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Don’t Light Your Whole Subject Evenly

The first two things the human eye naturally focuses on in a photo are the brightest part and the sharpest part of the photo. Keep this in mind when you’re shooting in the studio or on location (even with small off-camera flash), because if you light your entire subject evenly, you won’t be directing your viewers to look where you want them to, which in most portraits is the subject’s face. For a more professional look, you want their face to be perfectly lit, and then the light should fade away as it moves down their body. How much it fades away is up to you (it can fade to black if you want—your call), but when looking at your photo, it should be clear by the lighting where you want people viewing your image to look. One way you can control the light is to position it so it doesn’t light all of your subject evenly, or to use a fabric grid, so the light doesn’t spill everywhere, or even to use something to block the light from lighting the person’s whole body evenly. I use a black flag (a 24x36" cloth flag) and position it under the light (usually on a boom stand), so the light is mostly concentrated on my subject’s face. It doesn’t have to block all of it—unless I want the person’s body to fade to black—it just has to cut down the amount of light that falls on the rest of them.

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