New Beauty Light Technique

I have illustrated many lighting techniques here, from “Terry Richardson Amateur” to “Studio traditional”. Let me add one I use. I call this “bright-bright-blur”.

What I do here is use a bright room with reflected light. I then use settings, and flash to achieve three things:

  1. Bright ambient light
  2. Bright flash light
  3. Blurred backgrounds

I do that by first, setting my exposure so that the meter reads +1 stop. Yesterday that meant 800 ISO, 1/125th second, f/2.0. I wanted f/2 to blur the background. I wanted 1/125th sec to reduce motion blur. That gave me the need for 800 ISO.

Then, I put on a flash, aimed it behind me 45 degrees up, and adjusted Flash Exposure Compensation (FEC) to +1.3 stops. That gave me added flash to the already bright picture. That flash fills any of the darker areas. Great skin; great beauty light!

The pictures now look like this:

That is basically straight out of the camera.

Clearly, this is light suited to glamour and beauty, more than to my usual corporate headshots. The point is: it is yet another light type you can use; another tool in your creative toolbox. Master it, and then decide for each shoot what light type to use. photography is talking emotion. The more you master light, the more you can tell stories with your photos.


Shampooey Goodness

You have heard me talk about this many times. Without “shampooey goodness”, a standard executive portrait can look a little lifeless. This is straight out of the camera (“SOOC”) from yesterday’s executive headshots session in Toronto:

Add a hair/rim light and it becomes much more lively:

In these portraits, the main (“key”) light is on our right:

Fill light and hair light are on our left:

Now, it is important how you add that light. Very important. Aim it a few millimetres too far over and you get much spill onto the cheeks, as  you see in this test shot of my assistant:

For reasons of skin smoothness, I generally prefer to keep it on the hair:

That aiming is best done by an assistant, who fires the flash by means of the test button to see where the light hits the head.

And one more thing: when someone has no hair, you call it a “rim light”!



I shot in a venue yesterday where the light was going to be speedlights off camera, using light stands and umbrellas.
In the event, it was not possible to bring in lights, so I had to use one on camera flash. And here’s what I got:

I bounced my flash behind me. Up and behind me, but down enough to ensure that I hit a white wall, and that we get catch lights in the subjects’ eyes. And using TTL flash. And with flash compensation set to +1 to +2 stops.

And that gave me ok light!


There I was, having a drink and some food yesterday with David Honl at Toronto airport.

David is known from his pictures of Middle East conflict areas, as well as from the excellent range of Honl Photo small flash modifiers, which I use extensively, and wholeheartedly recommend.

Yesterday, David was on his way from Istanbul to LA via Toronto. Here he is, as I shot him with a 16-35mm lens set to 16mm:

See how the leading lines draw you into the picture? And how black and white makes the picture about the subject, not about the colours in the background? And how I avoid putting the subject too close to the edge, where he would distort unacceptably?

Many photojournalistic images are made with a wide angle lens, and in B/W. I always carry a camera, I always carry a fast lens, and if it’s photojournalistic images, I often use a wide lens and B/W.

I suppose that if there is a moral to this post, it is this: always carry your camera!


Pic of the day

The pic of the day is a profile:

For this I used

  1. A camera set to “studio settings”: 100 ISO, 1/125th, f/8.
  2. A small flash aimed at the background, fitted with a Honlphoto grid and a Honlphoto purple gel.
  3. A flash aimed at the subject, also with a grid, from in front of her, slightly behind her from my perspective.
  4. Pocketwizards to fire the flashes.

If I leave out the front-of-subject light, I get a pure silhouette:

And if I do the normal studio stuff (I add a hair light, key light, fill light), I get this:


Thanks to my three student volunteers from my Sheridan College class.