Lights, shadow and highlight – How I lit this dramatic portrait

Mar 25, 2019

Barry Mountford

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Lights, shadow and highlight – How I lit this dramatic portrait

Mar 25, 2019

Barry Mountford

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

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Creating a dramatic portrait, moody ,emotional, edgy, dark, the subject/model, scene and clothing help portray all of those but one ingredient that remains constant to help achieve the drama is light, shadow and highlight, in this blog post I cover how I lit this image I will show you the position of the lights and what modifiers were used.

If you want to jump straight to the video explaining it all here you go.

YouTube video

This photoshoot came about through a collaboration between myself and Tom Gold, we were both looking to update our portfolios, the timing was perfect so we set about coming up with ideas and looks we both wanted to get out of this photoshoot. We did decide on looks for this set on the build-up to this session but as it turned out this image all came together on the day, Jacket, whiskey, guitar in a few of the shots, as the shoot progressed we felt this look really suited the mood.

Let’s talk lighting. For the key light I used the Pixapro CITI600 (Godox AD600) and the modifier of choice was the easy open 90cm octobox fitted with a grid position camera left a little above Tom’s head,

You can see from the images above that having the grid fitted does two things, it allows me to control the spill of light and direct it onto Tom without it splashing all over the small studio but it also allows me to control how much light I want falling on the background, you can also control the light falling on the background by simply moving your lights and subject closer or further away from your background but shooting in a small studio doesn’t allow for that so using grids is the perfect solution.

So, we have the key light set, camera settings are F7.1 1/125 ISO 100 with my white balance set to around 4700k to give it a blue tone. I am shooting tethered so using the screen to check my exposure. The position of the key light is producing some deep shadows to the eyes but I like the way the light is falling so I will work on the shadows using a fill light which we will come to. Next, I set up a Pixapro PIKA200 (Godox AD200) fitted in a wavey beauty dish and fitted with a grid again to control the light and just add a little kick to the cheek and edge light down the arm, shooting tethered allows me to check I am not blowing out the highlight.

So, we are almost there. Now, I just want to work on the shadows and that’s where using a fill light comes in very useful think of it as your shadow slider in Lightroom, I used the Pixapro 580mkii fitted with a standard reflector and grid, now a couple of reasons I used this modifier the first being to control how much light would bounce around the room as the key light and rim are set and I like how the light is falling on the background so I don’t want to affect that by adding a fill to the whole scene hence the grid which is just directing the fill light to Toms front lifting the shadows and what’s great using a fill in this way is you get to choose how deep/light you want those shadows looking by just altering the power output of the light.

On a few other images, I have used a fill card to lift the shadows by bouncing the light from the key back up into Tom but my preference is to use a fill light I can control independently.

I deliberately left the light stands in the shot as it just added to the image.

So, there you go folks. Adding light, shadow and highlight to your images, whether subtle or bold helps create that Dramatic portrait.

About the Author

Barry Mountford is a portrait photographer based in Gateshead, England. For more of his work, check out his website, follow him on Twitter and Instagram and subscribe to his YouTube channel. To get in touch, you can look him up on Facebook. This article was also published here and shared with permission.

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One response to “Lights, shadow and highlight – How I lit this dramatic portrait”

  1. Peter Kabiru Avatar
    Peter Kabiru

    thanks for the tricks. Great Concept