, like most photographers starting out, was shooting in Studio lighting provides almost infinite possibilities to change light – even with one or two lights

Above Studio lighting is all about control, and the freedom it supplies means that you can make creative portraits that would be impossible with natural light alone. Here, a single light modified with a beauty dish is all that was required.

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