An Explanation of Lighting Ratios in Photography

The shadow and fact that this image was lit on only one side makes this very low key

The shadow and fact that this image was lit on only one side makes this very low key

Lighting ratios are one of the principles every photographer who uses off-camera flash doesn’t think they’ll need, but in reality makes their life much simpler once mastered and practiced. The most famous use of lighting ratios has to do with making a white background go totally white.

In general, it helps you figure out what an image will essentially look like and how much power needs to be produced from each light in your scene.

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The Basics of Interacting with a Portrait Subject/Model

Model: Bec Fordyce

Model: Bec Fordyce

Fact of life: Most people in front of the camera cannot read your mind or figure out what you’re going for in your final image. There needs to be a back and forth conversation between the photographer and the subject to create a photo.

Interacting with a subject in front of the camera is essential to anyone looking to get into portraiture, and after having a creative vision in mind, it’s also the way that you can convey to someone what you’re looking for in a photo. Besides, it wastes less time.

Dan from AdoramaTV tries to illustrate this and explain it very simply in the latest OnSet video.

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How to Soften Middle of the Day Lighting for Portraits

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 11.35.32 AM

Screenshot taken from the video

Dan over at Adorama recently completed a quick and very informational video showing photographers how they can tame harsh middle of the day lighting when shooting portraits. He uses a giant six foot scrim to soften the sunlight and therefore make the scrim the main light source. What he also does is adds a bit of fill light into the scene with a reflector–which helps bring back lots of details.

After the jump, you can see the video for yourself. While the tip itself is excellent and a great way to ensure you get more flattering images and easier exposures in natural light, what he’s doing is quite expensive. The scrim and reflector themselves are quite costly and this process can be done much more affordably. For $5.95, a photographer can use Adorama’s own Flashpoint 5-in-1 reflector and a similar effect can be rendered with a 66″ reflector for $64.35. Which basically means that this look can be created for well under $100.

We’ve got a massive roundup of tutorials involving natural light portraiture on our site too.

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High Key vs Low Key Lighting: What’s the Difference?

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Profoto B2 First impressions review portraits with Lauren (3 of 8)ISO 1001-160 sec at f - 2.8

Low Key Lighting, notice the shadows

What is High Key and Low Key lighting? The folks over at Adorama TV try to explain it to you in under three minutes. Dan in the video after the jump explains that high key lighting is when your lighting is very low contrast with almost no visible shadows. This is done often in portraiture and is very forgiving.

In comparison, low key lighting has very high contrast. It can make a subject really pop in a scene.

Dan’s video is after the jump, but we’ve added extra examples of High Key and Low key lighting after the jump.

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