10 different ways to light yourself and the moods they create

May 1, 2017

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

10 different ways to light yourself and the moods they create

May 1, 2017

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Lighting yourself up for self portraits can be a lot of fun. You get to experiment, try different things, and if it looks silly, nobody ever has to see it. Or, perhaps looking silly is the whole point, in which case you should probably put it on Facebook. But trying to recreate certain looks and moods isn’t always that easy, especially if you’re not used to lighting yet.

This video from The Lighting Channel shows ten different ways to light yourself for a selfie, and the moods they suggest. And even if you don’t use the lighting on yourself, they can be great inspiration for using with other subjects on a shoot.

YouTube video

About each of the different setups, The Lighting Channel says…

  1. Portrait: This is a classic lighting setup. We placed a large china ball on the model’s right, on the left a white styrofoam board to fill in the shadows, and from high up behind a backlight to help separate the top of the head from the background.
  2. Horror: Anyone who has played with a flashlight knows holding it under your face makes you look creepy. Add a flickering background light and it becomes full on horror!
  3. 1920s Beauty: For this mood we used more than just lighting, again we have the backlight to make the hair glow, in front we put a harsh spot, and the secret here is stretching some stockings over the lens to create that soft dreamy look over the whole image.
  4. Artificial Intelligence: These days ring-lights are very popular for creating a soft beauty light, the only problem is they also create a small ring reflection in the eyes, which we think looks a bit robotic.
  5. Sci-Fi: simple household dimmers and color lights can go a long way to create atmosphere. By revealing each side of the face with different colors we created additional drama, and under counter kitchen lights in the background hint at a futuristic location.
  6. Sadness: Shadows are fun! This was mostly a silly idea, but by shiny the light through a wet plexiglass sheet we got a cool rain effect.
  7. Film Noir: The only thing missing here is a lot of cigarette smoke. We used a window blind to cast the shadows in the background, and a cardboard box with a little hole cutout to focus the small patch of light on the eyes.
  8. World Leader: By putting a China Ball slightly above the model, and black blankets left and right to reduce the lighting on the sides of the face, we created an enlighten and powerful look. If you angle the camera a little from below it would further amplify this effect.
  9. The Interrogator: Get between the light and the camera and you become an intimidating silhouette. And if you let some of the light hit the camera then the lens flares start to kick in!
  10. Angel: Similar to World Leader, we just blasted the background with lots of light and made everything heavenly.

They say that in the coming weeks, they’ll be releasing behind the scenes videos showing how each of the different looks was created.

Getting creative with light is easy when you’re using it on other people. Setting it up for yourself, though, can present all sorts of challenges. But, experiment, see what works, and what doesn’t. And the stuff that doesn’t, nobody ever has to see.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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