Fashion Photograph Lighting Tips

Fashion photography lighting is designed to make the subject look as glamorous and desirable as possible. The lighting is very soft and shadows are minimal. Fashion photography's principals are not complicated, you just need the right equipment and a little time to set up.

Tip #1- Developing a General Lighting Strategy

You want soft light that creates the least amount of shadows. You want the subject and all their great features to be predominant and visible. Harsh shadows are your enemy. You want your light sources to be soft and diffused.

You need to know the difference between soft and hard light. Light is composed of photons. When they are unobstructed they move in a straight line. When you're outside on a sunny day and the sun is shining down on you your shadow is distinct and stretches out on the ground away from the sun. You face also has some harsh shadows too. Unobstructed light is called hard light.

Cloudy days are different. There are no long harsh shadows on the ground and you face is evenly lit. The one shadow is soft and directly under you. That's because the Photons from the sun bounce around in the clouds and become diffused, scattering in every direction. 

You get soft light from your sources when you throw something in front of it too diffused it. The thicker the matter the softer the beam. Heavy frost (basically shower curtain) and 1000H (tracing paper) are great diffuses. Cloth like Muslin is great as well. Remember though, the heavier the diffusion, the less powerful the light becomes.

You can also soften light by "bouncing it off a soft board or white wall. Again, you lose a lot of the light power softening it this way. 

Tip #2- Choose a Shooting Location

Most professional studios and stages are white because white bounces light making it soft. If you can't get a studio try finding a place where you have the most control over the light. Any room can be a fresh canvas, even if it has large windows you can black it out with the proper resources.

Tip #3- Setting the Lights

Most studios have what is known as a grid above the stage. The grid is made out of steel pipe and is designed to make it possible to place a light above any point in the room. For a large fashion shoot the grip should be utilized to place large, soft light sources above that are connected to dimmers so you can control the lighting levels at any point in the stage to accommodate for your shoot. Control is the key for efficiency and speed. Even if you're not in a studio you can make your own grid. A pipe connected to two stands is a perfect place to mount and overhead light.

The lights for the subject should be powerful and diffused. Placing the key light above the camera lens and surround the subject with bounce boards to make them as soft as possible. Remember, your lighting to fight shadows.

Tip #4- Be Able to Accommodate

Shooting outside doesn't provide the same control as the studio but the rules are still the same. You want soft, diffused lighting so a cloudy day is the best light. You should bring a bounce card and assistant with you to eliminate the shadows. Sunny days are more complicated, but you have to do whatever you can to fight the shadows.

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