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  • Writer's pictureRuss Tierney

The closed loop lighting pattern for portrait photography.

Episode 11 of 1 minute 101's v2

What is... the closed loop lighting pattern for portrait photography? I had a good old ramble in that last blog didn't I eh? So let's actually talk about the main jobs of photography lighting patterns!

If you saw and read the blogs for the first 9 photography 101's, I mention one there, and that is to replicate the sun.. but in a flattering manner! Typically, the sun is too high and too harsh, but it's the concept that there is just one sun, and therefore just one light that is casting just one set of shadows on the face. It's pleasing to us because it's what we've grown to know. The theory is that, if our planet had two suns, our concept of good light would be conditioned to understand two key lights as good light instead because that's what we're familiar with. So with good light placement of our one key light (and/or giving the model good direction as to how that light is interacting with them), and our choice in photography light modifier, we can choose the severity of those shadows and the position in which we find them the most pleasing, or if you will, the least distracting from our subject.

I mention this in the video too, albeit tripping over my words in a dyslexic manner, but our other main aim is to light the plains of the face to imply a 3rd dimension. What we mean by that is, it's our job to give a 2d platform, ie photography, and create image depth and texture, so the viewer is now looking at a real life 3d subject. In short, we want to go from the Simpsons, to Monsters Inc as it were!

Now I imagine everyone did this as a kid, I know I certainly did, but if you draw a circle on a piece of paper, and then draw (or leave I guess) a highlight within it, and then gradually shade out.. you've now created a sphere. Our lighting patterns are the same concept, except instead of a pencil, we're painting our subject with light. We can control those gradual shadows with how we choose to modify said light, the angle, and/or with a fill light to soften them as we deem favourable.. which of course we'll cover down the line when we look at different modifiers.

Here are few examples of loop lighting as seen in the video. As mentioned, if you find the shadow distracting with it intruding in on the cheek/lip, consider placing it over the side of the nose and under the nostrils instead.

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