Triptych Photography 101

SC Boneyard

In photography, there are lots of crazy semantics to understand!  Everything from ISO’s and apertures, to shutters, diopters and f-stops, ASA’s and guide numbers are all part of the craft.  Heck, there’s even one called the “circle of confusion” – and you can quickly get lost in the sea of words and acronyms in photography. One that I can’t believe I’ve not talked about here before is a triptych!  It’s pretty simple actually when you break it down really though, so fear not.  Here’s your beginner’s guide to triptych photography!

Read more

Portrait Lighting Basics – Part Two

Lower Angled Lighting

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:

Portrait Lighting Basics – Part One

Light Behind Your Subject

When it comes to photography and lighting, so many are immediately put off that they go running off into the night, panicking unnecessarily.  Previously on the blog I had talked about how to set up a flash with an umbrella, and five things to be aware of.  You can read those here, here, here, here, and here.

Now that we know how to set up our lights, it’s time to take a look at where to position our lights. You have a couple choices: directly in front, off to one side, or behind your subject.  We can talk about this until the cows come home, but it always is easier to show than to tell, so let’s take a look at each!

Here’s what happens when you put your light directly in front of your subject:

Light in Front of Subject

See how everything looks kind of washed out?  It’s not very flattering, so maybe we can move the light behind our subject and things will look a little better…after all, this isn’t really very good, right?

Here’s what it looks like when you put your light behind your subject:

Light Behind Your Subject

Well, this is kind of interesting – putting your light behind your subject produces a nice little rim around the edge, but there is nothing but shadow in front.  Kind of hard to see details in the subject’s face.  Probably not good as a single light source solution.  Let’s try off to the side and see what happens.

Light to One Side

Hey now, this is looking pretty good!  We can see detail in the subjects face, and the background is also nicely lit to give a bit of separation.  Because I have the light on one side, the other side is starting to fall off a bit into shadow, but it’s not too bad.  I should also note that the light is not directly at 90 degrees, and that explains why there’s more of a gradual drop-off to the shadowed area.  If I were to put the light exactly at the 90 degree mark, there would be much more shadow to the right (camera right that is) of the subject.

There are many more variations on this of course, and we are only talking about what happens when you rotate a light at the same angle around a subject and the result it has on detail and shadows.  If you really want to take things to another level, tune back in when we take the light lower and/or higher relative to the face of our subject!

Since people are all likely to ask, I shot all of the above images using my Canon 40D, with a 70-200f4 lens.  The metadeta details are:

Shutter: 1/250th

Aperture: f4

ISO: 100

Flash Setting: Auto ETTL

Make sure you tune back in for the rest of the week as we go through some more samples so you can see how light works!