On The Road With Monte; The Yucatan Experience: Seeing The Light—Part 2
By
Monte Zucker
• Posted Dec 1, 2006

One light pattern for everything--that's what I teach. Boring, you say? I don't think so. It simply makes life easy. With one light pattern, two poses (Feminine and Basic), and three camera positions (you place the lens where it sees either full face, 2/3, or profile) you're free to express your creativity.

The light pattern you see in most of my photographs is simply light in both eyes, a shadow on the side of the nose that goes from the bridge of the nose down to the base of the nose. There is a similar amount of light on both cheeks. Photograph from the shadowed side of the face, shooting out toward the light.

Follow The Light
You see the light pattern on this first profile picture of the ballerina at the open window. I positioned the camera to place her profile against a simple, dark area of the background.

While preparing this photograph for publication I eliminated a lot of distractions on the wall in the background using the Patch tool in Photoshop. I then blurred the background with Gaussian Blur.

A few moments later I photographed the same young woman close-up in the same location. Camera position for this portrait was the 2/3 view of her face. It's the same light pattern, of course, in both pictures. I changed this portrait from color to black and white by selecting the red channel in Photoshop and adjusting the levels for the contrast I wanted.

Another model was posed similarly by an opening to an inner courtyard. Notice that the light pattern is the same on all of these portraits. For these last two portraits their bodies are facing directly toward the lens. I always leave extra space in front of the faces when the subjects are facing to the right or left. Notice how I used the leaves of the plant to complete the horizontal composition.

Inclusive Posing
Late in the day we posed one of the ballerinas on the ledge of one of the openings in the wall surrounding the church. I brought her to the near edge of the seat after noticing that her leg and feet seemed to be cut off when she sat more in the center of the ledge. All natural light again. I carefully positioned my camera to place her within the blue area of the photograph.
You see the light pattern on this first profile picture of the ballerina at the open window. I positioned the camera to place her profile against a simple, dark area of the background.

While preparing this photograph for publication I eliminated a lot of distractions on the wall in the background using the Patch tool in Photoshop. I then blurred the background with Gaussian Blur.

A few moments later I photographed the same young woman close-up in the same location. Camera position for this portrait was the 2/3 view of her face. It's the same light pattern, of course, in both pictures. I changed this portrait from color to black and white by selecting the red channel in Photoshop and adjusting the levels for the contrast I wanted.

Another model was posed similarly by an opening to an inner courtyard. Notice that the light pattern is the same on all of these portraits. For these last two portraits their bodies are facing directly toward the lens. I always leave extra space in front of the faces when the subjects are facing to the right or left. Notice how I used the leaves of the plant to complete the horizontal composition.
Color Play
I noticed how the red costume of our model went so well with the red bike parked in front of the church. I posed her seated on the bike with her profile placed against a dark area of the background. The top of the building across the street was white--a really distracting element in what otherwise was a busy, but fun, picture. I simply selected the top of the building with the Magic Wand tool, grew the selection by a few pixels, and deleted it from the picture. I then placed it on top of a golden sky that I've used countless times before. The sky, the building, and the light on our model all blended so well I didn't have to do anything else to the picture.
Window Light
On the last day of our Yucatan class we spent most of the time at a neighboring hacienda. What an incredible adventure that was! One of the private bedrooms there had a small window that allowed light to fall onto the bed in such a way that I could pose our model in profile with perfect lighting. I reminded the photographers in the class that when dealing with available light you have to first position the face to create the light pattern that you're looking for. Then, without moving the face, you pose the body to support that angle of the face. Inside a studio environment, of course, it's possible to pose the subject and then move the lights to achieve the light pattern. Get the difference?
Dream Glow
Just the day before I had purchased some artificial Mexican flowers (made in China, of course). I didn't know that I'd be using them the very next day. At the hacienda I laid our model down on the floor and positioned the flowers around her. Window light lit the area. To complete the photograph I applied Eddie Tapp's Dream Glow action. It can be downloaded off his website at: www.eddietapp.com. Then, I darkened the edges of the portrait as I've described countless times in previous columns here.
Two Window Technique
Two windows in the hacienda provided all the light that was necessary for this profile. One lit her face. A window behind her lit her hair. My Westcott silver/black reflector (Monte's Illuminator) opened up the shadows on the front of her face. Hopefully by now you're beginning to pick up on the fact that the light pattern on all my portraits is the same everywhere. Sometimes it's more subtle than others, but for the most part the lighting is always the same.

The Yucatan Experience will be repeated again at the beginning of 2007. Watch my website, www.montezucker.com, for details. Michele Gauger, our host for the Yucatan Experience, does many Yucatan classes with other instructors, too. She's also promoting other classes in Guatemala, Whitewater, Wisconsin, and Miami. You can learn more about her programs on her website at: www.michelestudio.com. In the meantime, I hope that you've been able to see the light, learn where to find it, and know what to do with it once you've discovered it.
Monte and Eddie Tapp will be touring the country in October and November, doing a four-hour extravaganza seminar. It will include lessons on posing and lighting for formal and casual portraiture, as well as travel and scenic photography. Eddie will be demonstrating easily adaptable Photoshop techniques to enhance your photographs and speed your postproduction workflow.

The name of the tour is Imagination to Reality, of course!