A portrait couture session – Lisa and lighting

What separates an “ok” portrait from an amazing portrait? Has it happened to you? You see an image in a magazine and you want to turn back the page to view it one more time because you’re drawn to that certain je ne sais quoi that you just can’t put your finger on.

I browse magazines all the time for ideas and inspiration. VOGUE Italia is probably my favorite source for inspiration for my Portrait Couture business. Mi piace tantissimo! (‘I like it a lot’ for my non-Italian speakers out there). There are times when I will turn back to a page two, three, or even four times because something draws me to an image. I find that the source of that magnetism more often than not is 100% about the connection between the subject on the page and the camera. We’ve all heard the term “the eyes are the windows to the soul“… and in photography, this could not be more true.When it comes to lighting a person for a portrait, the most important thing in my opinion is lighting the face (and more specifically the eyes) well enough so that you can capture that “soul” of the person when you snap the shutter. I’ve talked before about how I  teach my Portrait Couture clients to connect with the camera. That connection emanates in great part from the eyes.

I love natural light photography! There’s nothing like having that perfect natural light draped over a subject, giving you that “a-ha” decisive moment when you know the stars have aligned for you to get a perfect shot. And all you have to do as the photographer is not screw up that perfect moment.

But, my studio has no windows, at all. What to do? I could use studio strobes… sure. Thanks to some wonderful teachers like Zack Arias, I’ve actually become fairly adept at using studio strobes. But, here’s the thing with studio strobes. That POP of light from a studio strobe happens so fast that it does not give our eyes time enough for the Pupil of the eye to shrink, exposing the beautiful color of the Iris that makes everyone’s eyes unique. How do I overcome this issue? I use constant lights, balanced to the same color temperature as natural daylight.

Constant lights cause the Pupil of the eye to shrink because the light remains on, just as it would do if I were photographing outside in daylight. Next time you’re outside in the daylight (not wearing sunglasses, of course) look at the Pupil of your eye. It’s tiny, right? Now, go inside and go away from a light source. Now, look at your Pupil. Much larger! Oooooohhhh. Magic!

When the Pupil dilates, or becomes wider, it covers the Iris of the eye and therefore covers the color of our eyes almost completely.

In fact, these days I rarely use strobe lighting in my studio. People come in for a photo shoot and they wonder if I’m getting any good shots because they notice my huge light modifiers are not “popping” with light. It’s just a constant, daylight-balanced source of gorgeous, natural-looking light.

If you look at the pictures in my Portrait Couture portfolio, you will see this. Take a look at some of these pictures from Lisa’s recent Portrait Couture photo shoot. Notice how Lisa’s eyes “pop” and you can see the gorgeous caramel color of the eyes. Lisa came to the studio from Ocoee, Florida where she owns a hair salon called Adore de Salon. Lisa is another one of my amazing mom clients (has a 12-year old and 7-year old) who absolutely nailed it in front of the camera. Great choices of clothes and a beautiful connection with the camera!

A special “thank you” goes out to the very talented Simone Rosas for doing a beautiful job on Lisa’s hair and makeup! Lisa is a self-confessed very picky person when it comes to her hair – she owns a hair salon, after all – but, she said Simone did a “perfect” job with her hair. Awesome job, Simone!

Finally, Lisa’s boyfriend can substitute the iPhone picture he has of her on his phone screen saver with something a little more stylish… if I do say so myself.

Have a wonderful week!

Brian