Everyone is looking for a way to make his or her images stand out from the crowd. Today, when the crowd is huge and websites are selling decent-quality amateur work for $1, that crowd is bigger than ever before. Innovation in lighting is at the core of being a professional photographer, and creating today’s hottest, most in-demand looks is something pros do exceptionally well. We push the boundaries of creativity and we come up with the standards of tomorrow. That’s how you stay ahead in a turbulent marketplace.
In this article, we spotlight some of the lighting looks that are selling right now and that clients are looking for, whether they’re commissioning work or buying from stock. It can be beneficial to you to have these formulas in your repertoire as you freshen your website or send out your portfolio.
1 HDRHigh dynamic range photography isn’t a lighting technique, per se, but the look is all the rage at this time, and to get the best results, it helps to think about your lighting up front in the capture phase. When photographing people and applying HDR software, more often than not, we’re unable to shoot multiple images, so in the processing phase, what we’re really doing is tone-mapping a single photo and not making a true HDR image. There’s nothing wrong with this, but it’s important to consider it up front. You want to light the scene in such a way as to gain separation between the main subject and everything else. When you apply the HDR software, you’ll keep the subject and background from blending. In the November issue of DPP, we featured the photography of Blair Bunting. He’s a master of using kicker lights to create that separation in his sports photographs. From there, the HDR effects have more drama because the main subject jumps out.
2 Focused SourcesThere’s a school of thought that says start with a single light and do everything you possibly can to keep to that single source. The theory is that we only have one sun, and people are used to seeing shadows that come from a single direction. There’s a newer school of thought that says forget about that and break out as many lights as you have and use them to focus illumination in specific areas of the shot. The latter is one of the hotter looks today.
In this issue of DPP, we have an article on Peter Yang who’s a master of the technique. The key isn’t in the number of lights; it’s in the use of focus to keep each one playing a specific role and not spilling out into the rest of the scene. This kind of lighting is best achieved through the use of modifiers—a lot of modifiers. A beauty dish with a grid or a combination of grids as well as barn doors can get the job done. Snoots and optical snoots also are excellent tools to have at your disposal. Use the modifiers to keep the light confined and to give you complete control over the falloff. Usually when using focused light, you want fast falloff—let the light do its job; then keep it from interfering with anything else in the shot. Focused sources are ideal for adding light to hats and hair, the background behind the subject, accents on a person’s wardrobe and other elements.
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