Photo Shoot Tips

How To Improve Your Portrait Lighting With a Circle and Some String

Episode #221 of the TOGCHAT Photography Podcast

Release Date: October 14th, 2020

How to Improve Your Portrait Lighting With a Circle and Some String

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In this episode I share a really cool, super simple trick that will definitely up your lighting game. And this trick is not just for beginners. In fact, there are times that I still use this trick even after more than 40 years of working with lighting. I call it the five-foot rule, actually, I hate rules, so let’s go with the five-foot guide.

You will hear me break down the step-by-step of this elegant portrait lighting arrangement and how easy it is to set up and work with.

Remember hat photographing people is 80 percent psychology and 20 percent photography, so you need to simplify the photography stuff as much as possible.

When you have a real person in front of your camera, the process can be a little intimidating. You don’t want to look like you don’t know what you’re doing, but inevitably you set up your lights, you take a test shot, you look at the LCD preview and your first thought is “crap”. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. Just don’t be the photographer that says, “oh, crap” out loud! That’s a great way to have your subject lose all confidence and then your job is ten times harder.

But seriously. You’re trying to get your lights set up, get your shot exposed properly, and of course, you need to be talking with your subject and giving directions. You can’t ignore your subject. So there’s a lot to deal with and it can be challenging. Even though we all think we’re good at multitasking, we’re not. So even after you practice at home, if you turn around and you go out on location, your lighting setup never seems to work quite as well once you set it up in a different home or different office.

And believe me, even experienced photographers will find themselves in the middle of a portrait session, and they move their key light, or they move the fill light, they shoot the next frame, and then they realize the exposure is way off. Now they either have to pull out the light meter and measure the light again, or worse yet, take a bunch of test shots to get the exposure dialed back in. This isn’t the end of the world, but it all takes time and it interferes with the flow of the shoot.

If all of this fiddling makes you nervous, your subject will see that you are nervous and lose confidence in you. Or worse yet, in the middle of the shoot, you decide to move or adjust your lighting and you forget to double check your exposure after you do it. Only to download your files later to find out that you have severely over or under exposed a bunch of images and honestly potentially blown to shoot. So that brings us to the obvious question how can a circle and some string save the day and improve your lighting as well as improve your confidence?

Enjoy the podcast and remember. When you are done listening, go and pick up your camera and shoot something because your BEST shot, it’s your NEXT shot!

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FTC Disclosure: No sponsors have paid for inclusion in this show. I am an Olympus Visionary photographer, a Delkin Image Maker, a TetherTools Pro and a StellaPro Champion of Light. These companies do provide me with various pieces of gear that I frequently discuss or mention, however all words and opinions are my own, and I was not asked to produce this show. Product links included in this page are generally Amazon or other Affiliate Program links from which I do earn a commission that helps to support the production of this show.

Joe Edelman

Joe Edelman is an award winning Photographer, Author, and "No Bull" Photo Educator.  Follow this link to learn more about Joe or view his portfolio. Please be sure to connect on the social media platforms below.
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