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Lighting: The Key to a Good Portrait
To capture you at your best, photographers must work with a fickle apprentice—light. Check out Groupon’s overview of the ways that light makes you look good.
Shadows enveloping your neck. A double chin that shouldn’t be there. Blemishes on the forehead rather than your favorite hat. Every amateur photographer has suffered the ill effects of bad lighting. Professionals, however, understand the virtues of proper lighting in bringing out the best of their subjects, whether within the controlled world of the studio or out amid the unpredictable mercy of the outdoors.
In a studio, photographers employ a set of tools that ensures light only hits their subjects in the most flattering ways. Depending on how the subject and photographer want photos to look, shadows can either mar an otherwise great shot—by emphasizing wrinkles and imperfections—or add drama, texture, and dimension through the highlighted contrast. They can reduce the contrast by using a broad light source, which spreads the rays out over multiple directions, or soften the light with an effect—similar to the way clouds make sunlight less intense—known as diffusion. Photographers may also use multiple synchronized flashes to hit many angles at once, reducing contrast, or light subjects from a specific angle—in general, more texture and detail is visible when the light hits a subject at a greater angle, and longer, more angular shadows can add extraordinary depth to an otherwise two-dimensional portrait.
Obviously, outdoor shoots allow for less control over the light, but some techniques from the studio still work. Collapsible diffusers, for instance, help mitigate direct sunlight, and holding a reflector under the subject’s face can help rid it of any glaring shadows. The most effective tool, however, is often good planning. A photographer may decide to schedule a shoot for a specific time of day to take advantage of more flattering lighting or to ensure they won’t be shooting directly into the sun at a specific location—in which case they’ll have to pay Apollo’s exorbitant royalties.