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How a Kicker Light Can Improve Your Portraits

Lighting is one of the most fundamental aspects of a successful portrait, and while we most often focus on getting the key light just right, the accessory lights can be what take a portrait from good to great. This excellent video will show you how simply adding a kicker light can make your portraits better. 

Coming to you from Mark Wallace with Adorama TV, this great video will show you how adding a kicker light to a portrait can make a huge difference in the final result. If you have not worked with a multi-light setup before, a kicker light is a backlight that fires off-axis (but generally back toward the camera). This provides a rim of light around the edge of the subject. Not only can this extra rim of light provide an elegant accent on your subject, it serves to separate them more clearly from the backdrop, which is especially important if your subject's hair, skin, or clothing are close in color to the backdrop. Of course, it is important to be comfortable with one-light setups first. However, once you are comfortable with a single light, try adding a kicker to take your portraits to the next level. Check out the video above for the full rundown from Wallace. 

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MC G's picture

Glad he wore a mask I was gonna get covid from watching this

Eric Robinson's picture using more than one light moves a photographer on to the next level!......tosh, the quality of a portrait is in no way directly proportional to the number of lights used. The impression given by that last statement should be taken out as it gives beginners a false impression giving the idea the more lights you use the better a photographer you must be.. Leibovitz like many other great photographers have built careers on the masterly use of just one light.

While there is some really good helpful tips and advice to be found at fstoppers there is still a number of dubious articles that give the impression that photographic quality is somehow related to the hardware one throws at the problem. This gives a very false picture of what photography is all about. Though to be fair it’s a lot easier to write about the use of a kicker or rim light than it is to write about the more subtle aspects of portrait photography and how ones planning and thinking are the real determining factors and the use of the hardware is just a means to an end.

Can I remind readers of this very fine article from 2014.

derek j's picture

maybe its moreso knowing how to use more lights when needed makes you "next level", as does knowing when not to use them, or when its not necessary.

Alexander Petrenko's picture

I hate kicker lights. Anyone here too?

derek j's picture

yes. they remind me too much of when you get lightspill from the background or something.