Learn Proper Lighting for Men vs. Women for Great Portraits

Whether you’re planning to practice portrait photography for personal projects or build a career out of it, one of the lessons you’d find valuable is knowing proper lighting for your subjects. It’s actually not as straightforward as keeping your subjects evenly lit. Daniel Norton of Adorama tells us why it’s important to know how to light men vs. women to create the most eye-catching portraits.

In this extensive and very informative tutorial for Adorama, Daniel Norton first gives us the rationale for lighting male and female subjects differently. While every subject you photograph is an individual and should be treated as such, certain contemporary “standards of beauty” can help you create the right lighting that will accentuate the best features and bring out the character of your subject. Through years of experience as a photographer for editorials and advertising campaigns, Daniel has mastered the best lighting approach to show the best side of his subjects. Watch him demonstrate this in the video below (but you might also want to bookmark it since it’s over an hour long):

In essence, what the “standards of beauty” dictate is for photos to emphasize strength and masculinity in men, and a feminine, youthful look for women. You can achieve this by adapting a different lighting approach for your male subjects, and another for your female subjects. Generally with men, what works is a hard light that produces shadows, angular shapes, definition, and texture. This kind of lighting would accentuate jawline, facial hair, skin texture, and even scars or wrinkles, which are typically perceived as masculine elements. It’s the opposite with women; you need to use soft lighting to minimize any shadows or textures and create the appearance of softer complexion and facial structure.

On a final note, one of the ways you can control your light is to make your light source bigger to create softer light (like a large soft box), and smaller, more targeted constant lighting for hard light. Daniel also notes, however, that you’re free to experiment and adjust these techniques depending on the look your projects calls for.

If you learned something helpful from this demo, go ahead check out AdoramaTV on YouTube for more of their informative video tutorials.

Screenshot image taken from the video by AdoramaTV