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Understanding Portrait Lighting

Photography…by definition it means, “writing with light”. So understanding portrait lighting is a good place to start when learning portraiture.

Hard Lighting

Hard light is not ideal for portraits. To better understand whether or not you are shooting in hard light, look at your shadows. Do they gradually fade into the light, or is there a defined line between your light and your shadows. If the latter, then you are shooting in hard light.

portrait lighting

Soft Lighting

Soft Light is what you should aim for in portraits (yes, pun intended!). As hinted earlier, this is defined by the gradual fade from light to shadow. Soft light can be easily found in window light, light from under an awning (bridge, doorway, trees), or (one of my favorites!) either early morning or late evening sunlight.

portrait lighting soft light

Flat Lighting

Another lighting faux pas is flat light. This is light that creates no natural shadows. Good portraiture should contain some shadow for dimension, particularly a nose and chin shadow.

portrait lighting flat light

Directional Lighting

In contrast, directional lighting creates good shadows. Your light source should be placed at least 30 degrees from you and your subject. There are many types of directional lighting that can be used artistically for beautiful portraiture. Just remember, avoid placing your light source directly in front of your subject.

portrait lighting directional light

Be sure to study the light and shadows before you shoot and then study the images again after you shoot them. The more you practice, the more you will be able to see the light!

Sonya Adcock is a fine art photographer based in the beautiful state of Pennsylvania. She specializes in artistic child photography. Sonya’s artwork has been featured in Photography Monthly Magazine, Bella Grace Magazine, and Redbook Magazine. In the hectic pace of a digital era, her artwork encourages you to slow down and remember the joys and magic of childhood.

For the photographer, Sonya will be releasing photo editing tutorials, actions, and overlays. Please join our Mailing List to be notified of future release dates. Or you can subscribe to her weekly Blog for tips on photography and art.

Sonya’s artwork is also available to purchase. Please Contact her to learn more.

If you are interested in family portraits for you or someone you love, be sure view our Investment Page. Sonya Adcock Photography offers high quality prints and products for display. Some of our products include gallery wrapped canvases, albums and framed prints, as well as other unique memorabilia. We also offers digital files for sale, so you can print your images as you like.

Your memories are timeless. Sonya Adcock Photography would be delighted to work with you. Book your family portrait photography session today!

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