Portrait studio lighting is primarily electronic flash for photographing people of all ages. The bright but extremely short-duration light is excellent for capturing the subject, yet it remains cool. Years ago, continuous light sources, such as tungsten or quartz lamps, were more common. But the portrait subject often became uncomfortable under the hot lighting.
Studio electronic flash units are AC-powered and are bulky. Often they are on wheeled stands that telescope for height adjustment. Also available are overhead rail lighting systems that suspend the light heads from the ceiling. This minimizes the clutter of stands and cords often found in portrait studios. Portrait lights tend to have large reflectors, 12 to 16 inches in diameter. They have movable barn doors and diffusion screens for simple adjustment of the quality of light produced. Each light has its own incandescent modeling light, which makes it simple to position the lights to produce the exact intensities and shadows desired for each individual's unique facial features. The intensity of the modeling lights varies to correspond with the intensity of the flash itself. A minimum of four modeling lights, two floodlights, and two spotlights are needed for quality portraiture.
A soft, complimentary type of studio light frequently used for photographing women is the umbrella light. Most any studio light can be easily adapted to accept an umbrella. Other helpful studio accessories include adjustable-height posing tables, reflectors, and vignetting diffusers to place in front of the lens.
For candid coverage of weddings, bar mitzvahs, and other occasions, more portable cameras and lighting equipment are necessary. Small 35mm equipment is commonly used for these events since this type of camera is far more portable. Compact, powerful electronic flash units can be used on either automatic or manual to adequately light most events. For large groups, several additional flash units, with an electric-eye slave that syncs them with the camera flash, can be an asset in obtaining proper lighting.
Portable flash units are sometimes used for environmental portraiture. More often, white cardboard or fold-up cloth reflectors or umbrellas are carried to provide the additional fill light required in some outdoor situations. Sometimes black umbrellas are used to shade and produce more flattering diffused lighting.
Whether working indoors with artificial lighting or outdoors with natural light, the portrait photographer must always control the lighting so the subjects will look their best. Most individuals do not have their portrait made very often, so it is the photographer's responsibility to produce the best quality possible.
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