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For beginning photographers, it’s normal to make common lighting mistakes in portrait photography. All that really matters is making fewer mistakes when you leave, continuing to work on the things you need to improve, and getting better over time. Most importantly, “don’t let these mistakes put you off,” Chicago-based photographer John Gress advise. To help, he has a video on YouTube outlining the 10 portrait photography lighting mistakes he says every new photographer makes and outlines easy fixes for each.
We’re confident Gress knows what he’s talking about – for over 20 years he’s created stunning photography and video for some of America’s top corporations and international media. Her work includes national lifestyle commercials, portraits and videos for the beauty industry, and action photography of professional athletes. Professional Photographer Magazine even went so far as to call Gress “one of the nation’s foremost lighting experts.”
[Read: Off-Camera Flash Photography: Five Techniques for Dramatic Portraits]
In the video below, Gress outlines some very common portrait photography lighting mistakes made by new photographers and suggests some easy solutions. We have extracted 5 of them for you here.
Lighting Mistake #1: Curse of the Raccoon
Gress says one of the most common mistakes you can make is setting your light too high. “As a result, you won’t have any lighting on the upper sides of your subject’s eyelids. If your light is really high, you will have no light at all on their eyes. He suggests turning down the light a bit, which will really help get better pictures in the end. “Just make sure you don’t go so low that you start illuminating the underside of your subject’s nose.”
Mistake #2: Catching up
Once you’ve lowered your light enough to see the lighting on the upper sides of your subject’s eyelids, Gress says to make sure you’re seeing picked up lights. “Simply put, capture lights are just reflections of your modifier in your subject’s eyes. benefit from a little shine.
Mistake #3: Completing Who?
“A lot of times people take a single flash and set it aside, which creates a lot of shadows that go jet black and there’s absolutely no detail in those areas,” Gress says. “What you want to do is use what’s called fill to, well, fill in the shadows. I made a video about this topic in depth and you can click on it HERE. Typically, you just want to reflect the light into your shadows with a clear, colorless surface or you want to use a second light that’s less bright than your main light to illuminate those areas.
Mistake #4: I’m not green with envy
Beginners always like to use continuous lights because many of them are very affordable, says Gress, and what you see is what you get. The main problem with the kits you find on sites like Amazon, hE ADDS, is that they are powered by compact fluorescent bulbs or cheap LED bulbs and the color accuracy isn’t really there. “It gives you green skin tones or yellow skin tones and it looks pretty gross. The other problem with continuous lights when you use them for photography is that you sacrifice a lot of quality all around because ‘they are so dark so if you want to know more about this I made a video set about it and you can find it by right clicking HERE.”
Mistake #5: You are too flat
Normally, says Gress, the first light someone has is a camera-mounted flash, and by default it’s pointing directly at your subject. “If you use it in that position, you’re going to end up with really ugly light. That’s why it’s much more common for people to use bounce flash where they bounce the flash off a white ceiling, but the problem with that type of light is that it’s just very flat and doesn’t have not much form or character. The best thing to do, he advises, is to move it a few feet to the right or left, either using a wired cable or some form of wireless technology. “It will greatly improve your results.”
[Read: Creative Lighting Techniques for Portrait Photographers]
Check out the following 5 mistakes, such as why you shouldn’t bounce light off the sky or a black ceiling (you need a nearby surface that reflects light or a lighter colored surface 20 feet away ) and how to correct them HERE. For a complete list of all Gress lighting equipment, click HERE
Tune in to Gress’ lighting webinar, “Transitioning From Window Light to Flash,” presented by Tamron and part of Rf+WPPI’s Reset Series, Wednesday, March 17 at 4 p.m. EST (and available on demand after this date). Register for the webinar HERE.