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Creative Use of Artificial Light

The creative use of artificial light can greatly affect both the mood of the image and the physical look of the model. While I love natural light sources for their soft and flattering illumination, artificial light offers dramatic effects that change an image entirely. Options I employ include high-key, low-key, strobe with natural light as fill, strobe with ambient light, and strobe only.

High-key lighting is a staple of all portrait photographers. In this example, the model’s black outfit contrasts perfectly with the white background indicative of high-key shooting.

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Low-key is another classic portraiture option. But unlike high-key lighting, a dark background creates drama rather than contrast.

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In this next image, I changed things up by using a combination of a gelled strobe, ambient tungsten lighting, and a large diffused strobe. The dominant background light was the orange-gelled strobe while the yellow light from a tungsten lamp provided a nice accent. To bring it all together a strobe with soft diffusion was utilized as a frontal key light.

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This next example illustrates the power and drama with a gelled backlight. An opposing strobe was used to provide the frontal key light.

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Continuing the theme of gel usage, this next image features strobe side lighting from opposing directions. To the right is the orange-gelled key light source and from the left is a blue-gelled strobe used as both accent and fill light.

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Opposing light can also be presented at 45-degree angles. Here the red gelled accent light comes from the back left of the scene, while the main key light originates from the right front.

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This next image shows how a single frontal strobe properly shaped to control the spread of its light can illuminate the model while leaving her surroundings in the dark. Now that’s dramatic!

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With the image below I created a silhouette by utilizing a strong backlight as the key light source. The absence of a frontal light creates a classic and dramatic visual statement.

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Lastly, I have an example of how artificial light was used as the main light to frontally illuminate the model while posing in front of the early dawn sun.

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I hope these examples and explanations provide you with an idea of the breadth of possibilities available from strobe lighting. Not all of these styles will be used during a shoot, but the best style will be used to create the best image.

“Having never worked with a male photographer, I was impressed with Doug’s professionalism. He’s a total gentleman, respectful, and quickly put me at ease.”

Alexandra Kole