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Creative Use of Artificial Light

Lighting choices for a photo shoot can greatly affect both the mood of the image and physical look of the model. While I love natural light sources for their soft and flattering illumination, artificial light offers dramatic effects that change an image entirely. Options I employ include high-key, low-key, strobe with natural light as fill, strobe with ambient light, and strobe only.

High-key lighting is a staple of all portrait photographers. In this example the model’s black outfit contrasts perfectly against the white background indicative of high-key shooting.

high-key blog image

Low-key is another classic portraiture option. But unlike high-key lighting, a dark background creates drama rather than contrast.

In this next image I really changed things up by using a combination of gelled strobe, ambient tungsten lighting, and large diffused strobe. The dominant background light was the orange gelled strobe while the yellow light from a tungsten lamp provided a nice accent. To bring it all together a strobe with soft diffusion was utilized as a frontal key light.

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This next example illustrates the power and drama with a gelled back light. An opposing strobe was used to provide the frontal key light.

lighting blog image

Continuing the theme of gel usage, this next image features strobe side lighting from opposing directions. To the left is the key light source and from the right is a blue gelled strobe used as both accent and fill light. 

lighting blog image

Opposing light can also be presented at 45 degree angles. Here the red gelled accent light comes from the back left of the scene, while the main key light originates from the right front.

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And finally a single frontal strobe properly shaped to control the spread of its light can illuminate the model while leaving her surroundings in the dark. Now that’s dramatic!

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I hope these examples and explanations provide you an idea of the breadth of possibilities available from strobe lighting. Not all of these styles will be used during a shoot, but the best style will be used to create the best image.