Monday, July 14, 2008

Rim light!

I posted before about using natural window light for portraits. The main idea of them being to use the window light as a large main source, and trying to minimize lighting on the other side of the head. Now I'm going to talk about rim light. I define rim light as a strong light that just hits the edge of the main subject of the photo. It's used mostly to define a border that would otherwise be lost.

Here is another portrait with no rim light. I put a piece of black paper on the wall behind him to purposefully prevent any bounce lighting from the wall giving him even the slightest rim light.


Now here is a portrait with a strong rim light.


This lighting also came from a window, but since this room was much smaller, and all white, I knew there would be a lot of bounce and fill. This would have made the first style portrait impossible. I opted instead to let the window light be a rim light, and all the bounce from the small white room to be the fill. I metered his face where the rim light was, and let it read +2. This means the rim light would be very bright, but not clipped (unrecoverable white pixels). This would mean that the fill would be as bright as it could be without letting the rim clip. If I metered for the fill light (the main part of his face) the rim light would have definitely clipped. Cameras hold shadow detail far better than highlight. In fact on my camera (the canon 40d) it will hold highlights up to 3.4 stops above neutral grey, but 5.7 stops below. So it has almost double the shadow range than highlight range. This means that even if his face was a bit dark, I can boost the shadow area in the post-processing stage, and recover the detail I need. I only had to do this a little bit, as I liked the ratio it gave me.

Here are two more using the same room, and just a slightly different head angles. This shows how once you have a nice setup with good lighting power ratios, you can get a lot of utility out of it by just rotating the subject within the setup. (or rotating the setup when you can)

_MG_4267 _MG_4275

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