Today’s lesson is creating contrast and depth with values in one light portraits. It’s interesting because lights and darks are opposites. Whites come forward in the image, whereas blacks will recede in the back.
Now we have Michael here and his hair is white so if I put him on a white background, his hair and his face are going to recede into the background. It’s not going to have the same strength to the image if I put him on a dark background, which is going to highlight his face.
Also, his shirt can be part of the story as well, depending on how I use it to develop contrast in the image. It can be a complex task to take a three-dimensional world and create a 2D image, so in order to create depth and interest, you want to give contrast.
When I’m shooting with strobes I like to keep it dialed down as much as possible. I’m only at 3 out of 8 stops on the strobe, which allows me to shoot really quickly as I recycle.
White Background, Dark Shirt
For our first image, I have Michael on a white background with a dark shirt on. In order to create a good amount of contrast, because his hair and his face recede into the white background, I use Butterfly lighting to create some shadows on his face and hairline. The contrast created from the lighting generates separation from the background and brings the face forward.
White Background, White Shirt
When I shoot with white everything, Michael just disappears in the image. Now if I don’t have the ability to get him into a dark shirt and I need to create contrast, I can feather the softbox as much as I can.
By shooting out of the corner of the light, I can create a vignette on his shirt that gives depth. This is a very high-key portrait, which means his facial features are the elements that come forward because of the contrast.
Black Background, White Shirt
With the dark background setting the contrast, I’m getting a nice light on the face. I moved the light up a bit so that the white shirt wouldn’t blow out.
Black Background, Dark Shirt
Michael whipped out this great dark colored country shirt that I just love! The gold really comes out nicely in the image and tells part of the story in the portrait.
So there’s a look at how to develop contrast in multiple different clothing and background scenarios. I was actually really surprised by how well the white on white turned out.
We want to use contrast to create depth in our images, and contrast isn’t just about black and white. It’s about how light and dark values recede and come forward to create a dynamic image. It’s a matter of using those different contrasts to tell the story of your character or subject.
Share your portrait work with us online @theslantedlens with #onelightportraits. We’d love to see what kind of shots you are taking and how you are pushing the limits of your creativity!
Check out the video for this article here.
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