OnSet with Daniel Norton: Common lighting positions for portraits
posted Tuesday, May 28, 2019 at 2:30 PM EDT
Photographer Daniel Norton sets up his lights by following the simple adage of putting lights where they look good. However, people often ask him for more concrete tips and tricks for setting up lights, so in the video below, he walks through some common lighting positions for portraits. The positions outlined in the video should act more as a starting point for you rather than something to emulate perfectly, because an important part of creating nice portraits is adding your own personal twist to them. Further, experimenting with your lighting is a great way to learn.
A common way to position a single light is at a roughly 45-degree angle in front of the subject. The closer the light is to the subject, the softer its quality will be. Norton likes to place the light as you close as you can without it being in the shot. He also likes to have the light a bit high, such that it is coming down over the subject a bit, which will impact the look of the shadows on your subject's face. If you don't like the shadows but don't have a second light to use, you can use a reflector to help fill in some of the shadows. If instead you want more shadows and a more dramatic look, you should position your light more to the side of the subject rather than in front of them. To see more tips and tricks for positioning lights for portraits, watch Norton's video below.
To see more videos from Daniel Norton's OnSet video series for Adorama, click here.