Portraits – Technical versus essence

I wanted to take some studio shots and I had the opportunity to do it today. I was just looking through the shots and I realise that they exactly follow the prescribed ‘rules’ of studio lighting that I learn both from books and from other photographers. You don’t get the nice soft shadows and some details are lost. But the truth of the matter is, that I am not concerned about those things these days. Before, I used to want to make things technically perfect. Lighting ratio between key and fill, background is evenly lit, shadows as soft as possible. But what I do care about is what I call the essence of the person. Whether the eyes are ‘bare’ and ‘truthful’. I recently bought a book by Michael Grecco called ‘Lighting and The Dramatic Portrait‘ and he writes,

‘I try to do whatever I can, on a regular basis, to break these classic rules of portrait lighting. Whether I use a stronger key-to-fill-light ratio, place the fill light on the key side of the face so that there is a well-defined shadow on one side, place my back light on the hot side of the face, or even put my backlight on the ground. I always try to make my lighting depart from the norm’.

Very wise words and at this stage of my photography, I do tend to want to rebel and break the rules. Is this one of those phases again?

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