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Page 1: Photography - Lighting in portrait photography


Lighting in portrait photography

Guillem Costas Castilla


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Basic terminology.....................................................................6

RAW vs. JPG..............................................................................8



Image compression............................................................................8

The differences...................................................................................9

The choice..........................................................................................11

Lighting outside 12

Lighting outside using ambient light..................................................12


Lighting outside using artificial light and ambient light.....................16


Lighting inside..........................................................................25




Variable light conditions...........................................................44


Process of postprocessing.........................................................55




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I started thinking about the subject of my project in the 4th year of ESO. I

had one thing very clear: it would have to be about something I liked and I

could enjoy doing. Photography was the subject that was always in my

mind, but there were other subjects such as “Light” which would have been

a physics project.

The first year of Batxillerat arrived and I had to decide what I wanted to do. I

was in doubt about choosing between three different projects, all of which

were related to photography in some way.

The first one was about light. I wanted to do some research in the area of

light diffraction but it wasn’t appealing enough for me to feel I absolutely

wanted to work on this subject so I abandoned this idea.

The second idea was to do a time lapse. Time-lapse photography is a

cinematographic technique where each frame is captured at a rate much

slower than it will be played back. When it is played at a normal speed, time

appears to be moving faster than in reality. The idea I had was to show a

day in my life in 15 minutes. I finally rejected this option because something

better came to me, and anyway this project would not have had a

theoretical part.

The third idea, and the one I’ve chosen, was lighting in photography,

especially in portrait photography. I had bought some lighting equipment

and I didn’t know how to use it correctly so I thought a great way of learning

how to use it would be to do my project about it. My life-long passion mixed

up with my research project could be a very good mixture.

When I finally decided on this subject, lots of ideas came to my mind and I

put them together and I did an index which I gave to my tutor. Luckily, he

agreed with the project and I started working on it.


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I knew almost nothing about the subject so my main objective was to learn

as much as I could about lighting in portrait photography. My project would

consist of a theoretical part and a practical part. What I wanted to do was to

tell in my own words everything I was learning and show it with my own

pictures. It would be very instructive.

First, I divided the project into three parts, where every part would have a

theory and practice section. The first part would be the introduction, where I

would introduce the subject and learn more about the two main kinds of file:

JPG and RAW. The second part would be about outside lighting out, where I

had to fulfil two objectives: to learn how to shoot outside and get good light

results, and to learn how to mix ambient light with artificial light, which is

harder. The third part would consist of lighting inside. I knew nothing about

that, so I would have to do a lot of research to be able give the best ways to

provide illumination in a studio, and to try them.

This looked good, and it could have been the project, but my teacher said

that I could do some research about astrophotography, which has some

specific lighting characteristics. Moreover, he could provide me with

everything I needed to do the practical part. It sounded fantastic, so I added

this part. I wanted to take some successful shots of galaxies and stars and

explain the basis of astrophotography.

Furthermore, while I was doing my project a new part came to my mind.

This would be about lighting in special conditions such as concerts,

“correfocs” or dance exhibitions. This part would be more practical than

theoretical, but I thought this was missing in the project, so I decided to add

this as well.

Summing up, I had five objectives. The first was to do some research about

JPG and RAW files. The second was to be able to tell with my own words how

to illuminate outside correctly using ambient light or mixing ambient light

with artificial light and test it with pictures taken by me. The third was the

same as the second but lighting inside, I would just use artificial light. The


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fourth was to explain the basis of astrophotography and take some

successful photographies of celestial bodies. And the last one was to show

some examples of photography in variable light conditions.


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First of all, I have to say that I’m just going to talk about a Digital Single-

Lens Reflex camera (DSLR). A DSLR is a digital camera that uses a

mechanical mirror and a pentaprism to direct light from the lens to an

optical viewfinder on the back of the camera. Some aspects of what I’m

going to talk about may not be applicable in compact or medium format


DSLRs are often preferred by photographers because they allow the user to

choose from a huge variety of interchangeable lenses. Lenses are divided

according to their focal range. There are fisheyes, wide angle, standard

lenses, telephoto lenses, macro… Furthermore, there are also lenses of a

fixed focal, fixed aperture, but I will deal with this point later. Moreover,

most DSLRs also have a function that allows accurate preview of depth of


You will never understand photography if you are not clear about two points

- how the light travels through the camera and arrives at the viewfinder, and

the way the sensor catches the light.

Illustrations of the path of light

inside the camera

We have to consider the camera in two parts: the lens and the body.

Basically, the lens is formed by several pieces of glass. Its function is to

focus the image onto the digital sensor, where it is captured and stored. The


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body contains the components which are responsible for visualizing and

creating the image. Some of these components are the mirror, the digital

sensor, the pentaprism and the viewfinder.


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In this part I’m going to explain some specific photographic vocabulary that

appears in the project.

Lens: a camera lens works by focusing the light onto the digital sensor. It

contains several pieces of glass and other elements. It is the optical

component of a camera and it performs automatic and manual functions.

Aperture: it controls the amount of light admitted into the lens.

Sometimes it is fixed but usually you can adjust the size of the hole to vary

the amount of light.

F-stops: the F-number of F-stops are the numbers on the lens’ aperture

ring and the camera’s LCD. These numbers indicate the size of lens

aperture. The lower the number the larger is the aperture, meaning that the

lower value lets more light pass into the camera.

Focal length: it is the distance between the sensor and the lens’ centre

when the camera is focused on an object at infinity. This distance is

measured in millimetres, for example: 70-200mm. There are lenses with a

fixed focal length but most lenses can vary the focal length and they are

called “zoom lenses”.

Shutter speed: this is the speed of opening and closing of the camera

shutter. It determinates the amount of time that light can pass through the

aperture. Shorter shutter speeds are needed for taking shots in bright

conditions while longs speeds are used for taking shots in dark areas.

Depth of field (DOF): it is the distance from the focal point at which a

photo will be sharp while the rest becomes blurry. The lower F-stop number

the shorter your DOF will be and also the other way around. This means that

when shooting with a low F-stop you will get an image with a very short

distance of sharpness.


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Autofocus (AF): it refers to the ability of some cameras or lenses to get

the correct focus automatically. In some models the focus can be

continuously maintained.

Resolution: The resolution is the amount of pixels that the image has.

Normally it’s specified in Megapixels. Pixels are the colour dots that make

up an image. A camera with higher resolution will produce better image


White Balance (WB): white balance adjust the white colour quantity of

your image. This process is used to make white the objects you see as white

in person. White balance is measured in degrees Kelvin and usually goes

from 1.000K (candlelight) to 10.000K (heavily overcast sky).

The sensor: it is the component that replaces the film. It is made of

millions of pixels that read the light and colour values which are later

reconstructed to create the image.

In camera software: the process to create the image from the data of the

sensor is performed by this software. It is usually very sophisticated and

normally allows the user to edit the photograph in the camera.

Memory cards: when the image is reconstructed by the software in the

camera it’s stored in the memory card. There are several types of memory

cards: SD, Compact

Flash, Memory Stick, and xD memory.

Strobist (strobe): lighting equipment made up of off-camera flashes.

ISO: it is the quantity of light a camera needs to take a photo. Depending

on the ISO number you choose it will vary. The higher the number is, the

less light you need to take the picture.


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Raw and JPG are two different kinds of files your camera can produce. For

example, when you use Microsoft Word and you save the document it

creates a .DOC file, and when you use Microsoft Excel it creates a .XLS file.

So, what are the differences between these kinds of files?


The definition of “raw” is uncooked. A RAW file is the unedited image data

that a digital SLR camera captures every time you take a photo, so you

could say that a RAW file is an uncooked digital photo. The camera doesn’t

manipulate the image in any way before it’s saved on the memory card. You

can make an equivalence with analog cameras; a RAW file is the same as a

digital negative.


Unlike a RAW file, a JPG is a processed image. All of the processing takes

place inside the camera before the image is saved in the memory card.

Some of this processing consists of colour saturation (increase or decrease

the intensity of colours), sharpness (can make the image looks crisp or soft)

and contrast (affects the range between the highlights and shadows).

This seems good if you don’t want or don’t have time to spend on the

computer processing the image but it has a drawback: the treatment that

the SLR applies to the image can’t be undone. This doesn’t mean that you

can’t make changes to your photo in an editing program after you take it -

of course you can. It just means that any colour or exposure setting applied

when the photo was taken can’t be altered.


A digital image is made up of millions of pixels and the camera has two

options when it comes to the colour of these pixels:


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1. Leave them the way they were captured by the camera’s sensor.

2. Adjust ones of a similar colour so that they are identical (this reduces

the overall file size of your digital photo).

The effect of mild-severe compression can drastically reduce the overall

quality of the image, producing photos that look unsharp and blocky. This

process is applied to every JPG file to some extent (you can control the

extent using camera settings). In contrast, no compression is used for RAW



Now I’m going to talk about the pros and cons of each kind of file and what

you must know before choosing one or the other.

Pros of JPG

1. Small file size maximizes

memory card space.

2. Easy to view and edit with any

editing program.

3. Easy to upload to online


4. Cons of JPG

1. Less control over the way

the final image appears.

2. Compressed files lose some

image data.

3. It’s harder to correct

mistakes of colour or


JPG is by far the easier format to work with because you can see the image

on any computer. Even if you don’t have an image editing program you can

still view your JPG images with just the standard utilities of your computer.

Since every JPG is compressed, it doesn’t take up as much space. This also

means that it takes significantly less time to upload a JPG to an online


When you set your camera to capture photos as JPG files, you are letting the

camera decide how your final images are going to look. Decisions about the

colour, tone and clarity of the photo are under your direct control - that's all

decided for you. But if you take a portrait and decide after the fact that you

don't like the skin tones or capture a beautiful sunset but the colours don't


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pop quite as much as you'd like, there's little that you can do about it. The

image is (somewhat) set in stone.


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Pros of RAW

1. No image data is lost.

2. You have plenty of flexibility when deciding what the final image will

look like.

3. Allows you to correct mistakes made at the time of the exposure.

Cons of RAW

1. Uncompressed images create very large files.

2. Requires special programs to convert into JPG format.

3. Requires powerful computer to view and edit.

4. Requires time and effort to develop the image.

As you can see, the cons of working with RAW files cannot be solved easily

and this is the reason why many people avoid RAW and work with JPG.

First of all, RAW files are huge. You need much more memory on your

camera’s card or your computer. A RAW file can use up to 4 times more

digital space than a JPG. For example, a high quality JPG that uses 6

MegaBytes would use 24 MegaBytes of space in RAW.

These enormous file sizes can impact those who want to work with RAW:

1. You need memory cards with more storage space.

2. You need plenty of space on you hard drive.

3. It takes extra time to transfer images from your memory card to the

hard drive.

4. You need a powerful computer to view and edit these files.

But it’s not so negative as it seems. Nowadays memory is “very” cheap. You

can buy good memory cards for about 20-30€. You can also get a 500GB

hard drive for less than 100€.

Once you’ve got all the storage space ready, you’re going to need a special

program to see and edit your RAW photos. RAW files are unique to each

camera manufacturer. I mean that a RAW file produced by a Canon won’t be

the same as a RAW file produced by a Nikon. But it’s not a big problem

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because when you buy your DSLR there is a CD with software for your RAW

files. But if you don’t like the software that comes with your DSLR you can

use programs such as Adobe Camera Raw, Adobe Lightroom, Adobe

Elements and Apple Aperture.

So, summing up, RAW files are huge and they require specific software to

view and edit.

You will be wondering what’s the point of all this. It’s actually really

important: you can manipulate any part of your digital image AFTER the

photo has been taken.

The choice

Why is all this important for my project? It is important because it provides

you with the knowledge about the two file formats. So, it’s up to you which

one will you choose. Will you choose JPG because of the small file size or will

you choose RAW due to all the advantages it has?

My choice is for RAW. The flexibility it gives you is stunning. If you fail with

the exposure, you can change with the software. If you don’t like the white

balance, you can change it. If you feel the image is too sharp or too soft,

you can change it. If you think there’s too much noise in the image, you can

reduce it.

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First of all, you have to consider which sort of lighting you are going to use.

Are you shooting with ambient light or do you want to shoot with some

flashes mixed up with ambient light?

Obviously, it is easier to take photos with ambient light, but don’t think it is

so easy. You don’t have to have in mind as many things as when you use

flashes but you have to think about other relevant aspects. You have to

think about the time. If you want to take a portrait in the middle of the day it

will have lots of ugly shadows that will attract your attention. Moreover,

there will be a lot of high contrast areas. So, I would recommend the first

and the last hours of light for taking photographs. You will get better

portraits with soft light and low contrast. Portraits will look more natural.

But if you want to get striking shots with amazing combination of lights, you

must use artificial lighting, taking into account that it will be harder and you

must know lots of things before getting good results.


There’s not so much to say about this point - you only have to think about

the position of the sun. As I said before, the best moments of the day are

the first hours of the morning and the last hours of light. That’s because the

light is oblique and soft and it will hide imperfections of the skin and make

lines softer.

As you are working with only one source of light you can’t control the

background light and the light of the model. So you have to expose correctly

the face of the model and leave the background overexposed,

underexposed or exposed correctly.

The point is that you will have to choose which is the best position (or the

position you want) to take the pictures. You have lots of possibilities:

backlighting, sidelight, skylight, headlight… The best lights are sidelight and

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backlight (because of the very impressive results you get if you do it nicely).

Skylight and headlight will produce worse results and imperfections will

stand out a lot.

If we use sidelight or backlight there will be areas of the model that will be

in shadow, so we have to send fill light to these areas. We are not using

artificial lighting, so how can we do it? It’s easy, we only need a big white

piece of material or paper to reflect the light. By doing that, the dark areas

of the model will be illuminated.


1/320s f/6.3 ISO 100 24mm

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1/200s f/8 ISO 100 55mm

1/60s f/5.6 ISO 100 250mm

These three pictures are samples of shooting outside without artificial light

and without any kind of reflector. I’m going to comment on them all

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together because I don’t have to explain any kind of lighting scheme; it’s

always the same: light coming from the sun. As you can see, in the first and

third photos the shadows are harsher than in the second and fourth. This is

because I took this shots a while before sunset, so light was not soft at all. In

contrast, the other two photos were taken during sunset or just before

sunset, so the light is much softer but harsh enough to create volume and

depth in faces. But actually, all of them are technically correct. If you want

to give aggression and strength to the picture you will prefer harsher

shadows, and on the other hand, if you want to give smoothness and

quietness you will use softer light.

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When you use flashes while shooting outside you have to control two

exposures at the same time. The reason is that you are working with at least

two sources of light: ambient light and artificial light.

Ambient light, also called available light, is the light that comes from the

sun whereas artificial light is the light that comes from your lighting


Ambient light is a source that you can’t control so you have to adjust the

camera settings to the ambient light for a proper background exposure.

Light from our strobe is light we can control so, once we have the ambient

light controlled by the camera settings we have to adjust the artificial light

to get the perfect lighting on the subject you want to shoot.

An important point that you must have in mind is that if you want to shoot

outside with or without lighting equipment you have to do it in a moment of

the day when the ambient light is not perfect, for example just before

sunrise or just before sunset. If you shoot in the middle of the day you will

probably get bad results.

Since we want to use strobe in our shoots we have some limits about what

we can do with our camera. First of all we can’t set the shutter speed faster

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that the sync speed. The sync speed is the maximum speed at which the

camera and the flash can be synchronized, which is normally around 200 or

250 hundredths of a second. Another limitation we have is that you have to

set the camera to the manual mode, you can’t use any automatic mode.

Now I’m going to explain how to get the perfect exposure of the image

taking into account that we have to control two exposures. It sounds a bit

complicated but it’s really not. You just have to follow these steps:

1. The first step is to set your camera to manual mode and make sure

your shutter speed is set to your sync speed.

2. The second step is to point your camera at the area just behind your

subject and adjust your aperture until you have the correct exposure

of the background.

3. Then, the third step if you have a flash meter is to set your flash with

the settings it indicates but, as I don’t have a flash meter the third

step is to set the flashes more or less as you think they should be set

and do some test shots. If they don’t convince you, you just have to

change the settings of the flash until the results convince you.

Once you have finished these three steps you are ready to start shooting. As

always, if in the middle of the session you want to overexpose the

background you just have to slow down the shutter speed or if you want to

underexpose you have to close the aperture (remember that you are

shooting at sync speed).

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1/80s f/7.1 ISO

200 18mm

This picture is a bit complex. I used three flashguns. There are two

flashguns through translucent umbrellas in front of the models and one

flashgun behind the models to create the halo around the hair. The key light

is the flashgun on the left in front of the models and the fill light is on the

right. The flashgun behind the models was shot at minimum power because

if not, the halo would have been too big. All these are mixed with the

ambient light to create a striking photograph.

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1/2000s f/7.1 ISO 100 50mm

This shot was taken just before sunset. As you can see, if I hadn’t used flash

the models would be black as in the left corner. In this case I used the

external flashgun on the camera. I used it just as a fill light, so I didn’t need

to take it off the camera. The use of the flash in this picture is one of the

most important uses of flash. In this case, the key light was the sun, and the

fill light was the flash.

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1/80s f/8 ISO 400 18mm

Luckily I have a “making of” photo of this picture:

As you can see, the strobe settings of this picture are two flashguns through

translucent umbrella in front of the models and another one behind them to

fill the hair. This time, the key light is the flashgun on the right. The light

from this flashgun goes from down to up. The flashgun on the left acts as

the fill light, and the light goes from up to down. The third flash is to fill a

little bit the hair and shirts of the models.

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1/100s f/5.6 ISO 100 180mm

In this shot I just used one flashgun and it wasn’t the key light. The key light

was the ambient light and it was coming from the back, so without flash she

would have been very dark. Thanks to the flash I managed to get a beautiful

green in the grass and have her well-exposed.

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1/200s f/5.6 ISO 200 106mm

1/200 f/5.6 ISO 200 85mm

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1/80s f/6.3 ISO 500 78mm

For this three shots I used the same lighting scheme. I put 2 flashguns

thorough translucent umbrella in each side of them. The one on the left was

set at maximum power and the other one at ½ power.

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1/40s f/5.6 ISO 640 200mm

This shot is more difficult than what it looks like. The other side of the pool is

5 or 6 meter away. Moreover, I wanted to set the flashes on the right side of

the camera to create depth in their faces. I tried with one bare flash at

maximum power but I didn’t get enough light, so I set another flash next to

the first one. Then, I had to much light, so I finally took the shot with one

flash at maximum power and the other one at ½.

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Lighting inside is easier than lighting outside using artificial light. To shoot

outside using strobe you have to control two sources of light: the ambient

light and the artificial light. Shooting inside, you just have to take into

account the light from your strobe, because the ambient light is very low.

The way to set the flashes is the same as before, with just one difference; as

you are not shooting with a lot of light you can slow down the shutter speed.

You have to consider that you need a background (it can be a white cloth),

something to hold the background (there are specific supports) and enough

space in the room to separate the model from the background (minimum

1.5 meters). If you meet all these requirements you are ready to start


First, I’m going to show some pictures with and without light reflector using

a window of source of light. So, no flashes were used.

This shot is without a reflector. You can see that the right side of the shot is

well exposed while the left part is underexposed.

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This is the same shot as the one before but using a silver reflector on the

left to reflect the light coming from the window on the right of her face.

There’s a big difference compared to the other one. Here the whole face is

well exposed and maintains t three-dimensionality.

Now, I’m going to demonstrate the difference between shooting thorough a

source to soften the light, and not. In this case I used a translucent


Without umbrella. Harsh shadows. With umbrella. Soft shadows.

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1/50s f/4.5 ISO 400 50mm

This is a very simple lighting scheme. I only used 2 bare flashguns on each

side of the model. The distance between the model and the flashguns was

1’5 meters and they were very close to the background. This way, the

background got burnt without using any other source of light.

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1/80 f/4.5 ISO 400 50mm

1/100 f/4.5 ISO 400 50mm

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1/50s f/4.5 ISO 400 50mm

1/50s f/4.5 ISO 400 50mm

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The scheme of these photos is a little bit more complex. I used three

flashguns and a silver reflector. Two flashguns were set behind the model to

burn the background. The other one, which was shot thorough a translucent

umbrella, was on the left side in front of the model. Finally, I used a reflector

on the right side to lower contrast.

This is a very common lighting scheme. By varying the height of the

flashgun and the reflector you can obtain very different and great results.

Moreover, if you change the source of light used as the key light (the

flashgun thorough a translucent umbrella in this case) and you do it with a

“beauty dish” you will get stunning results and your shots will look like

fashion photographs.

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1/100s f/6.3 ISO 250 50mm

1/250 f/6.3 ISO 400 50mm 1/250 f/6.3 ISO 400


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This is the same scheme as the one before but there’s a difference. The key

light is on the other side of the model. As I said, there are a lot of options

with the same kind of scheme.

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1/125s f/5 ISO 250 50mm

This scheme is a slight variation of the last one. I put the key light some

meters back. This way, the clapperboard was also illuminated.

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1/125s f/7.1 ISO 250 50mm

In this shot, the reflector I had was not enough to reflect all the light I

wanted, so I used another flashgun with a translucent umbrella as fill light. I

set the second flashgun at 2 steps less power than the key light. This way I

managed to get all the body well exposed without any ugly shadow. The

third flashgun was set to burn the background.

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1/100s f/6.3 ISO 320 63mm

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1/100s f/6.3 ISO 250 47mm 1/100s f/6.3 ISO 250


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These three pictures were shot with the same lighting setup and there is a

big compared to the other ones: the background is black. I only used one

flash thorough a translucent umbrella on the right of the model. This is a

very simple but effective lighting scheme. You get high contrast images that

help you to convey the feeling you want to.

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1/25s f/6.3 ISO 400 191mm

For this shot I used a lighting set up a little unusual. I wanted an image of

very low contrast so I decided to put one flashgun on the right behind the

model but pointing to the camera. This way the light rays came through the

camera lens and reduced the contrast of the image. I also set two flashes

with translucent umbrellas in the front to create a soft lighting.

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1/50s f/6.3 ISO 400 160mm

This time I used the usual two lights scheme but with a slight variation. The

flash on the right, which was not shot through a translucent umbrella, was

set 2.50 metres high and was pointing to her hair. This way I got her hair

illuminated as I wanted.

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1/100s f/7.1 ISO 400


To take this shot I used a very simple scheme. I only used one bare flash on

the left of the model to create a high contrast image.

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1/80s f/5.6

ISO 400 189mm

Once again, not the most complex one is the better one. This one light

scheme is very effective, as you can see.

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Astrophotography is a mix between photography and astronomy. It consists

of taking photographs of celestial bodies. The advantage of mixing

photography with astronomy is that using a DSLR you can expose for a long

time and get pictures of things that the human eye cannot see even with

the help of a powerful telescope.

You will probably be wondering how you can take pictures of distant planets.

It’s very simple; you just have to use the telescope as your camera lens. In

fact, it is not as simple as it seems, but this is the concept.

There’s a part of the telescope where you can fit an adaptor to connect your

camera body. When you have done this your camera will reflect what the

telescope sees. From now on, all you have to do is use the camera as if you

were taking a night photo. This means that you might have to take a shot

from 2 seconds of exposure to hours. Hours would be silly because your

image would be full of noise and you wouldn’t distinguish anything, so what

you have to do is take lots of shots for some minutes and mix them using

specific software.

As you will know, the universe is not still. This is another important point

that you must take into account doing astrophotography. If you want to take

a photograph of a star’s wake you must use a tripod, but if you want to take

a photo of a galaxy or a planet you must follow it. Luckily, telescopes have a

system that automatically follows the object you are focusing.

Now I’m going to show you some pictures taken by me with the help of an

astronomic organisation.

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Vega star. Exposure time: 30 seconds. ISO: 200

M51. Exposure time: 53 seconds. ISO: 800

You can see the high level of noise due to the high ISO.

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M13. Exposure time: 30 seconds. ISO: 800

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In this part I’m going to talk about those situations in which the light is

always varying, such as concerts, “correfocs” or dance exhibitions. I am

going to use these three situations as examples because they are the ones I

know the best. I am also going to show you an example of a match burning.

As with everything in your life, common sense is your best friend. You

cannot be changing the shutter speed or the aperture all the time so, what

can you do? Fortunately DSLRs have two semi-manual modes called

aperture-priority and shutter-priority. These modes give priority to the

aperture or the shutter. This means that when using aperture-priority mode

you set the aperture you want and the shutter speed varies. The other mode

acts the same way with shutter-priority.

Now that you know which mode you have to use (it depends on if you prefer

to choose the shutter speed or the aperture) you only have to worry about

the ISO. You have to choose the correct ISO depending on the light at every

moment. If there is not much light you will have to choose a high ISO, if

there is enough light ISO 400 or less will be okay.

In the following part I’m going to show you some examples of photographs

where the light conditions are variable.

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1/60s f/2.5 ISO 1600 50mm 1/60s f/2.5 ISO 1600


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1/50s f/2.5 ISO 800 50mm 1/60s f/2.2 ISO 1600


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1/100s f/4.5 ISO 1000 39mm 1/200s f/4 ISO 1600


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1/80s f/4.5 ISO 2000 72mm

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0’5s f/9 ISO 200 50mm

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1/250s f/9 ISO 200 55mm

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1/125s f/3.2 ISO 2500 50mm

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1/15s f/4.5 ISO 1600 55mm

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Finally, I wanted to show you this shot. A match starting to burn. I had to

take 2 photos because the exposure time was too different and then I mixed

and retouched them using Photoshop. Here you have the two shots and the

final image:


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Final image

Due to the postprocessing EXIF data have been removed

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The process of postprocessing is something every photographer must do.

Some years ago it was done in the laboratory but nowadays it’s done using

a computer. Because I always shoot in RAW this process will consist of two


First you have to develop the photograph. You have many options to do this,

such as using the specific software of the camera, a Photoshop plug-in

called Adobe Camera Raw, or software like Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. I’ve

tried all of them, and my choice is the last one. I always use Lightroom

because it allows you to do many more things than the others but at the

same time if you don’t want to complicate matters it is very simple and


The second parts consist of importing the photograph to Photoshop (or any

other similar software) and starting the retouching part itself. In Photoshop

you are able to do whatever you want with your photo and here is where the

magic begins.

Finally you only have to export the file as a JPG or any other kind of

standard image format and you will be able to share your picture with the

entire world.


I’ve chosen a black and white high key portrait to show you the whole

process of postprocessing. I chose this image because in RAW you can see

some imperfections in the model’s face which will be removed and the

lighting is perfect for a high key image. A high key image is a lighting style

which aims to reduce the lighting ratio and focus it towards the high lights.

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First of all you have to import the folder where you have the pictures to

Lightroom’s library, where you can see all the images without having to

save them as JPGs. Now, when you have chosen the image you want to

process, you have to click on the second tab in the right corner of the

screen and you will go to the “develop zone” where you will start processing

your picture.

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In this part you are able to change the colour temperature, the hue, the

intensity and saturation, the sharpness, you can vary the lights and

shadows and change its tones, reduce the noise and chromatic aberrations

and many more things, but these are the ones that I always use when I

develop a RAW file.

In this case I increased the exposition and I softened the shadows.

Moreover, I added warm colours to reduce the global contrast. I also

increased the sharpness of the picture and reduced the noise in dark areas.

Finally, I did a copy of the original RAW and exported the processed image

as a PSD (Photoshop file format) to Photoshop CS3.

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This is the step where you must spend most of the time taken up by the

process. When you have your picture in Photoshop you can start doing what

you want to do with your picture. In this case, I’m going to do a black and

white high key portrait so, first, I have to remove all the main imperfections

of the skin and soften the whole face a little bit.

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The next step is to turn the colour image into a black and white image.

There are many options for doing this. The simplest is to desaturate the

picture but you won’t get good results. Another option is using “colour

channels” but it’s too difficult and not worth it for the results you get. In my

opinion, the best option is to create a black and white adjust layer. It’s easy

and you can modify each colour as you want; if you want to give more

relevance to red, for example, you increase your “reds”. Moreover, you can

vary the hue.

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Once I had the black and white picture I had to change the lighting a little

bit to give importance to the lights and reduce the shadows. Then I erased

all the little imperfections I didn’t like in her face and I cloned a hair that

was over her eye and attracted too much attention. After that, I gave

contrast and strength to her eyes and I softened the rest of the face again.

Finally I increased the sharpness of the eyes.

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1/80s f/4.5 ISO 400 50mm

The last point is to save the picture as a JPG and enjoy the results!

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When I started my project lots of questions and doubts came to me. Will I

have time enough to take all the pictures I need to show everything I tell in

the theoretical part? Will I find all the information I need? Will I fulfil my

objective of learning as much as I can about this subject? And what about

the technical part? Will I be able to finish the whole project in English? And

the main technical doubt: Will I be able to manage the ISO, the diaphragm

and the shutter speed? Because when you shoot with continuous spotlights

it is easier, you just have to set your camera according to the light at each

moment; but using speedlights you don’t see how much light will be when

you shoot.

Fortunately, the answer is: absolutely yes! I have fulfilled all the objectives I

had and, moreover, I’m really proud I have been able to complete the

project in English. For me, it was like a goal I had to reach and due to this

reason I have not had any lack of motivation. Moreover, I have been able to

manage the speedlights without having a flash meter. I have had to do it by

the method: test-error and repeat it until I had the light I wanted.

I didn’t start from any hypothesis; it was just a personal challenge. I wanted

to learn about lighting in photography in an autodidact way and now, I can

say that I’ve overcome my objectives. During the project I have been able to

extend my knowledge of photography, specially in lighting and


I also have to say that it has not been as easy as it looks like. I’ve had to

have it finished before December due to personal reasons, so I’ve been

under stress the last days, which have been exams days. But the most

important problem I’ve had to face has been the fact of doing it in English.

I’ve thought many times to change the language because I realized that if I

did it in Catalan I would express myself so much better and a lot faster. But

on the other hand, if I had changed the language I wouldn’t have reached

my goal so I tried to keep motivated and going on writing.

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From every hard challenge you can always learn something, with

perseverance and will you can do whatever you want.

Finally, I would like to thank everyone who has helped me, and special

thanks to Natàlia Caimel, Jaume Casals, Isi Vila, Cristina del Río, Sofia Ratia

and the tutor of my project Xavier Gimeno.

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It’s a channel on YouTube full of photography videos:


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- Christopher Grey. “Lighting techniques for beauty and glamour

photography”. Amherst Media, INC.

- Billy Pegram. “Posing techniques for photographing model portfolios”.

Amherst Media, INC.

- Calvey Taylor-Haw. “La iluminación en el estudio fotográfico”. Omega.

- Nigel Atherton and Steve Crabb. “Fotografía digital de la A a la Z”.


- José B. Ruiz. “El fotógrafo en la naturaleza”. JdeJ Editores.

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I attach a DVD which contains all the pictures that appear in the project in

high resolution, a video with the “Behind the scenes” of the photoshoot with

Jaume Casals and another video with the whole process of postprocessing.