Practising: Lighting & flattering the subject

2nd December 2013

What have I done?

A request from a relative gave me an opportunity to practise what I had learnt in the studio (but on a simpler scale.) My subject wanted some photos taken that were particularly flattering to his facial features, so we tried to create that with a light he had that he uses in his garage. It was a square shaped light with some grating over it, just like this one but singular:

So we tried a few different angles and focal lengths, here are the results:

What have I got from it?

IW9B0047RESIZED As you can see there was a development and a process of finding what lighting was most flattering for the subject. This lighting was too high because it casts shadows and give the illusion of the subject being older than he is. Also because of my position (slightly below, as a result of my height) and the lens length (45mm) this image isn’t the most flattering to the subject.
IW9B0048-01RESIZED << 85mm IW9B0049-01RESIZED << 58mm.    Still at my own height, but adjusting the light source to face directly on to the subject (and slightly above) – although only a slight adjustment, has dramatically changed the look of the face and it’s features! The lighting alone has lit up the face, brought out the colour of the eyes and created shading under the jaw line.
I then positioned myself on a chair, thinking about how photographing the subject from above would enhance the outcome. By doing this I think it worked well and I now have the lighting straight on to the face, casting a shadow under the jaw line, and from above, the facial structure is brought out and enhanced. I also think photographing from above, for a male subject is flattering to the masculine, ‘V’, body shape.
This shoot taught me about how to technically photograph a male in a short space of time and how a difference in lighting and position can be essential in the way a person is portrayed.

What’s next?

I want to carry on using my own mini studio set, in my spare time, to explore lighting and the different opportunities it creates – to progress in my photographs of people throughout my life as a photographer.


19th December 2013

What have I done?

I have used an LED flash light as a light source to show different lighting and how it affects the face – shape, features etc and which is the most flattering.

What have I got from it?

I can see that I have got some dramatic results and something I have learnt is that, because everyone is different, not everyone has the same ‘flattering’ angle and light hits each individual face differently.

IW9B0429RESIZED << I would say this is the most flattering light for my subject – she held the LED light further away from her face, at arms length, so the light is softer, yet still defining – as it casts a soft shadow around the side of her face that is nearest to the camera and accentuates her cheekbones.

Unflattering light source angles?:


Directly below or directly above casts shadows over some of the best features: the eyes and the smile. It also can add to/create the look of under eye bags. This occurs especially when the light source is harsh rather than soft.

However – it depends what look you are trying to create. But generally, to flatter the subject, soft light coming from directly in front, aligned with the face (or positioned slightly above) is a good look.

Flattering light source angles?


Maybe direct light coming from one side is a bit too dramatic, however is does slim down the nose and accentuate the colour of the eye. the 2 middle images are with the light source, not a full arms length away but not very close up, to create a softer light that sits nicely on the cheeks and makes the colours and detail in the eyes more visible. Yet the 4th image (light source from slightly below but almost parallel with the front of the face) I would say works for this image. The eyes colours have come out really nicely and the skin looks rather smooth.

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