Shadows can be your friend

What is the difference between porn and art?


After all, it’s in the shadows where all manner of body parts considered too risqué, indecent or too sexy that can be hidden.

Over-exposing to the extent that there is no detail in highlights has the same effect but it isn’t as commonly used or as natural-looking.

To use shadows well, a portrait photographer needs to know how to control his lighting, not just in intensity but also in direction.

He needs to understand the ratios well enough to know how many EV (exposure value or f-stops of light) difference is needed between highlight and shadow so that they is no detail in the dark areas.

Only when he understands this will he be able to use shadow to hide blemishes, scars on faces or even create the illusion that his subject’s face is narrower than in real life producing what else? A more flattering picture.

Facial shapes

Short lighting--ISO 100 1/50 f4 100mm lens achieve by posing Danette so her torso and face turned towards me. I also asked she place more weight on her left arm so her head is tipped.

It’s the universal truth that those with straight hair like yours truly want to have hair with some curls.

Or those with big bulbous noses want sharp skinny noses and vice-versa.

Before air brushing and way before photoshop, portrait photographers relied mostly on lighting to make their subjects look their best.

The two most common styles of lighting used are: short and broad lighting.

Short lighting

Commonly used to make round and chubby faces appear skinnier.

This technique employs the use of shadow to conceal part of a round face with a deep shadow.

Available light ISO 400 1/125 @ f2.8 Nikon D3. Thanks Johnny Ly for sharing this picture for comparison.

Note, the source of light doesn’t have to be artificial or from a flash.

It can be our good old sun especially during the early morning or late evening as my example shows.

The key is to recognize the shape of your subject’s face then look for the directional light and in my case, I asked Danette to turn so that part of her face is in shadow.

Johnny Ly shot his picture with a 70-200 f2.8 zoom lens at 125mm setting over my shoulder.

Since I was taking the same picture, I couldn’t tell exactly where he was behind me.

It appears he was probably to my left.

He had a Cybersync transmitter, so he was able to piggyback off my backlight.

The Setup---Available light from setting sun and a Speedlite fitted with a grid at 1/32th power triggered by Cybersync radio slaves

Broad lighting

So what then is broad lighting? Picture the same setup above.

Only this time the direction of my main or key light, the setting sun coming off the lake is on the right.

Won’t be as flattering for sure.
Peter Phun Photography

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