The fun of this industry is all about the friendships that come out of everybody's love for the craft, but it's also about versatility. There are few photographers who are as multi-talented as my good pal, Bobbi Lane. She's taught for several years at SCU's summer programs and a year ago she was listed as one of the top lighting instructors in the industry.
She's also kicking off a new series of guest posts in the Profoto Spotlight. In the months ahead we're going to be sharing a whole series of technique posts by some of the finest artists in photography today, all set up with some of the finest lighting gear...Profoto!
You'll find more of Bobbi's work on her site. Prepare to be inspired by her blog and follow her on Twitter and Facebook! You won't be disappointed! Skip Cohen
There’s nothing more beautiful than a beautiful girl lit by a beauty dish in the beauty light position. That’s a lot of beauty! Okay, so Profoto calls it a “Softlight Reflector”, but we all call it a beauty dish. Basically it’s a parabolic reflector, either white or silver (for more contrast, saturation and detail) with a baffle in the middle that bounces the light back into the reflector. The effect? It’s a medium soft light, certainly softer than a grid spot, but it has more snap and definition than either a soft box or umbrella. It also has a more concentrated coverage, about 65 degrees for the white. You can always add a diffuser to soften the light by bringing down the highlights and also use a grid to decrease the coverage (but not change the quality) to about 25 degrees.
That’s all tech talk. Why would we choose this type of light modifier? Well, my favorite saying in photography (and pretty much in life) is “Everything depends upon everything”. So we use it when we are looking to create an image that grabs attention because of the even semi-soft light with an edge, or snap, or my favorite technical term, “oomph”. It’s perfect for a woman with good skin because it will accentuate the skin, bring out the eyes and give great detail and flattering contrast to hair and wardrobe. We use the beauty light or butterfly light position to give us a symmetrical lighting pattern, and that also emphasizes eyes since the light is pointed directly at the subject.
In every situation, we have the ability to vary the effect with just minimal changes. For the smooth, lovely and flattering portrait, then surround the subject with reflectors or white cards, including both sides and below. Skin is reflective, so if it’s surrounded by white, then the skin tones become creamy and smooth. There is something very appealing to all of us when the subject lowers their chin and looks up with their eyes. The eyes are more open, catching more light and the feeling is inviting and sexy. The problem is that because the light is in the butterfly position, the light is above the eyes, so dropping the chin results in shadows under the eyes, less light in the eyes, and more shadowing under the nose and chin. Adding all the reflectors fills in the shadows so the face looks fabulous!
When the reflectors are removed, and there’s not much else in the studio to bounce light back onto the subject, then the shadows are more defined and darker. When the shadows are darker the feeling is more dramatic and evocative, but the skin tones are still great because of the wonderful quality of the dish.
Taking control of the light, and all the aspects: direction, quality and depth, are what elevates a photo from a “nice picture” to a stunning portrait. The tools are terrific, but learning how to “see” and then use them is what’s really important to making images that have more meaning and depth.