Professional Portrait Photography Lighting Perspectives

Lighting is a complicated subject that takes most photographers a lifetime to fully master. It’s easy it to get stuck in rut using the same old lighting patterns time and time again. Just ask Joel Grimes, a commercial photographer who learned the Rembrandt technique and stuck with it for nearly 20 years. When working on a testimonial ad shoot, a light went off in Grimes’s mind as he realized he needed to mix up his lighting game. By exploring new light patterns and breaking away from using the Rembrandt setup exclusively, Grimes’ photography has gone on to award-winning levels. You can hear Grimes’ story in his own words and pick up a few pointers in the video below:

“If you learn the basics of lighting, once we get through discovering what these modifiers do, you can reach any look that you want. You can achieve anything you want.”

Grimes credits his progression as a photographer to the artistic approach he takes with lighting. In the interview above, Grimes suggests that budding photographers think of lighting as a creative process. Photographers are artists and they must also think like artists. Build a solid foundation of knowledge regarding lighting and then press yourself to manipulate and create new patterns based off what you already know. For example, in the photo below, Grimes took a 10-degree grid on a strobe reflector then applied gaffer’s tape to create the narrow strip of light down the subject’s face:

professional portrait lighting techniques

Another solid bit of advice from Grimes is to look at photographs that you love and try to emulate the lighting setup they used as a learning tool. In other words, by learning as many different patterns as possible, it will become easier for you to create your own. Let your creativity play on patterns you like and transform them into a pattern you love.

“A technical instrument can never make an artistic decision.”

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