Experimenting with light

I think mastering light is one of the most difficult things to learn when it comes to the technical aspects of photography. Or maybe I should put that differently, mastering the light and posing the subject in such a way that the quality of the light comes to its fullest potential. 

Ever since I bought a flash and reflectors, I've been practicing, but I'm still not very confident in how to direct the light in such a way that suits the subject best or brings in a certain atmosphere in the image. For this exercise, I asked the sister of my son's friend to pose. She really did a good job and I was able to use different kind of lighting set ups. Here we go! 

 Natural diffused light with reflector on the back

Natural diffused light with reflector on the back

This image was taken on our staircase, which has very nice lighting as you can see in the catch lights. There are windows high up and windows down, so the light comes diffused from different directions. In order to fill the shadows, I used a silver/gold reflector shining from the side. The light is very soft and there are hardly any shadows in her face. This kind of light brings a very friendly feel to a face and does not show unevenness in the skin very much. 

 Rembrandt lighting, natural diffused light from the side

Rembrandt lighting, natural diffused light from the side

Because the light is very soft, the shadows are very soft as well and the contours of the face are still visible. To get a better Rembrandt effect, I should have asked the model to turn her face a little bit more towards the light. I do notice that when a face is lit from the side, more details of the skin become visible, which can be a problem if it's a beauty portrait, but can also show the character of a face more strongly.

 Diffused flash

Diffused flash

Here the Rembrandt lighting works better, there is some light under the model's eye and because the light source is less diffused and smaller, the shadows are a bit harder and the contrast stronger. Quite a pity that the eye in the front isn't sharp! This way of lighting is a bit more mysterious and would have been even more mysterious with a black background.  

 Diffused flash from the front mixed with natural diffused light

Diffused flash from the front mixed with natural diffused light

In a way the light is very even, but I don't like the highlight on the model's nose and I do think the image is a bit flat, especially compared with the image above. This light is not particularly interesting. 

 Natural light diffused by the leaves of the tree and reflected light coming from the front of gold/silver reflector

Natural light diffused by the leaves of the tree and reflected light coming from the front of gold/silver reflector

If I had taken the shot without the reflector, it would have been difficult to get the face well lit. I took this image at 4.30 pm, about 2 hours before sunset, so the light is already coming from a low angle and giving a bit softer shadows. The model is standing in the shade of the tree, which makes the light softer and gives it a greenish glow that can still be seen on the forehead.  I need to work a bit more on this image in Lightroom, but in general I think this lighting set up works pretty well. There are nice catch lights in the eyes and there is a warm glow to the model that suits well with her skin color. 

 Natural light, coming from the side with a bit fill light from a reflector on the side.

Natural light, coming from the side with a bit fill light from a reflector on the side.

This lighting situation is more interesting than the one where the light is all diffused by the tree. I quite like the contrast in the face and the way the contours of the face are better lit.  

I really don't think that after this exercise I can say I've mastered lighting. I still find it difficult and something that I need to practice more, including how to use my flash and combine it with other light, use of gels, etc, etc. 

But it's fun and I do see that I am improving step by step. Maybe even more important, I'm starting to see how light works and how I can get a result that I have envisioned beforehand, which is a good step forward!