Traditional clamshell lighting is used frequently by photographers to bring out the best in their subjects. The even light produced by placing one light angled above the subject and one reflector or light source below the subject serves to flatter most faces. Slightly modifying the setup can significantly change the look and feel of an image to emphasize a subject’s individual characteristics. Watch this demonstration where Lindsay Adler introduces a clamshell technique for bringing out muscle shapes and emphasizing physique:
The clip above demonstrates how the placement and angle of lights portray a subject. If the light had been directly in front of the subject, his muscles would have looked flat in the resulting image.
Instead, Adler used modified clamshell lighting to make her subject look strong and contoured. A silver dish with a ten degree grid served as the lower light, while a larger gridded dish was angled above the subject. The back rim lights in her setup give definition to the model’s muscles and hair. By shooting from a low angle and having the subject look down at the camera, she highlighted his musculature.
This clamshell lighting pattern is ideal for photographing athletes or making any subject look tough. But other looks can be achieved with similar techniques. Tweaking traditional lighting setups to create varied looks is a creative way to get more out of your lighting equipment.
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