Lighting and Posing for Effect

Light can be the most important part of a photograph, but the model and her pose aren’t far behind. You all recognize my friend Briana. We went on a shoot a few weeks ago to show some different posing ideas for her upcoming DVD and some lighting things for mine. Yep… pool the talent and the work.

I am going to show a few things from that shoot and give a bit of a discussion on how we achieved what we wanted to achieve. Note: this is a part one of two part article.

Learn to Light with inexpensive tools at Lighting Essentials

Using light to advantage means you must know what you want to light. What do you want the light to say? What do you want the image to say? If it is simply to make a nice shot of someone, that may be all that’s needed. It doesn’t have to be complicated.

Sometimes we want to say something more in a picture. Maybe as an outright theme, or simply something that the photographer and model can agree on for a starting point in the creation of the image. A word, or a feeling… maybe a shared movie experience or book that is known to both, can be the catalyst for the image. That can also determine the lighting that you choose and how you decide to implement it.

Our first image shows how Briana worked a pose that we wanted to say “hot” and somewhat lonely. Her body language is fluid and the head back, hand to her forehead communicates a feeling of ‘heat’ to the image. She seems as if she is resigned to the hotness of the day. Her full ‘S’ curve says languid and not tense or ready for flight. It is a relaxed and easy pose.

The body language of the model is as important as the smile or expression. Every bit of the images mood comes from light, shadow and expression. Briana worked this pose very well to get all of it going together. By the way, it wasn’t all that hot that day, but it was a bit warm.

Posing note: Look at how she uses her hands here. Fingers are slightly curled and delicate in presentation. The hand on the head is turned up as though pushing her hair back, but the slightly closed fingers keep us from seeing the inside of her hand. Leaning way back on the wall and keeping her legs in front of her gives a sultry, vixen look to the image.

I used daylight and strobe to create a sense of tension in the lighting. By letting the ambient provide some nice fill I kept the shot from looking ‘strobed’ and artificial. The main light is a speedlight with a small diffusion grid on it. It is coming from camera left and is very close to the axis of the camera. This mitigates the shadows that would have been thrown if the light were more oblique to the model. I do this to simulate the sun… a light source the viewer automatically knows is warm. The small light source creates a very defined shadow which is exactly what the sun would do. We are building ‘hot’ into the lighting.

A second light was placed far to camera left and is to the side of Briana. That light is providing a slight rim light and helps separate her from the background. It also lends itself to the feeling of hot and a warm day. Maybe it is the reflection off a building or simply the feeling that light is coming from everywhere. The color of the set was chosen for its warmth as well, and the combination make the image have a little more to it than a simple shot of a cute girl.

Briana strikes a pose that accentuates the lighting and makes the image have life.

Below are two additional images from that shoot. As you can see, Briana effectively moves in the space provided, keeping the face sultry and the body language fluid and sexy. The pose is very curvy with a wide “S” curve keeping the eyes moving. There isn’t a feeling of ‘posing’ to the images, they are more of a natural look caught by the photographer. This is one of the things that I want in my style… the feeling of ‘serendipity’ over ‘setup’. Keeping your model informed of the intention of the image helps her to focus on the mood and essential ‘story’ that has to be conveyed.

In these shots I tightened up the lighting for a more spotlight approach. I brought the main light in closer but moved it more to the left to drive the shadows from that angle, and dialed the shutter speed up to eliminate too much of the ambient light. I am always trying things when I am shooting and these ended up looking pretty cool so I kept shooting the setup. The second light is again to far camera left and is ‘raking’ across Briana to provide a less ‘flat’ look that may have been created by a single strobe.

Adding a rim or separation light is a very effective tool to fight the ‘flash’ look. By keeping the main light coming directly at her against the wall and pushing the shadows behind her, it gives a feeling of a hot light streaming on to her, not of a flash that would have been directly on camera. The second light helps mitigate the shadows from the more oblique light. Again, this hard light in the location setting seems to say sunlight… but with a small twist.

Some additional poses for learning to light and pose effectively

Our next set of images show Briana in an environment of structure and light. The images are made with natural light and the light is bouncing all around the little alcove area.

Briana and I liked the stone pillar things so she decided to use them for her posing. The images below are but a few of the many I took (all are on her posing DVD so you can see how she worked with them), and show how a little change in the pose can change the shot dramatically.

Sunlight is streaming through the area here, but it isn’t ordinary sunlight. It is actually a blast reflection from a building across the courtyard. This gave the light some texture and some interesting built in shadow like properties… from the window crossbeams in the reflection. I set the camera angle to get some side light and then had Bri play with the light as it entered the alcove area where she was.

The sunglasses help the shot and also helps her from being overwhelmed by the blinding light. She uses the pillar to stand against, lean against, push away from and more. These two images show how much the change can mean to the ‘story’ of the image.

I kept the camera in the same zoom and position for most of these images as I loved the angles around her. Their straight uniformity make her curves and posing looseness more dramatic and in stark contrast. I had thought about adding a second light to her hair from behind, but realized that would have limited her ability to move in that space and decided to go with the full natural look.

By staying with the natural light, the overall feeling of the shot is one of heat and interesting light. Sometimes you have everything at your fingertips already and don’t have to add any additional light to the image. I think the light and the posing and the wardrobe all give a feeling of hot and a summer like look that is real. Briana’s playful posing with the pillar and her reaction to the light itself makes the shot even more real.

Working with the environment: posing and lighting for effect.

This shot shows how Bri used the pillar, the light and the pose to make the shot come alive. Having your model react and respond to the environment, and that includes the light, can make the shot have more impact. It is always a good thing to let the model know what you are trying to achieve and how the light will work with her and the poses.

Briana uses the whole space to make the feeling of \'heat\'

We hope you enjoyed this article. See you soon for part two: Headshots and Variety.

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