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    • I started a portrait project this year in an attempt to unravel the mysteries of studio lighting and dramatic portraiture. It's called the 100 Faces Project. I am excited to try a bunch of techniques and ideas so if you have a favorite studio portrait lighting setup please share it with me!

      My goals for this project are to study lighting and posing and prompts for adults to gain more confidence in studio portraiture. I would also love to give more people the opportunity to sit for a fine art portrait that might not otherwise have one taken. Finally, I would really love to write an article at the end of the year(or maybe several) about what I learned.

      Feedback and cc greatly appreciated!

    • That's beautiful, Meghan. What I love about it is a big light source to make transition from light to shadow gradual and soft; the light is off to the side enough that it creates shadows; there is not too much fill light, so the shadows are deep and dramatic. Her beautiful hair is well lit, she's looking intently right at the camera but her head is turned and chin is down, her body is not square to the camera. My kind of pose.

      I can see how, as a commercial photographer who needs to sell portraits, you can get a lot of customers with a shot like this because buyers want to look good. With this pose and lighting they do.

      My impression, however, is if you were on assignment for a magazine like TIME, you would have to tell a story about this person beyond a beautiful and professional-looking photo. I think that's where it gets most interesting. The most fascinating book I have ever read about this is Gregory Heisler's 50 Portraits. He tells the story and the lighting behind each iconic shot. He had to make Giuliani look commanding for the cover of TIME, LeBron look like an athletic monster for the cover of Sports Illustrated, Julia Roberts look gorgeous, and bring out Muhammad Ali's iconic personality.

      I have the book and you're welcome to borrow it. Even flipping through the pages and looking at lighting diagrams and different poses he tried is fascinating, but the short stories behind the portraits are amazing.

      I was on the phone with him last month and he agreed to do an interview with us. You should help me with the interview and we can ask him questions together. His book got something like 244 5-star reviews on Amazon.

    • This is a great portrait, I really like how it shows some of her personality. Highly recommend you play with color more, you've got great harmony here with tones. Might be a hidden super power in there somewhere ^_^

    • I do need to borrow that book! And I agree- the story is so important and I should be doing a better job of keeping notes for what I have been doing with lighting for each of these but I need ideas of lighting setups to try and that book might have some great ones!

    • @Meghan These are gorgeous images that you have captured.

      The tones and gradations of light and color are wonderful, and very calming to look at, and help me marvel at your subjects.

      I do have a minor suggestion, which I hesitate to even mention, but you expressly requested feedback.

      On my monitor ( new iMacPro - uncalibrated ) the first and third image seems darker than necessary, and will print a bit dark I suspect. When I measure individual pixels in your images looking for highlight tones, in the first and third images, I find almost nothing brighter than 140, 140,140. In the whites of the eyes of your first image, I measure 122,122,122 or so - barely a mid tone grey in brightness. In the third image, even the white of his illuminated eye is barely a quarter tone brown or grey 67,58,59. I know these are meant to be dark, moody, even brooding portraits, but as prints they may not be as bright as you want them to be.

      I wonder if your monitor is set to a brighter luminosity than mine, perhaps; but the measured RGB pixel numbers tend toward the darker tones as I measure them on my screen.

      When I measure the highlight tones of the specular reflection in Heisler's portrait of Luis Sarria in @Chris's post, I measure them 249,249,249. and the highlight on his nose 222,222,222 is brighter than the white of the eye in your third image.

      I am not a portraitist, but I have spend a fair number of hours editing images over the years, and even though my monitor is not currently calibrated, my screen and my prints are a very close match in color and luminosity. Generally I think most images have a full range of tones from pure white to pure black, but certainly not all.

      I am aware and sensitive that the numbers themselves are meaningless, but they do provide a framework of the general brighness/darkness/tonalities of portions of an image, that may help an artist to structure the best images they possibly can.

      Once again I want to say how much I like these images and that my comments are not meant in any negative fashion, but only offered as a suggestion that you MIGHT wish to consider based on your intentions for your creations.

      @Chris. I have had Heisler's book in my library since it was first published, and now I find myself rereading it again like it was brand new. Thanks again Chris. Great read, and something to think about when I begin to play with the Sigma 105 f1.4 you made me purchase a while back.

    • Wow, Meghan these are fantastic portraits. Great work and thanks for sharing.

      I really like the soft light, but with dramatic shadows. The skin tones are so natural. I've found soft lighting to be the hardest part about lighting studio portraits. I'm curious what your setup is. How big and what is the placement of your softboxes?

      Have you considered adding light from behind so that hair stands out from the background? But that might not be the look you're going for.

    • This is EXCELLENT feedback! I have not printed any of these and I struggle with monitor calibration. I have never evaluated the numbers to make sure I am in a good realm for printing so this is super helpful! Thank you for sharing!

    • Hey Kevin! Great question- most of these are shot with an Elinchrom and a beauty dish with diffuser. Some are shot with an elinchrom with a very large octobox(I think like 70") and a scrim about a foot in front of the octobox to diffuse the light even further. I would love to try different lighting setups but have not yet found another configuration that I like more than these two so far. I have done a hair light on some of my subjects but the result was a little too "traditional" and I didn't love it.

    • Once upon a time I wanted to tell the story of my badass soccer-playing daughter came home muddy, so I quickly set up a makeshift studio in my living room and snapped this in an attempt to tell the story:

      I think those are the kinds of shots we remember most — the ones that tell a story and bring out someone's personality.