PHC Carl Hinkle
Figure 7-7.Effect of background light.
gives the eyes sparkle. There should be only one catch
light in each eye, and it should be high in the iris of the
eye. For broad lighting, the catch light should be
approximately in the 11 o'clock position. The main light
for short lighting should create a catch light at
approximately the 1 o'clock position.
The lighting ratio for portraits should usually be
about 3:1 or 4:1-3:1 is about maximum for good color
portraits. To refresh your memory on how to establish
lighting ratios, refer to chapter 5.
The third light in studio portrait lighting is the
background light. A background light is usually placed
on a low stand midway between the background and the
subject. When adjusted correctly, the background light
provides good tonal separation between subject and
background. The intensity of the light falling on the
background should not normally be greater than the
intensity of the light from the main light falling on the
subject's face. By increasing or decreasing the intensity
of the light on the background, you can control the tone
or color reproduction of the background in the finished
To reproduce the background color to its true
color in a color print, it must receive the same amount
of light as the subject's face. When taking portraits for
use on a roster board, you want the tone and color of the
background to be consistent. When the backgrounds
vary in color, the roster board does not appear uniform,
and the attention of the viewer is distracted.
When a background light is used, it is wise to
position it before setting up any other light. It is easier
to determine its effect without the interference of the
main and fill light. The background light should be
positioned so the brightest area of the light illuminates
the background directly behind the head and gradually
falls off into the corners of the frame (fig. 7-7). When
the background light is set in this manner, it separates
the head from the body and draws the viewers attention
to the subject's face.
Once the main, fill. and background lighting is
established, additional lights may be added to the setup.
One such light is a hair light. A hair light is usually a
small lighting unit placed on a boom so it shines down
from above and behind the subject. It is used to lighten
the hair (or hat) and shoulders, add detail to the hair, and
separate the subject from the background, presenting the
illusion of a third dimension (fig. 7-8).
The intensity of the hair light varies with the subject
since it is dictated not only by the color of the person's
hair (or hat) but also by the amount of sheen the hair has.
The hair light is usually placed on the side of the
subject opposite the main light and behind the subject.
It should be used from an angle about 6 to 8 feet high
and from a position close to the center of the subject area
without the light stand or boom showing in the picture.
Light from this unit should not be allowed to spill over
onto the forehead or tip of the nose. The hair light
normally has a snoot attached so light from it does not
strike the camera lens.
Be sure the hair light is turned off when making any
exposure readings. This light does not affect your basic
film exposure, but it could influence your meter.