July 2022

Lighting Tips For Portraits

with Ian Spanier

Light and story. These are the two most important factors in making great portraits. Not your camera, and although I get asked a lot, it’s not the focal length. Sure, a great camera and a great lens make a difference, but consider how even these days great pictures can be made with our phones. It’s the driver, not the car. Light makes an image. Photography literally does not exist without it. The story, well, that is either one you are telling or you are narrating—we’ll get into that. But first, the most important: Let there be light! When it comes to great portrait lighting (if I am creating the light in studio or on location), I always like to think simple. What is the least amount of equipment I need to get the job done? This begins with where light comes from. Where does the original light come from? Yes indeed, that big giant fireball in the sky we know of as the sun! What is the sun but one light! So, I always think “one” first. Can I do the shoot with just one light? If not, the use of multiple lights also can be kept simple. It is basically a combination of one or more of the same techniques we see from the natural world. We are just making it artificially.

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