Master Lighting Guide for Portrait Photographers

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  • Edition: 2nd
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 4/15/2014
  • Publisher: Amherst Media
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Light, vibrant and malleable, is the greatest tool at the disposal of portrait photographers. In this acclaimed book—with over 50,000 copies in print—Christopher Grey walks you through studio portrait lighting from start to finish. Dozens of image sequences and before/after pairings show you precisely how each change of light position and modifier affects the look of the lighting on the subject. From classic portrait lighting patterns to unexpected but powerful looks, Grey teaches you everything you need to know to control light effectively. Armed with these powerful skills, you’ll be able to create portraits that are more flattering, more marketable, and more creative.

Author Biography

Christopher Grey is the author of Creative Techniques for Nude Photography and Photographer's Guide to Polaroid Transfer. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The following is from the author:

For over 30 years, I’ve dedicated my professional life to be the best generalist photographer I could be, and over the course of that time I’ve had the opportunity to photograph an amazing variety of people, products and services. My work has been, and continues to be, a rich, visual exploration of people and culture, of psychology and motivation, of line and form and love of life. Good fortune and hard work has seen a number of national and international awards come my way, the ownership of which has opened even more doors for me. Among my personal victories, I shot the most interest-generating ad photo in The Home Depot’s entire history, a logistically challenging image from concept to completion, involving sculptors, bakers, and model painters, in less than a week.

Some time ago I realized that others might benefit from my experience, and I began to write and teach. This ignited a new creative spark within me, which I’m happy to say has lit fires under other photographers and enabled many of them to reach their immediate goals more readily.

I’m thrilled to be working at the forefront of the “digital revolution”, although I believe that term is a misnomer. It’s really “evolution” because it’s changing every aspect of my industry, my own business and the way I work. At last, I have complete creative control over my images.

Today is a great day to be a photographer. Tomorrow, even better.

Table of Contents

About the Author

The Importance of Portraiture
Markets for Portraiture
Before We Begin
sidebar: Note to Readers


1. The Nature of Light
The Physics of Light
Electromagnetic Spectrum
The Properties of Light

2. Professional Lighting Equipment
sidebar: The Arc of Equal Distance
Fill Light
Kicker Lights
Background Lights
Light Types
A Word of Caution
Light Modifiers
Other Modifiers
More Jargon

3. Light Ratios
The Key-to-Shadow Ratio
The Highlight-to-Key Ratio
The Highlight-to-Key-to-Shadow Ratio
Correct Metering Techniques
sidebar: Silver versus Digital

4. Basic Lighting
Planning and Progress
sidebar: Noses
Broad Light
Two Lights and Fill
Short Lighting
Building a Portrait with Short Light

5. Classic Lighting Styles
Loop Lighting
Closed-Loop Lighting
Rembrandt Lighting
One-Light Rembrandt Light
One-Light Rembrandt Build
Second Remrandt Build
Side Lighting
Building a Side-Lit Portrait
A Second Side-Lit Build
Butterfly/Dietrich/Paramount Lighting
Building a Butterfly-Light Portrait
sidebar: Flare with Bare Bulb

Part 2.
Portrait Lighting In Practice

6. A Versatile Portrait Lighting Setup
sidebar: Using Modifiers

7. Basic Light for Business Portraiture

8. Finding Boundaries

9. A Hair Light for Every Occasion

10. Closing the Pupil

11. Backgrounds
sidebar: Complementary Colors

12. Headshots

13. Portraits with Minimal Depth of Field
sidebar: Sync Speed
Adding Drama

14. Headshots for Publicity

15. Applying Makeup

16. Editorial Portraiture

17. Working with Falloff

18. High-Key Lighting
sidebar: High-Key Never Dies

19. Low-Key Lighting

20. One-Light Glamour

21. The Bookend Bounce

22. Portraits with Flare

23. Working with the Profile

24. Location Photography

25. White Balance
sidebar: Location Checklist

26. The Beauty of Overexposure

27. Bridal Portrait

28. Fashion Light
sidebar: High ISOs

29. Mixing Color Temperatures and Presets
sidebar: Correction

30. Gentle Light

31. Get in Tight

32. The “Hollywood” Portrait

33. The Intimate Portrait

34. Light on Light: The Double Key

35. North Light

35. Simulating Sunlight

36. Working with Candles

37. Underlighting for Glamour


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