Creating a dramatic portrait can be a very simple task when you use the right tools. In many cases shooting a portrait with drama can be much easier than a traditional portrait. These types of portraits tend to be more expressive, and may have to tell more of a story in a single image.
- Using a Main Light
- Adding a Fill Reflector
- Adding a Rim Light
- Adding Contrast with a Background Light
We used a Starlite OctoDome nxt kit, which has a Starlite head and a 1000-watt lamp, mounted on a LiteStand, as the main light in this portrait. Once we had assembled the kit, we placed it camera right at about 45˚, raised it up to about three and a half feet from the floor, and tipped it down toward the subject at around 30˚. [figure 1]
Our result shot shows the quality of light from the OctoDome to be just what we were looking for. We have a three-dimensional feel to the light and see all the detail we that wanted, but it’s not overdone.
A lot of time dramatic images are created with a single light source to get a heavy ratio between the shadows and highlights. Often times allowing the shadows to become completely black. For our image here, though, we wanted something dramatic, but not quite to that dramatic level. So we decided that we needed to bring in some type of fill light to fill in the shadows a little bit.
Instead of bringing in another light for our fill we decided to use a 39×72″ LitePanel. We placed this at about 90˚ camera left and about four feet from our subject with a white fabric on it to reflect a neutral color of light. We angled it up slightly so we could reflect light from main light into the shadow areas.
With the LitePanel in place we took another photograph. Our resulting image shows more detail on the subject as well as showcasing chrome hardware of the guitar in a more flattering way.
Next, we decided to add a rim light into our photograph. To accomplish this we set up a Small HalfDome with a Starlite head and a 500-watt lamp placed on a 2214 Litestand. Once we had assembled this, we placed it at about 135˚ camera left behind the LitePanel and about five feet from the floor. We then aimed the HalfDome down toward the subject at about a 45˚ angle.
Our result below shows a slight improvement in the separation between our subject and the background. To take this separation to the next level we are going to light the background.
To add in the background light we set up a Medium HalfDome with a Starlite head and a 1000-watt lamp. Then placed this assembly onto a 2218 LiteStand. We placed this light on the set to about 100˚ camera right, set the height to six feet, and aimed it at the background.
Our resulting image [figure 8] shows more depth to our image without affecting the drama of the shot. We are getting a better feeling of separation of the subject off the background and more interest to the shot with the addition of the background light. As we mentioned before you can create a dramatic image using one light or you can use multiple lights to help convey your images. There are no hard and fast rules here so experiment with variations of your own lighting setups.