Friday, December 3, 2010

Analyzing Highlights and Shadows (Part III)

I'm going to talk about shadows and highlights... again. But I am not really sure how to begin. I've been thinking about the "issue" for the last couple days and haven't really come to any particular conclusion but I can share you with you observations.

Beauty lighting isn't really flat lighting. In the case of beauty lighting, the dish/umbrella/modifier is really never placed at eye level. It's almost always placed above and then some of it's partially reflected back via a reflector (or sometimes a fill light). So in the case of "beauty lighting" it's almost always still angular thus producing highlights and shadows in the predictable places and allowing the makeup to still shine.

It's also why I abhor flat lighting. True flat lighting, that is. When I use a reflector, I seem to always bounce it from above the face. I don't want to create upside-down lighting where the nose shadow is being cast upwards versus downwards. Why? Because it makes no sense. When ever, do we see that kind of lighting? Pretty much never. The makeup isn't suited for that light anyway. For the makeup to play nicely with the lighting, we have to manipulate the light angularly.

Which is probably why I had such an internal debate the last couple days about the
previous post. Paul asked me if maybe the photographer was trying to achieve a beauty setup hence the flat lighting. But honestly, the beauty setup should still be angular. It should still come from above the eye. It shouldn't be flat (on axis). Otherwise you get odd highlights and no shadows. That kind of light (e.g. ringflash) is more suited for event photography or in some cases fashion photography, but IMHO, not proper "beauty lighting". You're ruining the work of the makeup artist with flat light.

Since beginning this journey, I've been watching the way light interacts with our faces. Though sometimes I'm stumped by bounce and odd-diffuse-light in certain situations, usually I see normal human-environment lighting coming from above the head. This lighting is typically flattering because it's soft/diffuse and angular. This also explains why non-flash photography indoors can be so attractive. The proper lighting already
exists. As long as you have the hardware (i.e. fast lens/high ISO) to support the capture, you're totally good. No need to mess around with flash.

Ah. That felt good. I needed to sort that one out internally. I'm glad I have an answer ;)


  1. Ah, now I understand it correctly. Thanks for this post Charles, helpful as always :)