Lighting Tips for Perfect Portraits

Snapping a portrait is much more complex than pinning up a laser backdrop and requesting your subject say “cheese”.

The key to a polished look is lighting!

Read our lighting tips for making your pals look their best in any light (you might just want to add some shine to help them look their best).

Use a Ring Light For Even Light All Over

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The most basic way to light up a face is to light it up as evenly as possible.

The Oh Wow! Ring Light does just that. It fits around your DSLR’s lens (or detaches for handheld control).

You’ll find that your friends’ faces look even better in even light.

Bounce Light to Get Rid of Shadows

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Reflectors are particularly useful when you’re shooting outside or near a window to take advantage of natural light.

Since it’s a little hard to move the sun to get it shining at just the right angle, it can cause some harsh shadows.

So, line up your Pocket Reflector (or a white foam board in a pinch) on the opposite side of your subject as your main light source to bounce light up at them and soften unwanted shadows.

Light From the Side for a Bit of Drama

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Okay, we’ve spent long enough fighting shadows, so let’s look at some lighting tips that will help you learn to work with them!

We used the Pocket Spotlight to light one side of Meg’s face, casting mysterious shadows across the far side.

What secrets could Meg be hiding behind those eyes?

Light from Behind for Even More Drama

It’s like it’s opposite day around here with the last of our lighting tips.

Light your subject from behind to cast their entire face in shadows and create a silhouette.

The brighter the light behind, the less detail you’ll see up front.

Taking it Further

  • Play around with lights and have fun. Try the campfire tradition of a flashlight under the chin. Grab all the lamps you can find and get creative. Try colored lights! Experiment away.
  • Not sure how to pose your pals? See our guide to perfect poses.
  • Learn all the particulars of a portrait session  things to think about before, during and after a shoot.