Tricks to the overhead light.

0773D-0067stTricks to the overhead light.

One of the most dramatic lighting positions is the overhead light. It creates a spiritual atmosphere, a dangerous mood, mystery and more. The approach to using it is a bit counterintuitive though. Here is how to approach it.

First; a quick recap of how light works so you will understand the approach. The closer a light is to the subject, the quicker the fall off ratio of highlight to shadow. The outside edge of the light is the softest part of the light.

Aim your light so it’s slightly tilted towards your subject.

Move your light away from your subject, directly in front of them. It is important that the light is perfectly aligned with the face. The center of the light should be in line with the nose.4447D-0055DM

Select your light modifier to suit the mood of the effect you want. A soft box gives a gentle light with softer shadows. The larger the box, the more widely spread the directional light is. With a reflector, the shadows become harsher with a shorter transition from highlight to shadow.

The further the light is above the subject the more gradual the light fall off on the subject will be.

Usually, I am using the overhead light to light the faces of my female clients to create mystery or power or a sense of serenity. With the light in place it gives the same effect so to create those moods I need to use camera position, face position and use of open or closed eyes.

Here is what those combinations can give.

If the subject’s face is upturned, adjust the head position until the shadow under the nose either just barely vanishes or creates a slight butterfly shadow effect. This gives the face a stunning sculpted look. Be careful of where her eyes go. You want them sitting perfectly in the center. She should be looking to a point beyond the light, to a point usually just behind you up high.4740D-0159AL

For camera position: either get up on a ladder to shoot from up high or get down on your knees to shoot up. From up high you will want to be positioned so the angle of the camera is a match to the plane of her face. Be careful with your lens selection; too wide and body distortion kicks in with a bobble-head effect.

From down low, pay attention to what is happening in the ceiling. You want to be far enough away from her that you can see the planes of her face. A wider-angle lens works very effective for this super hero angle.

With her face turned up you get wonderful face sculpting. Turn her head down for an air of mystery. As her face comes down the first thing to happen is the eyes vanish as eye sockets fill with shadows. You will see her nose shadow lengthen. The further the head tilts the more the shadow creeps down her face. If you put a hat or cloak over the head you can adjust the light and face so just the lips are well lit.

If you subject leans back a bit the light brings out the texture of the torso. If she is nude you get amazing muscle ripples or if dressed, any clothing shows up with rich detail.

Add a reflector below the light to create some counter fill. You can add rim lights on each side to cut her figure from the shadows of the background.

There is so much you can do with this light. It’s so unusual it is always eye catching, full of impact. Give it a try. Oh, you can also recreate the effect with sunlight, best during the middle of the day. Have fun with it!4751D-0108RC

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