Lighting – Daylight or Artificial?

Two nudes in window light

Daylight or Artificial Light

Nature has given us a large, bright light source complete with some very handy diffusers (clouds) which is wonderful for lighting nude photographs. Unfortunately we have no control over when these diffusers appear and, although the sun is always shinning it reaches us with varying intensity.

But before we dismiss daylight completely it is worth considering window light. On a cloudy day this gives a strong soft directional light. It has been used by portrait photographers since photography was invented. You can control the light using the curtains and use a reflector, a simple white sheet or piece of white card will do, to bounce some light back into the shadows if these are too dark.

Artificial Light (studio flash)

A lot of photographers use two diffused lights which gives a soft even light. This even lighting means that the model can move about the set without the constant need to change the lighting but can look boring. A hair or kicker light from high behind the model can add a little backlight to the hair and liven things up a bit. This type of lighting is often used in glamour and especially top shelf magazine photography where the object is to see all.

Reducing the power of the fill in light or replacing it with a reflector creates a light that shows shape or form but the photographer needs to be aware of where the shadows fall.

More on studio lighting – Using One Light

You can use lighting to create a mood or effect in your photos. for example  using one light placed off to the side and/or above the model simulates the light shining down from a high window. If you want to make your model look confined you can even add some strips of card between the model and the light to create the shadows of bars.

The colour of lighting also creates mood: orange or red suggest warmth, intensity, fire, energy whilst blues suggest coldness, depth, isolation.

Using a coloured gel on a light that illuminates the background can enhance the mood of your pictures. It is possible to create a dungeon in a bare darkened room using just a single main light with a soft box or barn doors to simulate a small window and a single background light with a gel to create an eerie blue glow.

Studio Nudes

Dynamic Range (Exposure)

Unfortunately our cameras are not as good as the human eye at recording contrast detail, the difference between bright highlights and deep shadows, so we sometimes need to introduce reflectors or fill in lights to reduce the contrast to a level (dynamic range) the camera record. Always set the exposure of your camera to record detail in the brightest highlights.

Want to learn more? I offer online tuition or 1-1 tutorials in East Anglia UK

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