What I learned in Portraiture Class

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I’m currently taking a photography portraiture course at the Chicago Photography Academy, and while I much prefer natural lighting in everything I do, it’s quite fun to have complete control over every singly light in the room.  Fun, and complicated.  There is a lot of set up, a lot of choices, a lot of making sure that everything coexists nicely and that everything is connected to everything else.  While a lot of what we are learning is more technical stuff, how the lights work and how to get them to communicate with the camera and expose properly, we also did an exercise on shadows, which I found to be really interesting.  So there are five main ways of lighting a model, and you can see this in nearly every advertisement and photo shoot.  Here they are, as modeled by my teacher:

Paramount: This got it’s name from Paramount Pictures, who use this lighting technique often.  It is set up by putting one light in from of the model, slightly higher than the face and at a 45 degree angle facing down.  It’s also known as the butterfly because apparently there is a secret butterfly somewhere under the nose that I just cannot happen to see…

Loop:  I have no idea why this is called the loop, perhaps because the shadow I guess maybe looks like a loop?  The light is set up slightly to one side or the other of the model, with the light slightly higher than the face and pointing down at about a 45 degree angle.  The loop happens when your nose shadow is to one side or another, but not yet touching your cheek shadow.  When it does touch, it becomes a Rembrandt (below).

untitled-3-2Rembrandt: This one is named after the painter, which is pretty appropriate for this blog :)  As you can see below, Rembrandt was known for having a triangle of highlight on one cheek of his subjects.  You can see the triangle on the left on my photo (right under the eye) and on the right side of his face below (likewise, right under the eye).



Split:  Here, there is only one light and it is facing the model directly to the right or left of his or her face.  In this scenario, we had one light at face height directly to her left.  It’s called the split because the face is split into two by the harsh shadow.

untitled-5-2Clamshell:  This one have very little shadow because of two large umbrellas or soft boxes right in from of the model.  You can see the light set up in the first image of this post :)  It’s called the clamshell because that’s exactly what the set up looks like.  The photographer squeezed in between the top and bottom umbrellas to take the photo.


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