The Beauty and Ease of Subtractive Lighting

Photographers from all walks of life want their work to look good and most enjoy sharing their images with friends and family. And of course, there are always those who are not professionals quite yet, those who have not had the proper training or day to day experience of some. To that end, we offer a few things you can do starting today to improve the quality of your people photography.

Open sky, especially soft open sky, is a wonderful light source but often is too big and produces what I call a top light. This top light has be be controlled and is easy to do with a little ingenuity.

Here are some before and after pictures showing top light subtracted from the overhead with a simple black panel, as known as a gobo. By blocking the downward cast of the overhead light, it is forced to come from a more desirable direction eliminating the dark areas under the chin, dark sockets in the eyes, and dark area under the nose. Placing the black panel forward three or four feet can replicate 45-degree light quality. This really adds to the overall quality of the image.

Also, here is an example of what I call garage door lighting. Using the top of the garage door is the same thing in that it also acts as a subtractor of light. Garage door light is terrific and can be used by anyone almost anytime of the day as long as the direct sun is not coming into the garage on the subject. Here I have used a background to simulate studio portrait but created it without the use of any lights.  

This is a fun way to work and a new way to see pictures.  Enjoy and go practice.  You'll have a great time...