Use light & lighting to add dramatic impact to your portraits
Simplifying your composition is generally a really good way to add impact to your photos – remove visual clutter, and draw the viewer’s eye to what’s essential. But there’s a converse challenge to this – when you have a location that isn’t necessarily that interesting , how do you add more impact? Light and Lighting is an obvious way to do this.
Create impact and drama in how you add light to the scene, and light your subjects. A recent article discussed this in relation to off-camera flash: using off-camera flash for that extra bit of drama.
For the romantic wedding portraits of Grace and Joseph, we were landlocked to a few rooms inside the venue because of the snow storm outside. Then it becomes a challenge to come up with ideas and use nooks and crannies, and make it all count! For the image at the top, we were in the room where they serve pre-dinner cocktail snacks and drinks. Nothing much there. But I came up with the idea of having Joseph sit on this table against this wall, and then adding Grace.
Posing tip: In terms of posing a couple, it is nearly always easier to start with one person, and then adding the other. Use the first person to anchor the pose. And I usually physically show them where to sit or stand or lean when I pose someone.
The pose works, now we just had to add dramatic light. Bounce flash would’ve flattened out everyone. Well lit, but too evenly lit. Off-camera flash with a gridded soft box would’ve worked like a charm as well – but as I most often do with the romantic portraits of a couple, I went with video light. This time around, I had more toys to play with, thanks to Ryan, the other photographer shooting alongside me, who had brought his video lights along as well.
Ryan had brought along his Westcott Ice Light (affiliate). It is daylight balanced, but in gelling the light for Incandescent light, it wasn’t powerful enough for the distance at which I needed it to be held.
So I had Ryan add my own video light, the Litepanels Croma LED video light (affiliate). I dialed the color balance of the Croma video light, to Incandescent. I wanted Incandescent light because I didn’t want to risk the hot-spots in the ceiling adding a weird yellow color cast. The two hand-held continuous lights together, offered enough light.
camera settings: 1/125 @ f/4 @ 1600 ISO
Using the Lowel GL-1 Power LED light
I had brought my usual Lowel ID-Light 100W Video Light (affiliate) along as well, but since Ryan had a brand-new Lowel GL-1 Power LED light (affiliate) there, we just had to try this. What is nice about the GL-1, is that it is more ergonomic than the ID-light. Dimming the light, or zooming the light in and out, is easily controlled.
For this image, I wanted a wide beam on them, but with a distinct edge. I wanted to edge of the light to fall with the edges of the couch. This was easily controlled with the GL-1 with the way the GL-1 focuses the beam.
In this way we can bring variety to our images – mix & matching lighting gear for better effect and a different effect. Investigate new tools and new ways of using them. Improvise.
Lighting equipment used
- Litepanels Croma LED video light
- Westcott Ice Light
- Lowel GL-1 Power LED light
- Lowel ID-Light 100W Video Light
- Grace & Joseph – wedding photography at The Gramercy, NJ
- review: Litepanels Croma – variable color temperature LED video light
- Romantic wedding portraits with video light – Allison & Scott
- More articles on using video light for photography
- Photographing couples – Posing and composition
- Posing normal, everyday people for portraits
- NJ / NYC wedding photographer