Useful Photography Tip #167: Have Your Subject Face Your Key Artificial Light Source

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Hey strobist photographers: if you’re shooting a portrait of someone, the best thing that I’ve learned over the years is to actually make them face your artificial key light source. Of course, you wouldn’t do this with a natural one light the sun–but you can surely create more flattering portraits with a strobe or flash in a light modifier like a softbox, umbrella, etc.

Having your subject face the light source:

  • Makes the light look softer
  • Makes the light more flattering
  • Eliminates shadows on their face and sometimes body that may otherwise be unflattering
  • Gives them what I like to call the flattering spotlight effect.

When they’re facing the light source and the light source is shining directly down onto them, they’re illuminated to a certain point where they’re clearly made to be the main point of the photo. However, the light source isn’t as harsh as a spotlight, so it’s naturally more flattering.

As an extra tip: place the modifier so that the actual source of light is slightly above eye-level of the subject.

Also note: It doesn’t need to be direct; the light source can be slightly off to the left or right too.