By Diane Berkenfeld
With her first book: Sculpting With Light, Techniques for Portrait Photographers, (Amherst Media, www.amherstmedia.com ISBN: 978-1-58428-236-5) author and pro photographer Allison Earnest eloquently begins by explaining why we as photographers use light to sculpt our portrait subjects. She goes on to explain the physics behind light, for the scientific view of how light—its intensity and color—helps us create our photographs.
Earnest discusses the types of light: natural ambient illumination, strobe (studio and on-camera flash) as well as hot lights. She also touches on techniques for capturing great portraits on location, softening harsh sunlight, the use of flash-fill in daytime photographs, as well as mixing artificial and ambient light in the evening. The author touches on lighting ratios and why it is so important when using digital capture to get it right in the camera.
The author explains in detail how to use dimensional lighting to sculpt a portrait. She covers the basics of portrait lighting and then explains the different lighting set-ups and poses to use to flatter your subjects while minimizing distracting facial features. Earnest includes a list of distracting features that your clients will likely want minimized and explains the lighting and posing you should use for each, for a more flattering portrait. Examples are included throughout the book, often showing both the more flattering way of capturing your subjects and the not so flattering way so the reader can compare the images and build an understanding of why certain techniques work. The book also incorporates many lighting diagrams and illustrations showing where the light falls on the subject(s).
Earnest muses about finding a subject’s inner light and bringing it out in a portrait—the goal of the professional photographer. Being able to do that effectively, sculpting light creatively to flatter your subject is what makes the difference between an amateur picture taker and a professional portrait photographer.
In addition to showcasing the basics of lighting, Earnest also explains the different qualities of light and how they allow a photographer to sculpt their subjects with illumination.
Earnest shows how lighting and posing work hand-in-hand to flatter a subject’s features. She also talks about how clothing choices can improve a portrait, and shows examples.
Earnest touches upon the technique of painting with light, one of the more unique ways to light your subjects. She explains how it is done and shows examples of images that were captured by painting the subjects with light from flashlights or other constant light devices during a long exposure. The photographs that Earnest uses to illustrate this technique are absolutely beautiful.
I would have liked it if the author spent more time discussing this technique, as it is such a unique way of creating beautifully sculpted images and is a subject not often talked about in great detail in books on lighting.
Earnest discusses the technical aspects of photographic lighting in a way that is easily understood by the reader. And she incorporates commentary on why certain aesthetics make for a better photograph—for a more rounded volume on the subject of lighting. Much of the book contains the author’s photographs, however for the section on ambient lighting, she also includes images by other pros that illustrate techniques used to turn harsh daylight into soft dimensional illumination.
Whether you’re just beginning your photographic career or want to brush up on lighting techniques you don’t often use, check out Allison Earnest’s Sculpting with Light and you won’t be disappointed. The price is $34.95.
For more information on Allison Earnest or to see more of her work, check out her website at www.allisonearnestphotography.com.