portrait photography lighting tips
(how i got hooked and how to light portraits)

Great portrait photography lighting is more of a topic for an entire book and not just one article on a web site with a few photography tips. I wrote this article so you can give yourself a jump start with some great resources and ideas on lighting portraits.

It's my mission to provide you with good quality content and inspiration to take your portrait photography to the next level and lighting may be perhaps the most vital and challenging skill to master.

There are articles on indoor portrait photography, outdoor portrait photography, elements of lighting, lighting styles and lighting equipment.

The links to these articles are below. But first I want to explain how it all began.

Portrait Photography Lighting - Monkey Photo

Portrait Photography Lighting is a subject near to my heart and has been since I created my first portrait when I was 9 years old.

You see what happened is that I got bit by the photography bug when my fourth grade class took a trip to the zoo.

My parents gave me a plastic camera to have a little fun with at he zoo. It was before 35mm film became popular.

Most of the photos were quite ordinary, not well composed and the lighting was nothing to brag about. There was really just one photo that really caused the impact in my mind. 

No, it wasn't a portrait of an orange monkey or a fat hippopotamus.
It was something quite a bit less preposterous.

I didn't get a great shot of a ferocious mountain lion.
And it wasn't an award winning photo of a baby tiger cryin.

A snapshot of my teacher inspired my interest in portrait lighting.
And that led to the topic to cover with this writing.

Okay, that was a bad attempt. Sorry, just having a little fun. I'll stick to writing photography articles shooting photos. I'll keep my distance from attempting poetry.

Portrait Photography Lighting - This teacher was not mine

Lighting in Photography. This is a simple article written to illustrate the impact the direction of the light has on bring out the features in your subject. But before you click, I have a warning. I picked a very UN-interesting subject to photograph for the article.

Photo Lighting - using mannequins to practice. The impact that the direction, quality and intensity of the portrait lighting has on the human face. The mannequins stay in the same position with the same expression.

Outdoor Portrait Photography. I do my best to find a good location with excellent natural lighting when doing family portraits outdoors. Here are 4 family portraits where the lighting was almost ideal. In three of them I used large white reflectors to improve the lighting just a bit.

Photography Lighting. A diverse mix of lighting in 5 different photos. One of the photos shows 5 different appearances of the same object due to the lighting.

Indoor Lighting-Portrait Photography of a country singer. Balancing the interior lights of this theater with the strobe portrait lighting on my model.

Photography Lighting Kits. You now have many photography lighting kits available. Digital cameras are really sensitive to low light situations and you can use non-flash lighting to super lighting in your portrait photography.

The following video was made by TheSlantedLens. 

It does a great job of explaining the 5 styles of portrait photography lighting used for indoor portraits. These include Rembrandt, Split, Broad, Butterfly and Loop lighting.

You don't necessarily have to use the same kind of lights as depicted in this video to mimic these portrait lighting styles. I learned to follow them closely while taking a portrait photography course my freshman year in college, but I rarely use them now that I take portraits for a living.

With indoor portrait photography I tend to have my models change their head position frequently and that will change the lighting style if the lights are not moved as well.

The other things that have a big impact on your portrait photography lighting is the amount of fill light that is filling in the shadows as well as the amount of diffusion that you main(key light) and fill lights have.

The amount of fill light light affects the lighting ratio as well as the contrast you will get in your final lighting set-up.

Don't get me wrong. These 5 portrait photography lighting styles are important to learn. Equipment has changed dramatically in the last 50 years, but peoples faces are pretty much the same.

If you think any of these portrait photography lighting tips are helpful, please pass it on to your fellow photography enthusiasts.

Happy Shooting!

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