Lighting direction as a tool: Popping vs blending your subject within a scene

Apr 30, 2016

Joseph Parry

Joseph Parry is a Commercial and Editorial photographer based in the UK that provides cinematic photography and ounces of humour. Follow him on Instagram for stories and kick ass imagery.

Lighting direction as a tool: Popping vs blending your subject within a scene

Apr 30, 2016

Joseph Parry

Joseph Parry is a Commercial and Editorial photographer based in the UK that provides cinematic photography and ounces of humour. Follow him on Instagram for stories and kick ass imagery.

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As someone who shoots on location a lot I’m often given a choice on what I like to call “popping” or “blending” a subject into a scene, in short this really as as simple as using your main light source to either complement the direction of a natural / embedded light source in a scene (a candle, window, lights etc) or contrasting it completely so that the subject “pops” out and suspends the belief that they are illuminated within the scene naturally.

Here’s what I mean:

This is a shot that suspends the reality of the natural light source (the sun) and allows the  subject ultimate isolation, this works really great for those more “modern” looking shots such as Joel Grimes etc where you really want the background to be a backdrop for the subject rather than an equal role of importance.

Sun-Opposite
And here is a shot where the flash / key light is placed to the other side creating far more reality to the scene with regards to the believably of the subjects illumination.

Sun-Same-Side
So there you have it, a quick little nugget to think about on your shoots when you place a subject in a scene with a visible light source that isn’t your flash / strobe.

Do you guys have any examples where you’ve deliberately chosen to follow or contrast a light source in a scene? Share your pictures!

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Joseph Parry

Joseph Parry

Joseph Parry is a Commercial and Editorial photographer based in the UK that provides cinematic photography and ounces of humour. Follow him on Instagram for stories and kick ass imagery.

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7 responses to “Lighting direction as a tool: Popping vs blending your subject within a scene”

  1. Gvido Mūrnieks Avatar
    Gvido Mūrnieks

    I think, that the idea of “popping” and “blending”, in this article, is just wrong.

    This loved “popping” of subjects, both in cinema and photography, has nothing to do with contrasting subject lighting with scene lighting.

    I suggest to study lighting in cinema, expecially in black&white and superhero movies. My favorite examples are Sin City and Scott Pilgrim vs The World . In thease movies you will see, that characters “pop” because they have very harsh and contrasty lighting, but this ligting ALWAYS makes sence within the scene. Aldough, caracters have strong ring lighting and destictive highlights, midtones and shadows – this lighting should ALWAYS have to resonably match the enviourmend.

    Now, I know, I know, that in photography, matching lighting to the scene isn’t always the most important thing and sometimes it can be stylistic choice of photographer, not to match lighting of the scene. But, saying that to make subject “pop” from the background, you need to create contrasting lighting to the scene is just plain wrong.

    To make subject pop from the background, you need somewhat strong rim lighting to seperate subject and background, and have somewhat harsh lighting, to excentuate texture/form of the subject. If you are good enough, you can match this lighting to the scene.
    :)

  2. Constance S Hanscomb Avatar
    Constance S Hanscomb

    Link not working

    1. Joseph Parry Avatar
      Joseph Parry

      Which link Constance?

  3. Flodder Avatar
    Flodder

    who is using physical incorrect lightplacement for composits?

    instead of what is explained here i would place the light correct (logical) and use a rim light to seperate the object.

    that way anyone with a clue sees that the light direction is correct (on the subject) and the object “pops”.

    but having the dark side of the face facing towards the sun just looks wrong.

    1. Joseph Parry Avatar
      Joseph Parry

      Here’s a shot by Clay Cook using the technique of lighting the subject in the opposite direction to the scene. If you think Clay has no knowledge on lighting then, I guess we can agree to disagree ;)

      (Background lighting is right to left, subject lighting is left to right).

      Cheers!

  4. Ahmed Salim CPC Avatar
    Ahmed Salim CPC

    Inspirational work and i get more knowledge to the post. It’s help me professional work. Thanks

    1. Joseph Parry Avatar
      Joseph Parry

      Np at all Ahmed! Glad to share some ideas!