Quickie Umbrella Lighting Tip

This portrait, by **bowl_rider**, is a good example of how a little change in light placement can make a big difference in the final look of a photo.

Most of the time (when your subject is not wearing glasses ) you will be placing the main light on the side of the camera that corresponds with the direction the subject is facing.

The natural tendency is to place the umbrella directly in front of the subject, i.e., to have the person looking right at it.

For more of a sculpted, three-dimensional effect, I like to move the umbrella just a little more to the back, as in this example. It is a subjective choice, but it can really enhance the shot and give it a "look" you might not expect.

The benefits:

1. The "camera-side" eye ends up in a very interesting little triangle of light.

2. If you are also trying to light the background with your umbrella, it is better positioned to do so in an interesting way. This also lends itself to better separation on the shadow side of the subject's head.

3. The "camera-side ear" is not going to be catching any light. This helps to keep it from popping out of the shadow side, as if to scream, "Hey! Lookit me! I'm an ear!"

This "behind the face" lighting is especially effective on profiles. But you have to either plan to have large shadow areas or fill the shadow side with another light, a reflector or balanced ambient.

In general, if you are just using one flash you will have to pay close attention to how you balance the ambient, as that will be lighting (or not lighting) the shadow side of your subject.

But remember, just by playing with your shutter speeds during the shoot, you will be able to quickly get a range of looks from your photo with no adjustment of the flash.

If that last bit is at all confusing, see the "balanced ambient" link above.


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