Previously on the blog, I took a look at various lighting positions and their impact on portrait lighting.  We looked at scenarios where the light is in front of, behind, and off to an angle on our subject. Check out the photos and results here.  Now that we’ve found the best position in that regard, it’s also helpful to consider the angle of the light.  Will it be better coming from below, at eye level, or above the subject?  Some of the things we’ll look at include the quality of light, amount of shadows, and even catchlights in the eyes.

Let’s start with the light coming from the lower angle:

Lower Angled Lighting

See how the quality of light hitting my face looks really nice, but there are some pretty substantial shadows as the light trails off to camera left.  Shadows are not necessarily a bad thing, depending on what it is you want to accomplish, but it’s worth noting the degree of shadow when lighting from a lower angle.  Last but not least, look at where the catchlight is hitting my eyes.  This reveals the location of the light, but also gives a little bit of added interest to any portrait.

Next up, let’s see what happens when we move the light to at eye level:

Eye Level Lighting

Here, the light is able to wrap around and reduce a bit of the shadows on the backside.  This may have to do with the fact that there are some white cubboards behind me in the garage/studio too, but this is a known behavior of light spilling over from this angle.  Note also that the catchlight is now near the middle of my eyes, but off to camera right.

Finally, let’s take a look at the results when lighting from above:

Lighting From Above

Here, the shadows are also lessened due to light spill, and the catchlight is also re-positioned.  Note that in all the setup shots I am using ETTL and not really dialing in the light at all, so in all scenarios the quality of light is a bit harsh for my own tastes.  Discussing ETTL versus manual settings is a separate discussion though, and here I just want to help illustrate what happens to portraits when you start moving lights around.

 Which setup do you like best?  Does the quality of light change for you?  What about the catchlights?  Make sure to subscribe for future articles just like this one on learning the fundamentals of lighting! (Hit the link on the sidebar or click here:

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