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Compose & Pose your models with Light & Shadows!

Something I've struggled with for years, and I am still learning and from time to time I am still making mistakes to this day. Without light, no photos, so it is obvious that to make a decent picture, technically speaking, understanding light and knowing how to play with it is the most important part of the process.

Don't jump into Flash photography, don't use strobes, if you don't know how to shoot without.

Before composing your shot, before you frame anything before you dial in your settings, the first very thing you gotta do is look at the type of light you have.

Is it a harsh, hard light? Is it a soft light like the one you can get on an overcast day? Or maybe it's that soft morning/ evening light? Look closely at the direction of the light by looking at the shadows on the floor for example and look closely at the ones on your model's face and body and the ones all around.

So what are we looking for?

Any shadows created by anything around you that can cut your model in half, hide a part of the body. You want nothing in the way. You are looking at any type of shadow that would be too distracting or make things look weird.

Unless it is something you want in your picture. It might as well be a concept If you wish to reveal or show only certain parts of the body as if they were emerging out of the shadows or just drown your entire scene into darkness with massive shadows.

Look at the eye sockets of your model and ask Him or Her to slightly lift their chin and turn their faces left or right and find that sweet spot where you feel the shadows or light on the face looks right.

The same thing applies to your surroundings.

Any building, monument, wall, any objects in the background, look at the shadows. If you are working with harsh mid-day light parts of your image will be plunged into deep shadows, and others will be really bright.

This hard contrast can be distracting, so you might change your angle or location for a spot where your background will be evenly lit or completely in the shadows.

These small details make the difference, because sometimes and this includes me, you want to shoot in a specific place, with a specific angle, you want to include that building, that wall, that monument in your shot... but then you realize, you are taking you picture at the wrong time of the day.

So you have 2 options, come back at the right time (that's why I made a video about preparing your photoshoot, to avoid this kind of situation).

Or you completely change your framing, angle, and composition to have a pleasing balanced image.

Again preparation is important, especially when shooting outside, some places look awesome in the morning but are hard to work with, in the evening.

Light will also help you when staging your models. The way they pose, where they look, and so on... depending on where the light comes from and the desired effect if you don't know how to pose your models, let the light help you.

Use light to draw attention, to guide the viewer's eye.

Dafne Lugui Barbosa (Toulouse - France)

To make the transition less obvious between light and dark I placed my model at the edge.

Virginie Baïet (Toulouse - France)

Use light to isolate your subject or what you want to show. What you wish to hide and reveal.

Morgane (Mulhouse - France)

You can also ask your model to close their eyes for a serene shot.

Allegra Bird (Bordeaux - France)

Christine Pham (Strasbourg - France)

In these shots, the direction of the light defined the body, head position, and overall pose and movement and of course, it heavily influenced my composition

Dafne Lugui Barbosa (Toulouse - France)

Virginia Danh (Mulhouse - France)

Fanny George (Strasbourg - France)

Allegra Bird (Bordeaux - France)

This may be obvious for a lot of you, but I felt this was important to share because I've seen so many pictures of pro photographers taking this for granted... And like I said earlier I am sometimes torn between keeping the composition I initially had in mind and the light I finally have in reality...

In the end, I prefer having a well-executed and well-lit image to a potentially great composition and framing but with an awful light.


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