• best lighting for portrait photography

    The best lighting for portrait photography

    Practical equipment - tips for beginners and advanced users

    The range of helpful tools for photography seems to be endless. However, for good portraits (and not only for portraits) you don't need a huge amount of equipment.

    Nevertheless, newcomers are often amazed by the number of different pieces of equipment that they think they will need. Roland Voraberger a professional photographer, who works at Duo Linse2 knows this too well, most of the time they end up carrying it around with them whilst on set. However, natural sunlight alone or in combination with a reflector conjures up wonderful images, says the professional photographer.

    Taking portrait photos in direct sunlight with a reflector will give your photos an added charm as it will evenly illuminate the faces in the photo plus the background will be full of lovely warm colours.

    Using available light for portrait photography

    The advantage of available light photography for amateurs is that you are not overwhelmed by the thousand or so possibilities of lighting design. In addition, your creative skills and eye for photography will improve and through this you will have a better sense of lighting. You simply work with what you have: the art of photography is learning how to understand light. You first need to think about where the light comes from and how can I direct it or use it in a specific way, Roland explains. In shadows, for example, the light is pleasantly soft and even, which results in highlights, cast shadows, soft illumination and great backgrounds.

    Since there is no right or wrong with lighting, it all depends on your preferences. What matters is that you like it or are happy with it, says Roland. You can divide light into quantity (how much?) and quality (soft/hard). A portrait shot in the midday sun means a lot of hard light. A shoot in the evening, however, means less and therefore (wonderfully) soft light.

    Using available light for portrait photography

    Inexpensive photography equipment for taking portrait photos

    Roland recommends a couple of pieces of equipment that are helpful tools for doing a photoshoot: a good clip-on flash is useful and not difficult to carry around, especially if the lighting isn’t very good you will always have your own little mini sun in your backpack. If the sun is very harsh a flash can also brighten things up a bit. When indoors you can use the flash by aiming it towards the ceiling, which will create a softer and undirected light. However, be mindful that if you flash directly at people, the small area of light produces a very hard and directional light.

    Using folding reflectors is also very useful and inexpensive. Provided you have a few helping hands, you can use the sunlight effectively to avoid harsh shadows appearing on your face. A tripod is more of an optional extra but by no means a must. However, it certainly helps if you want to bring a reflector into position without any helping hands or if you want to trigger the flash.

    Shooting portrait photos in a photo studio

    For indoor shots, for example in a photo studio, studio lights, light shapers and radio triggers are suitable, although the key rule also applies here: less is more. You should think about the result beforehand. Do you prefer a picture to be darker (low key) or exactly the opposite (high key)? Being aware of this helps you to adopt the following approach: as much as necessary, as little as possible.

    You can spend hours trying to get the perfect lighting. However, each additional light source can cause a sense of frustration especially if you are not completely confident in using it.

    An example of photography lighting for portrait shots:

    You often start by having a main light for the model (flash or continuous light). A reflector or fill light will often be used to get rid of the appearance of any shadows around the cheeks. If you want to emphasise contours or dark hair against a dark background, you often use a grazing light/accent light from behind. With high-key, you need a large softbox for extremely soft lighting and additional light to brighten up the background.

    In summary, there are endless possibilities and unfortunately so are the costs. Therefore, it is advisable to start looking for more budget-friendly light sources when you are just starting. If you are doing a photo shoot indoors and you cannot use the sun as a light source, why not use windows instead as they become a softbox through the daylight.

    How to save money whilst using lights

    In the beginning especially for amateurs who have a small budget simple construction spotlights or other light sources that shine continuously are easier to assess. The emphasis here is on continuous light. Such light sources often have a cool basic character (tending towards bluish), which can lead to colour shifts in the photos. This also applies to construction spotlights, which tend to have a warm, reddish light. Roland recommends setting the white balance to artificial light when taking photos in JPG mode.

    Travel bags for lighting

    One thing that people quite often tend to save on are suitable travel bags, Roland notes. There are a lot of options for storing and transporting light sources, from trolleys to suitcases. Photo backpacks can be very practical as you can carry everything in your backpack, and you can then take photos without having to carry anything around in your hands.

    Roland's advice for good portraits, irrespective of the equipment used empathy and using the already available tools are the most efficient ways to achieve your goal.

    A bit about Linse2

    Roland Vorarberger and his partner Daniela Pöll are the founders of the Austrian photographer company called Linse2. They focus mainly on shooting wedding photos.

    Link: Linse2



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