Ever since I became enthralled with photography, I've enjoyed sifting through inspirational images and breaking them down so that I could understand how just the photographer created that specific look.
Earlier this week I ran across a profile image where the subject was wearing sunglasses. The portrait had a strong rim light but there was very little fill light on the face, yet there was a strong reflection that encompassed nearly the entire area of the sunglasses' lens.
Typically speaking, the eye is the most important element in a portrait. However, the prominence of the sunglasses (along with an eye which was deeply shadowed) replaced the importance of the eye in the image. I thought it would be a fun exercise to try and recreate the lighting used for the profile portrait. Note:
If I could remember where I saw the image, I would link to it here. Unfortunately, I cannot remember where I found it. Hopefully the image's description and my attempts to recreate it will be sufficiently illustrative.
My approach to dissecting an image usually mirrors the scientific method:
- Ask a question.
- Do background research.
- Construct a hypothesis.
- Test with an experiment.
- Does the procedure work?
In other words, "Wonder, think, test, repeat as necessary."
I thought I had a good guess as to how the image was lit, but upon testing my hypothesis, I realized I was very likely incorrect. After quickly going back to the drawing board, I came up with a result that achieved exactly the look I was going for:
Notice how there is a huge reflection in the sunglasses yet there is very little fill on the face. That's precisely what I was attempting to duplicate.
However, after it was all said and done I wasn't entirely happy with the image. For my next attempt I used a looser framing, a different pair of sunglasses and a sweater to remove the emphasis from my Adam's apple. Although all the lighting tools were the same, the positions of the light modifiers were not identical (although they were very close), different camera settings were used and (as is likely obvious) the images were also post-processed in slightly different ways. The second image also has more fill light than what I was originally going for, but I liked the result anyway.
So here's the challenge:
- Analyze the image atop this post and try to figure out exactly how it was lit.
- Try to recreate the lighting in the image as closely as possible.
- Share your image, gear and camera settings and describe how it was lit.
It wasn't a complicated setup, but if I had not tried it myself, I would not have arrived at the same conclusion. If you prefer not to try to recreate the image yourself, you're more than welcomed to simply guess the lighting setup in the comments below. Otherwise, let's hear your guess and see your tested example image. I'll update the post Monday to reveal the answer.
It looks like I forgot to update this on Monday, but... better late than never! The setup was as follows:
- (1) Canon 580EX diffused by a 16x16" foldable softbox behind me
- (1) 20x30" white foam core board handheld in front of my face and angled to catch the light from the softbox
With the softbox positioned behind me (camera left), it produced a clearly defined rim light without wrapping around my face with its relatively high output. The white reflective board positioned just out of the frame produced a large reflection in the sunglasses while also creating a small amount of fill light on the front of my face.
I liked seeing the guesses and attempts. I hope the exercise proved beneficial.
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