Quick Lighting Fixes for Common Portrait Photography Problems

Part of the Digital Photography Lighting For Dummies Cheat Sheet

When using your digital camera to create portraits, chances are not all the subjects you photograph will be supermodels. You may need lighting to draw viewers’ eyes away from trouble spots or to your subject’s best features. Here are some quick lighting tips to make the best out of any challenges that portrait photography may throw your way:

  • All about the eyes: When shooting a portrait, always make sure that the eyes are in focus and well lit. Dull, out-of-focus eyes can ruin an otherwise great photograph, whether you’re photographing people or animals. If the eyes look dull, add a little fill flash to the image to get the light in the eyes or use a reflector to bounce a little light into the face and eyes.

  • Glasses: Eyeglasses reflect light, causing a lot of problems in portraits. If the glasses can’t be removed, do a quick fix by moving the arms of the glasses higher up on the temples so the lenses angle downward slightly. The new angle of the glasses will reflect the light at a different angle and should fix the problem. If the glasses can’t be moved, try changing the angle of the light that is striking the glass; a small change in the light’s angle may help fix the problem.

  • A little thin on top: Lights can cause unwanted reflections on the heads of people who are bald or losing their hair. Make sure that you don’t aim lights directly at the bald area, and use a soft box or other diffuser close to the subject to make the light as soft as possible.

  • An extra chin or two: To reduce that pesky double chin, have your subject tilt his head up slightly and photograph down at him from a slightly higher angle, making sure the main light is up high. This technique creates a bigger shadow under the chin and hides that problem area.

  • Some quick weight reduction: A low-key style, one with a darker tone overall, has more shadows that you can use to hide problem areas. By adjusting the light’s angle, you can use the shadows to hide and reveal different parts of the body, resulting in some instant weight loss.

  • Out-of-proportion hands: When a subject’s hands are placed forward in the portrait, they can look bigger than they should because they end up closer to the camera. You can minimize the effect by turning the hands so that the sides face the camera. Light illuminates the edge of the hands instead of the front or back.

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Digital Photography Lighting For Dummies Cheat Sheet

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