Monday, February 23, 2009

Portraiture Lighting Tips

I joined an outdoor portraiture shooting session last January. I have found that, when the sunlight is harsh, backlighting photos are often easier to take than front-lighting ones.

Note: All that is discussed below applies to outdoor portraiture of women only.

Below is an example of front-lighting picture, that is, the model is facing the sun.

One problem of front-lighting is that the shadow can be distracting, as you can see in the picture above. Another problem is that the model may squint her eyes when facing the sun.

Here is a backlighting photo, that is, the sun is behind the model.

One issue with backlighting portrait is that the subject’s face may be underexposed, i.e. too dark. This, nonetheless, can be overcome by firing the flash or reflecting sun light using a “reflector”.

There are several advantages of backlighting portrait. Firstly, the shadow problem is minimized. Secondly, sun light reflected off the model’s hair, making the picture more pleasing. Thirdly, the use of flash or reflector, apart from brightening the face, also creates “catch lights” in the model’s eyes, again enhances the picture.

P/S There are ways to enhance a front-lighting photo, but these are beyond the scope of this post.

A reflector...


  1. thank you for sharing the tips..

  2. Wow, I always thought front-lighting pictures would look better, but you just proved me wrong! :) Thanks!

  3. this tips only apply for canggih huge ass camera?

  4. kikey
    No problem :)

    Eh... I won't say front-lighting is not good. Just that I am not good enough.

    Nope, not necessary a pro camera. But it is good to use a reflector.

  5. All the pictures look good to me.
    Yummy in fact! =p

  6. sometimes can use photoshop skill to fix it too :)

    not that I am good at it, but I heard ppl says...

  7. i feel two photo also ok oh..
    very nice and good

  8. Both photos look OK to me. Though the second one is better - less shadows. But if without reflector or flash, the first photo would probably be better, right?

  9. shingo, Sam
    Nuh... the 1st one not so good.

    A photoshopped picture may look good when you print on 4R paper. But at 8R, you would still see the difference.

    In the front-lighting case, if we fire the flash, it would 'lighten' the shadow, but not eliminate it.

  10. love the 2nd pic, the model looks so sweeeeet.

  11. Ok, wait till I get myself a *proper* camera.

  12. front-lighting....
    eyes also blind lor XD

  13. xin
    Yeah, the model is sweet.

    Go ahead to get a proper camera. But don't put too much pressure on your parents.

    Yeah, correct...

  14. the model is so cute! ;-)

  15. Monica
    Oh yes, the model is cute. So too is you :D

  16. Wow, lovely model! Very sweet! Thanks for the tips too!

  17. nice tutorial. use fill flash works too