Wednesday, November 16, 2011

So, What Are Highlights? Chopped Liver?

Syl Arena, photographer, author, blogger, and guy with curly, red, Art Garfunkel-ish hair says: “If you want to create interesting light, you have to create interesting shadows. So, look at the light and think about the shadows.” If you don't know who Art Garfunkel is, think Larry from the Three Stooges when envisioning Arena's red hair. BTW, I'm not saying Syl is stooge-like. I'm just providing a visual reference point.

I think Syl is a terrific photographer. He's also a witty and entertaining writer and blogger. But I can't completely agree with Señor Arena on this one. While shadows can play an incredibly important part in making interesting photos, I don't feel I have to create interesting shadows to make interesting light. Highlights can be equally important in creating interesting light. Sometimes, they do more than simply creating interesting light. Certainly, when it comes to glamour photography. When shooting glam, highlights are often more important than shadows.

When I'm shooting beautiful and sexy women for glam and tease shots, I always pay attention to shadows. Sometimes, I even go out of my way to create cool shadows, especially if I'm going for mood and drama with my pics. More often than not, however, I'm paying more attention to the highlights. Highlights can create every bit as much interest in a photo as shadows might create. They also can say as much about a photographer's skillful use of light as shadows do.

We all know the brightest parts of a photo draws viewers' eyes and tend to grab their attention. Often, highlights are some of the brightest parts of a photo. That's why I don't simply use highlights to edge a model (i.e., to pop her or separate her from the background) or to add generic visual interest, I also use them to draw viewers' eyes to parts of the model that are important in terms of glamour and tease shots. Granted, some of those body parts I might highlight are, on their own, parts of the model which will automatically draw viewers' attention. Especially when the viewers are guys. (Yeah, you know what parts I'm talking about.) Still, I think it's generally effective to further highlight those obvious attention-grabbing parts of a female model's anatomy.

For me, the use of highlights, just like shadows, are equally important techniques I might utilize to make almost any photo more visually appealing. As photographers, shadows can be your friends. Sometimes, your best friends. But highlights ain't exactly chopped liver.

BTW, if you want to know where and when you can learn more about Syl Arena's take on the importance of shadows for creating interesting light, CLICK HERE. (Pssst... Don't tell B&H you heard about this from me. Those B&H folks have big "issues" with blogs that feature scantily-clad and/or naked models. That's why they 86'd me from being one of their sales affiliates. )

The sexy girl at the top is Rebecca. It was an interesting shoot as Rebecca didn't speak much English and I don't speak much Spanish. I used a lot of improvisational sign language and pantomime to direct her. You should'a seen me demonstrating that pose she's striking in the pic. Talk about comedy!

I think the pic is a decent example of using both shadow *and* highlight to enhance visual interest and create interesting lighting. Course, the fact that Rebecca is a hottie and wearing very little also helps the visual interest. BTW, the photo is not a natural-light, window-lit, shot. Except for some ambient daylight courtesy of an overhead skylight, the lighting is artificial.

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