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This week’s P52 prompt was Directional Light. While technically all light has direction, photographically speaking, lighting that falls evenly over the face of your subject is called flat lighting. Often used in fashion photography, so-called beauty lighting is flat and minimizes texture (ie wrinkles, pores, and blemishes). This week we were supposed to implement side lighting, which emphasizes shape and texture. Things like weathered barn wood and the skin of an orange can look really cool when sidelit. I’ve also seen some gorgeous portraits of elderly people that use side lighting to emphasize the wrinkles that we usually try to hide. In photography, it is important to learn how to use light so that you are emphasizing what is important in your image while downplaying what you want to go unnoticed.

I first thought of using side lighting to highlight something with texture, but ended up with an idea for a nighttime portrait lit by a lamp, with the rest of the room falling into blackness. With my kids, I find myself tending to favor flat (safe) lighting. While I didn’t get exactly the result I was going for with this picture, since I need a brighter lamp or my Speedlight to force the rest of the room into darkness, I do love the moodier shadows I got with this type of light. I definitely need to step out of my box and start shooting more challenging lighting situations.

Photo of a little girl looking down against a black background

Just for fun, here is an example of what I mean by letting the rest of the room fall to black. This is one of my daughter’s ponies hanging out at my parents’ house last weekend. It was dark and all the lights were out in the house except the lamp on the end table. I set the pony on the floor a couple of feet away from the table, but well within the circle of light cast by the lamp, and exposed for the pony’s “skin.” (Fur? Whatever.) With the pony correctly exposed, everything outside the circle of light fell into blackness. (Google the inverse square law of light if you want to see the why of this little photography technique. It was math-y rules like this that scared me to death when I first started studying photography, but once you figure out how to put them into practice, they aren’t so scary, I promise.)

Photo of a toy unicorn against a black background

A lot of photographers use their garages to make gorgeous portraits with black backgrounds like this, and I’m dying to try it after we have our big yard sale and can actually get into our garage again.

Next up on the blog circle this week is Kate, go check out her post and leave her some love. Thanks for stopping by!

{Shot with 5D Mark III, Canon 24-70
@70 mm, ISO 1600, f3.2 @ 1/160
bedside table lamp as light source}


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  1. […] exercise for this P52. It wasn’t the look I was going for, so I passed it by in favor of this shot. But, when I was scrolling through my images this week, it really caught my […]

  2. Kristy says:

    I love the way you describe side lighting for your readers.

  3. Kelley says:

    This is beautiful. I love how it emphasizes her long lashes. And great little mini lighting lesson!

  4. Love this! Like you, I’m very tempted to try some “garage photography”, but I need to get better about understanding metering first. Thanks for the link!

  5. It’s kind of like magic. We can make things disappear from the background like this. 🙂

  6. […] check out Amanda who is next up in our blog […]

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