There’s a lot of advice out there about how to look good in photos — I’ve written a fair amount of it myself. Hold your chin like this, the camera like this. Smize.
But in the end a photograph is just a recording of how light hit a camera sensor (or strip of film) at a particular moment in time. And if you want to control your photography so the images look as good as possible, you’re going to want to control that light.
There are a few ways to do this: Shoot in a bright room, shoot using natural light, shoot outdoors. Photographers resort to crazy tricks to mimic all these effects in fancy studios
But increasingly I’m convinced that the best way to look good in a photo is to find a single, warm, directional source of light. Ninety-nine per cent of the time that’s going to be a single window in a dark room. In my studio I use a reflective umbrella to create the same effect.
Here’s how it works, and why it’s usually the best option for your pictures.
When light comes from directly overhead, like at noon on a sunny day or indoors, it can cast weird shadows across your face. This isn't a flattering situation for anyone.
Light in the shade on a sunny day is a much better option, but because it can hit you from so many directions it will flatten your features a bit.
A smaller, directional light source like a window (or a single reflective umbrella) is a much better option.
It will reflect differently off the different planes of your face, creating much greater definition and depth. Stand close to it for bright, even lighting.
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