Wednesday, May 23, 2018


I took this portrait some time ago with a Leica Digilux 2 and I thought it didn’t turn out too bad.  Since then I have posted it several times and always received very positive comments on it.  Not so when my sister saw it a while back.

We both followed in the footsteps of our father in becoming professional photographers.  Since then she has turned into a very accomplished portrait photographer with numerous award winning photographs.

Her comment regarding this photograph was “Nicht sehr gut.  Lichtzange.”  Nicht sehr gut (not very good) caught my attention.  Unfortunately, the emphasis is on the word Lichtzange which is one of those words for which there is no direct translation.  After all, what does “light pliers” mean?  It refers to lighting where two light sources are competing with each other by illuminating the subject from opposite directions.

One basic approach to lighting her portraits was always that there is only one sun.  Because of that we are all accustomed to see things with light coming from only one direction.  She has always followed her studio lighting along that principle and so have I - usually.

Of course, studio lighting allows for considerable variations, and her approach certainly is not carved in stone.  But her comment made me take another look and I have to say, she is right.

Looking at the original result, it is obvious that I used two light sources from opposite direction.  The result is that the left side of the model (the right side of the photograph) is much too light.  It totally contradicts the more dramatic lighting on the right side.

I have always promoted to set up portrait lighting by visually controlling it.  Preconceived ideas and lighting by numbers (lighting ratios) will never take the individual in front of the camera into consideration.  That is one of the reasons why I consider modeling lights so very important.  They allow you to see what the lighting actually looks like.  They prevent a lot of trial and error work.

Well, this is one instance where I didn’t see what I was actually doing.  So is this something that can be corrected?  The answer is “sort of”.  I don’t agree at all looking at Photoshop as a means to correct mistakes.  It is always preferable to avoid mistakes in the first place.  But I gave it a try.  After all, the mistake had been made.  So I darkened much of the left side of the model to make the fill light much less pronounced.  In addition I worked on the right side of the face by lightening the shadows, again to lessen the effect of the fill light.

The result is far from perfect.  That would require correct lighting in the first place.  But I think it is a definite improvement.  What do you think?  Comments are very much welcome.

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