Recently, while I was in Salt Lake City I had a chance to work with Sigma’s 17-70mm F2.8-4 DC Macro OS HSM lens and my Canon 7D. I was very lucky to have the opportunity to photograph a beautiful subject, Meagan and also have a studio to work in. I was excited to discover how beautifully this lens functions in both studio lighting as well as natural light. Zooming in and out was not only fast, but also stayed extremely sharp. The lens is very light making it easy to use without a tripod. This is an important element for someone like me who likes to move around a lot when photographing. Since most of my students are just getting started in photography, I try my hardest to demonstrate for them how important the right lens and lighting style is for creating portraits. Of course it all depends on what your style is and what perspective you want to capture. That, in combination with the right camera settings, will help to create beautiful portraits.
The lighting pattern I used on the image of Meagan above is a more sculpting and flattering light for most people. It gives the illusion of slimming the face. It is my personal preference to use a soft light on my subjects and this kind of lighting pattern, with a small shadow on her cheek helps to create a more dramatic effect. It is often referred to as “Short Light.” There are many other lighting patterens that can be used, but for this article I’m only demonstrating a few.
The lighting set up we used in the studio for creating these images is shown below. These first few images were created using strobes. I photographed the studio so that you can see for yourself what our actual set up looked like. Then I took Meagan outside and used available light only.
In this next image, I have changed Meagan’s position to the camera and refocused while still maintaining my settings and a beautiful light pattern on her face which is still flattering to her and still considered “Short Light” as well. My settings, F 13.0 s 1/125 ISO 200 were determined by the style of lighting I used, and also by the options available to me on my camera body.
Next, I took Meagan outside and adjusted my settings accordingly to get the exposure I wanted. I usually shoot with my aperture wide open to put the sharpest focus on my subject and softening the background. My style choice when creating portraits is to use my background as the framework to my story. The story is always about the subject and their expression.
The lighting style used here is what I would call bounced light. We are in an alley where the sunlight, or my main light is behind a building. The colored walls and the cement street act like a reflector and all that light is being bounced back on to my subject giving her a very soft and even light on her face. Her hair is actually acting like a scrim in that it is casing a shadow to fall on the far left side of her face. All the natural elements I love about using available light to illuminate my subjects. Controlling the light at this point is all about the proper settings on your camera.
I hardly ever place my subject in the middle of the image, although I will say I love to break my own rules and if it works, it works regardless of whatever rules or guidelines I set for myself.
As the sky darkens due to cloud coverage, I adjust my settings to give me a little more light. I like to photograph outside with cloud coverage. It’s like having a giant soft box and the light is diffused and very soft. I have zoomed in closer to Meagan to focus in on her face. This is not a profile so much as it’s more of a study of her face and expression using the background to give it a low-key look. The 17-70mm F2.8-4 DC Macro OS HSM is so sharp you can see the eye lashes on the bottom of the eye furthest from the camera. You can also see the natural catch lights in both eyes and the texture in her hair.