How to Shape Light to Photograph the Character of Your Subject

Have you ever wanted to add a more dramatic mood to your portraits? One where the lines of the face remain unsoftened and the ridges and wrinkles in the face are preserved? In the video below, Joe McNally describes how to shape light to get a moodier, more character-driven portrait:

Sometimes the key to maintaining the character of your subject is to limit the amount of light you’re working with. To do this, McNally uses the velcro cover that comes with his Lastolite Trigrip diffuser.

Tri-Grip Diffuser Panel

McNally limits the amount of light falling on his subject.

For his light source, he uses a handheld speedlight controlled by a TTL commander flash. He then shoots it through the uncovered part of his diffuser. By constricting his light source, he gets a harder, edgier light with a narrower beam.


Moody Portrait

The result is a darker, moodier portrait that preserves the subject’s character.

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