Lesson 2 - Portrait Photography

Portrait photography is the next section of portraiture that we will be covering. Portrait photography is photography of a person or of a group of people. It normally displays the expression, personality, and mood of the subject that is getting photographed. Like all the other types of portraiture, the main focus of the photograph is usually the person’s face, although the entire body and the background may also be included in the photo.

History of Portrait Photography

Portrait photography has become more common over the years with the invention of the camera. However, the low cost of the daguerreotype, (the first practical photographic process), in the middle of the 19th century and the reduced sitting time for the subject, though still much longer than now, led to a general rise in the popularity of portrait photographer over the older style painted portraiture. The style of these early works reflected the technical challenges associated with long exposure times and the painterly aesthetic of the time. The subject that was being painted generally was seated against plain background, generally lit with a soft light of an overhead window and whatever else could be reflected with mirrors. Advances in photographic equipment and techniques developed, and gave photographers the ability to capture images with shorter exposure time and making the portraits outside the studio.

1840–1841 Camerae obscurae and plates for Daguerreotype called "Grand Photographe" produced by Charles Chevalier

Lighting for Portraiture

In the studio the photographer has full control over the lighting of the composition of the subject and can adjust direction and the intensity of light. There are many ways to light a subject’s face, but there are several most commonly used lighting plans. The most common lighting plans are described below.

Three-point lighting
Three-point lighting is one of the more basic lighting plans. The plan uses the (and maybe even sometimes four) lights to fully model the subjects features. The three main lights used in this light plan are as follows:

This is also known as the main light, the key light is usually placed to one side of the subject face, normally between 30 and 60 degrees of center and a bit higher than eye level. The purpose of the key-light is to give shape to the subject. This relies on the first principle of lighting, white comes out of a plane and black goes back into a plane. The depth of shadow created by the Main-Light can be controlled with a Fill-light.

Fill light
In modern photography, the fill-light is used to control the constant in the scene and is nearly always placed above the lens axis and is a large light source. As the amount of light is less that the key-light (main-light), the fill acts by lifting the shadows only. It is true to say that light bounces around a room and fills in the shadows but this does not mean that a fill-light should be placed opposite a key-light and it doesn't soften the shadows, it lifts them. The relative intensity of moulding or halving of the intensity of light.

The purpose that the accent-lights serve are to accentuate a subject. Typically an accent-light will separate a subject from a background. Examples would be a light shining onto a subject’s hair and add a rim effect ot shining onto a background to lift the tones of a background. There can be many accent lights in a shot, another example would be a spotlight on a handbag in a fashion shot. When used for separation the light should not be more dominant than the main light for general use. Think in terms of a “Kiss of moonlight”, rather than a “Strike of lightning”, although there are no “shoulds” in photography and it is up to you, the photographer, to decide on the authorship of their shot.

The kicker is a form of accent-light. The kicker is often used to give a backlit edge to a subject on the shadow side of the subject.

Butterfly lighting
Only two lights are used for butterfly lighting. The key light is placed directly in front of the subject, often above the camera or slightly to one side, and a bit higher than is common for a three-point lighting plan. The second light is a rim light. A reflector is often placed below the subject’s face to provide fill light and soften shadows. The lighting can be recognized by the strong light falling on the forehead, the bridge of the nose and the upper cheeks, and by the distinct shadow below the nose which often looks rather like a butterfly, this is where the lighting plan gets it’s name from.

Accessory lights
The lights can be added to any basic lighting plan to provide additional highlights or even just add background definition.

Background lights
Not so much a part of the portrait lighting plan, but rather designed to provide illumination for the background behind the subject. Background lights can pick out details in the background, providing a halo effect by illuminating a portion of a backdrop behind the subjects head, or even turn the background to pure white by simply filling it with light

Other lighting equipment
Most lights that are used in modern photography are a flash of some sort. Lighting for portraiture is typically diffused by bouncing it from the inside of an umbrella, or by using a soft box. A soft box is a fabric box, encasing a photo strobe head, one side of which is made of translucent fabric. This provides a softer lighting for portrait work and is often considered more appealing that the harsh light often cast by open strobes. Hair and background lights are usually not diffused. It is more important to control lighting spillage to other areas of the subject. Background lights are sometimes used with colour gels placed in front of the light to create a colored background.

Lesson 2 - Task 1

Complete the wordsearch below and find the missing words relating to the information above.

Portrait Photography



21 of 21 words were placed into the puzzle.