Monthly Archives: May 2013

Portrait photography: split lighting

In my previous post, “Business portrait: the why”, I showed a portrait of a lady taken with the beauty lighting set up. By placing the light in front of the subject, one minimises shadows on the face. This gives the skin a smoother look in the photograph. It works very well with women, but in my opinion beauty lighting is not appropriate for men.

For portraits of male subjects, I prefer lighting set ups with more shadows on the face.

Portrait using the split lighting set up

Portrait using the split lighting set up

With split lighting the main light is placed to the side of the subject. I like to use a reflector on the other side in order to avoid really deep shadows. In the picture above, there are also two lights at the back of the subject to separate him from the background.

Business portrait: the why

There are a number of reasons you should have a picture of yourself on your website or LinkedIn profile.

People want to do business with someone they know, like and trust. And they won’t feel they know (or like or trust) you if they can’t see what you look like. Derek Halpern of the blog “Social Triggers” puts it succinctly: “Would you buy something from someone wearing a mask?”.

Jakob Nielsen argues that a picture of yourself “enhances your credibility by the fact that you are not trying to hide”.

There are some smaller benefits to having a photo of yourself on your website or LinkedIn profile. It could help people at a business networking event recognize you and connect. And people who have met you before would know they got to the right website. We are better at recognizing faces than at remembering names. At least I know I am.

I believe that the main reason people don’t have a photo of themselves on their website is that they simply do not have a picture of themselves that they like. Given the benefits of having your photo online, it’s definitely worth hiring someone who can take a good portrait of yourself.

Portrait of businesswoman using beauty lighting

Portrait of businesswoman using beauty lighting.

A few days ago I was commissioned to take some business portraits for an Edinburgh firm of Independent Financial Advisers. In a previous post “Portrait photography: before and after pictures”, I demonstrated the difference the beauty lighting set up can make in a portrait. It is designed to make ladies shine. It doesn’t matter whether the person in front of the camera is an agency represented model or a businesswoman. Beauty lighting is therefore my set up of choice for business portraits of women.

Vision training

I’m exploring a number of ways to challenge myself to improve my photographic vision, and I’m going to discuss one of them.
An image is visually compelling because of the arrangement of lines, shapes, colors and textures. The first challenge I’d like to talk about is finding a compelling picture of an unusual and abstract subject, such as paint on a wooden door or rust on an old container, for example.

Paint on woorden door, Blair street, Edinburgh

Paint on wooden door, Blair street, Edinburgh

Rust on the side of a container. Somewhere in Edinburgh

Rust on the side of a container. Somewhere in central Edinburgh.

In such a case, there is no obvious subject to be photographed and the first time I attempted this challenge, it looked to me like there wasn’t very much to do. I was really forced to work my subject, since the proverbial low hanging fruit was nowhere to be found. Getting in really close very much helps, in that it can simplify your compositions a great deal. And it also forces you to be very precise and patient, since at close distances small changes in your point of view change the image in your viewfinder a lot. I’m finding that this exercise is really helping me see better.

Paint on pipe. Luton Place, Edinburgh

Paint on pipe. Luton Place, Edinburgh

Paint on well, Marshall street, Edinburgh

Paint on wall, Marshall street, Edinburgh

Paint on wooden door, Blair street, Edinburgh

Paint on wooden door, Blair street, Edinburgh





Portrait photography: finding the back light

In my previous post “Portrait photography: finding the front light”, I showed one possible natural setting to make portraits of women shine.
In this blog post, I’m going to show another favorite portrait set up of mine. On a sunny day, it is best to avoid harsh shadows on the face of the model. One possible solution is to find a shaded area, like the location shown in the “finding the front light” blog post. But it is also possible to place the sun behind the model. The light doesn’t hit the model’s face directly and one gets a beautiful rim light around the head to nicely separate the subject from the background. An example is shown below, with the low setting sun on Holyrood Park, Edinburgh, behind Maria.

Portrait of model with back light

The setting sun behind the model, Maria, gives an even and soft light on her and a rim light most noticeable on the left side of the picture

With the sun behind the model and facing the photographer, the bright light can enter the lens directly and cause what is called lens flare. In the above image, I kept the direct sunlight from hitting the front of the lens. It is generally recommended to do this, but sometimes, breaking the rules can give interesting results. In the picture below, I didn’t prevent the direct sunlight from entering the lens and the resulting flare gives the image an ethereal quality.

Model portrait with back light and lens flare

The direct sun light entering the lens gives a low contrast image with an ethereal mood