Wednesday, March 06, 2013
Lighting 101: Three-Point Lighting
Traditionally, three-point lighting consists of a key light, a fill light, and a back light. I learned to use traditional three-point lighting way back when while going to film school and taking classes in cinematography. That was also a period of my life when I began shooting lots of head shots for Hollywood hopefuls. So, naturally, I began using traditional three-point lighting for that work. Leastwise, when shooting with artificial lighting in my studio... I mean my garage which doubled as a makeshift studio via a simple, seamless, backdrop.
I didn't own any strobes when I first started shooting studio head shots. I had hot lights. But that didn't matter. I'd simply set my hot lights up in the traditional three-point lighting setup and the results were pretty good. After all, what's a head shot but, generally, a portrait of someone's head, face, shoulders and neck? And portrait photographers have been using traditional three-point lighting for a long time. Many still do. Later, when I began shooting glamour, I modified the traditional three-point lighting setup to one where I sacrificed the fill light and moved it behind the model to one side. My back light also moved to the side.
In my opinion, this is the quickest, easiest, and simplest way to shoot glamour models and get some good results. It can also work nicely for other genres of people photography, depending the lighting-look you want to capture. I often see the work of commercial photographers -- in magazines, on the web, and elsewhere -- who are using this sort of lighting setup. You've likely seen plenty of examples of it as well.
The photo of Aubrey above, one that I shot just the other night, is straight out of the camera except for resizing and just a very small bit of "Curves" adjusting. (Click to enlarge.) You can see that, from the front, she's nicely lit. You can also readily see how the rim lights are providing nice highlights on either side of her body and on her face and hair, i.e., providing a glamour element, and making for a nicely-lit, semi-nude, glamour shot. Some might call this "old school," which it certainly is... but then, what can I say? I'm kind of an old school shooter.
Here's another snap of Aubrey from the same night. It was only her third time in front of a camera. I asked her to bust a "fashion" pose. So, here's Aubrey's version of a full-frontal fashion-posed nude. I love working with models who just "go with it."