Continuing my series of articles on studio photography, today I will tell you about male portrait photography: what a classic man’s portrait is, what kind of lighting is used to make a man’s portrait interesting, and of course, about the most exciting lighting schemes that allow even the inexperienced photographer (with due diligence) get excellent results.
I will assume that each of you has some experience in photographing the male (half of humanity) – well, who has not made portraits of their friends, relatives, acquaintances? But does everyone know what a classic male portrait is, and how it should be?
When shooting such a portrait, it is important to convey the masculinity of the model, his personality, and his look. And you also need to be able to focus on the character, mood, and relief of the face and body of a man. Wow, how many all sorts of troubles with a man’s portrait! The beginner will undoubtedly be surprised. Do not panic, I assure you, everything is much simpler than you imagined there.
It’s time to open the veil of the mystery of creating a male portrait. Since you are reading this article, you also want to learn how to shoot such photos, where all of the above elements will be present – masculinity and individuality, and everything else. So, use a hard light and play with the contrast of light and shadow.
That is, no two-meter octoboxes half a meter from a man’s face! (The closer the light source is to the subject, the softer the light and shadow pattern.) Just leave all those soft light gags for female beauty portraits.
Of course, as in other areas of photography, there are also exceptions in the creation of a male portrait. Also, there are specific tasks that you cannot do without a softbox that generates soft light. And I will tell you about these exceptions to the rules – stay tuned for new materials.
So, we create a male portrait in the studio and use hard light for this; it is most logical to use special light-shaping nozzles; here are the most popular ones:
- Portrait Dish
- Reflection Umbrella
However, take a diffused light shaping attachment (softbox, white umbrella, or octbox) and move it along with the monoblock farther from the model (sometimes two meters is enough, it all depends on the size of the source).
You will see that the softness of chiaroscuro changes in the direction of rigidity, and now we have sharply outlined lines of light and shadow on the model’s face. It means that to create spectacular portraits with painting light; you do not have to be limited to just using reflectors or portrait plates.
What lighting schemes are suitable for creating a beautiful portrait of a man in a studio?
I will give, in my opinion, the most exciting solutions in examples.
How is it done?
Perhaps this is the most classic scheme. Also called the triangle – notice the distinctive triangle of light on the less-lit side of the face.
Here the light source is a candy bar + a white umbrella in the light, located about a meter from the model, the height of the candy bar is about two meters. It is an excellent example of how you can achieve a relief, interesting cut-off pattern with one light source and organically highlight the white background behind the model. Because the source is close to the background, a lovely natural vignette is formed at the edges of the frame.
How is it done?
The light sources here are two monoblocks with reflectors located on both sides of the model, at a distance of about two meters each. The height of the right pillar is not less than two and a half meters, and the light source on the left is much lower, at about a height of one and a half meters.
The impulse of the reflector installed on the right is about one and a half to two times more powerful than the second one, located on the left.
Note: The model stands three-quarters of the way relative to the camera and thus illuminates both the left and right sides of the face and body.
How is it done?
There are two light sources here: monoblocks and white umbrellas for the light. The first candy bar is located behind the camera, in front of the model, it creates moderately complex light. Moderately hard due to its remote location from the model (at least two meters), with a rack height of about two and a half meters, it gives a very balanced pattern – the shadows are distinct, while there are no gaps in the shadows.
The second light source is located behind the model. It illuminates the dark background, adds volume to the shot, and acts as a backlight source, slightly highlighting the model’s silhouette.
How is it done?
This scheme may seem a bit tricky, but it’s pretty simple. Two light sources were used here – these are monoblocks equipped with reflectors. The first monoblock is located approximately three meters from the model to increase the rigidity of the light output.
The second candy bar illuminates the background and adds volume to the frame. I also used black panels on either side of the man to further increase the contrast between light and shadow.
How is it done?
The semi-shadow scheme (only one-half of the face is always lit) is very popular among professional photographers. The author used only one light source – a candy bar paired with a white umbrella in the light, placing the source to the left of the camera, at a distance of one and a half meters from the model, and raising the candy bar to a height of about 2.5 meters and turned towards the model.
As a result, this source gives an overhead light, with a moderately contrasting pattern on the model’s face, plus it illuminates the background with a pleasant light spot, separating the man from the background.
Note: Dark clothes and a dark background enhance the contrast, and focus the viewer’s attention on the main thing – the look, the texture of the skin and clothes, emotions. By the way, the attentive reader will most likely notice that this lighting scheme is similar to the first, but there are some differences. Here the light source is much higher and to the left.
As you can see, to create a male portrait, it is first of all essential to make the proper lighting. The examples are given above, as you understand, are just a tiny part of all kinds of techniques and ways to capture a man in a photograph as he is – strong, courageous, charismatic, enthusiastic, etc. And looking at these photos, it becomes evident that even with only one light source in your arsenal, you can achieve awe-inspiring results.