This Quick Tip addressees how to use a touch of 'Creative Lighting' to add some drama to your photographs. Light has always played a key role in how an artist captures an image - whether be it a hand-created image or a photograph. It is often fun to look at images the way a painter would in terms of how to use light to best capture the moment.
There are three basic ways of using lighting for a subject - use existing lighting only, use artificial light only or use a little of both. When I refer to 'existing lighting', I am referring to what available light is at the location - whether it is from the sun or artificially from an overhead light. Existing lighting will be covered in more detail in a future article. For very natural photographs, it is always better to use natural lighting whenever possible. And, if you need to add bit of 'fill lighting' from a flash - be sure to not shoot the flash directly at the subject which can cause harsh shadows.
When I refer to 'artificial light', I am referring to a light source(s) added by the photographer which includes continuous lights, monolights (strobes) or flash units.
Adding controlled light to a subject offers the advantages of the photographer being able to control how the subject is lit. It also means that it can be made repeatable - which can be a very good thing. In the opening image, a studio strobe was placed on subject left front with a black backdrop placed in the background. In order to get a more 'focused' light, a 10-degree Honeycomb grid was added to a reflector. The Honeycomb grid acted the same way a snoot by concentrating the light in a tight, focused pattern.
In the next example, three lights were used. This time the Honeycomb grid was increased to 20-degree giving a broader coverage. A second strobe with umbrella was placed at the subject right-front for a more even, and soft coverage. A white backdrop was added in the background and a flash unit was placed on the floor behind the subject's head to provide a soothing glow.
It can also be fun experimenting with various lighting patterns when it comes to still life. Using a snoot or Honeycomb grid can be very effective in controlling shadows and adding interest to your subject. By focusing on bright subjects against a dark background can give the feeling of dimension. In the image to the left, note the nice shadows on the leaves and on the table. The way the shadows break up the image adds a touch of texture and interest.
Whenever possible, I like to take candid photos rather than posed ones. I find this often captures the moment and the individual more accurately. The image to the left was taken while attending a tour of the American Visionary Arts Museum in Baltimore Maryland. As the artist was speaking I noted that at times he would be positioned under an overhead light that would add touches of light to his face. Rather than use an on-camera flash, the natural lighting brought the touch of drama I was looking for to capture the wonderful character in the subject's face.
I hope this Quick Tip gives you some ideas to try. Have fun with creative lighting and experiment with how to add a touch of drama to your photographs.